Every year for Easter breakfast my family makes hot cross buns. We use a recipe from The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake. Hot cross buns were traditionally Good Friday fare in England, but have since become associated with Easter around the globe. It's a good thing, too, because these sweet, spicy yeast rolls studded with fruit are delicious.
They came out a bit dense this time. I'm not sure if it's because I soaked the yellow raisins and dried cranberries in water first and the excess moisture contributed to a rather slack dough, but they were still good. What's good about this recipe is that it makes about three dozen 2 ounce rolls, some for now and some for later. You can freeze the extras, slice, and toast for breakfast.
The dough is enriched by butter, eggs, sugar, and milk powder, though I subbed half the water with skim milk instead. Unlike a typical sweet dough, hot cross bun dough is accented with spices. This time around I used a mixture of pumpkin pie spice, allspice, ground ginger, and fresh nutmeg. I've read that too much cinnamon inhibits yeast action, so I don't go over the 3 teaspoons the recipe says you can use. Most of the spices seemed too subtle, unfortunately. Maybe it's just me. It also seems that using a full 3 tablespoons tints the buns a bit gray, not pleasantly white like the picture in the book shows. Finally, the rolls are given a burst of fruity flavor from the dried cranberries and raisins. Traditionally, citron might be used, but I prefer the fruit.
What makes this recipe different from others is the cross. Most recipes you'll find have an icing cross piped on the rolls after they've been baked, but this version calls for a flour paste cross to be piped on before baking. I made it a bit too runy, which I think made the cross not look as prominent after it had baked.
Immediately after baking, the hot buns are brushed with a thin glaze made from confectioners' sugar and milk. It gives the rolls a finished, shiny look. While the glaze does dry, it gets a bit sticky after a few hours. I don't mind, and the rolls get a little extra sweetness from it. When you toast the rolls, the tops get a little caramelized. It's tasty.
What Easter food traditions do you guys have?
(Recipe after jump)
Hot Cross Buns
From The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake
Makes twenty-four buns
6 1/2 cups white bread flour
3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 to 3 teaspoons spice mixture of your choice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups mixed dried fruit, such as dark and golden raisins and currants
1/4 cup diced candied citrus peel (preferably lemon and orange peel)
2 cakes compressed fresh yeast (0.6 ounce each) or 2 envelopes active dry yeast, 5 teaspoons total (I use SAF Instant)
2 cups lukewarm water (95F to 105F)
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced and softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons water
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing
Optional: Thin glaze made from confectioners' sugar and milk for glazing after baking
a baking sheet, greased or lined with parchment paper
- Heat the oven to its lowest setting. Mix together the flour, sugar (reserving 1 teaspoon if using dry yeast), vital wheat gluten, spice, salt, mixed dried fruit, and candied citrus peel in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Put the bowl in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes to warm the ingredients while you prepare the yeast.
- Crumble the fresh yeast into a medium-size bowl. Stir in the lukewarm water and nonfat dry milk powder until smooth. If using dry yeast, mix the granules and the reserved 1 teaspoon sugar with 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the milk powder and the remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Then stir in the butter until melted.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the well in the warmed flour mixture. Add the eggs to the well and blend together with the yeast mixture with a large mixing spoon. With your hand or wooden spoon, gradually work in the flour from the bowl into the yeast mixture to make a very soft, but not sticky dough. If the dough is dry and crumbly, work in water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If too sticky, work in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise at warm room temperature (about 75F) until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 5 minutes until very smooth an elastic. Weigh the dough and divide it into 24 equal portions (I just weighed 2 ounce portions), or roll into a fat rope and cut it into 24 pieces. Shape each portion into a neat roll. Arrange fairly close together, but not touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise at warm room temperature until the buns have almost doubled in size and have joined together, 30 to 45 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of rising, heat the oven to 500F.
- While the buns are rising, make the topping: In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar with enough of the water to make a thick, smooth paste. Spoon the paste into a small pastry bag fitted with a narrow, plain tip. With the back of a table knife, make an indentation about 1/4 inch deep in the shape of a cross on the top of each bun. Brush the buns with the egg glaze. Pipe a cross of the flour paste over the indentation on each bun.
- Put the buns in the oven, the immediately lower the oven temperature to 400F ad bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the buns are nicely golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, pull the buns apart. Immediately glaze with the confectioners' sugar glaze, if desired.