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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hot Cross Buns


Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One a penny two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

It's that time of year again when Hot Cross Buns abound in the grocery stores and the Easter Bunny is preparing to leave chocolate eggs all over the house and yard. (Poor bunny would freeze here.)  Hot Cross Buns were a favourite treat when I was a child.  Mom never made them but she always bought them around this time of year.  For me, the icing cross on the top of the bun was my favourite part. Mom always made more icing and re-topped the bought buns with a more-than-generous icing cross.  She claimed the bakeries were too skimpy with the icing.

Fifty years ago, Easter season was the only time Hot Cross Buns were available in the stores but now they start appearing as early as January and I imagine they can be bought year-round in some places, and no wonder--they taste so good.  It's odd I don't make them more often.  In my quest to post the PERFECT Hot Cross Bun recipe, I started a couple of months ago making these delicacies.  I believe I am now on my fourth trial (fifth, if you count last year) and am pleased with the results. (Of course, the other poor buns were eaten with great relish.)  Ordinarily, I would mix up a batch and we'd eat them, smacking our lips in happy contentment wondering if we should have just one more.  But, that wasn't good enough to be forever immortalized in cyberspace, so my quest began. . .  More fruit? Less fruit?  Raisins or currents or both?  Candied peel or zest or both or make them optional?  Baked on cross or icing cross?  To glaze or not to glaze? (Sorry Mr. Shakespeare.)  As you can see from the recipe, some of these options I've left up to personal choice.  I used almost everything except currents, but only because I didn't have any.  


I also didn't use the baked on cross, made from a flour and water paste, like the English do, because when baked it was like trying to chew on a piece of leather. I tried this last year but I pulled off the crosses and filled in the gap with icing crosses. 

Anyhoo, here's my perfected recipe.  Set aside a loooong morning to make these.  But, you'll be happy you did.
 


Hot Cross Buns 
1¼ cups warm milk
1egg
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2½ - 3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon fast rising yeast
1-2 cups sultana or golden raisins or currents or a mixture of both
⅓ cup mixed candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped, optional
Grated rind of a lemon or orange, optional

Apricot jam for glaze, optional
Thin buttercream icing for crosses, see recipe below

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or you may do this by hand in a large mixing bowl), add the warm milk, egg, butter, salt, sugar, 2 cups flour, spices and yeast.  Mix on low speed until everything  is incorporated and a very soft, sticky dough is formed.  Continue adding flour until the dough is still soft and pliable and not dry. You may not use all  the flour.  Add the raisins and peel and continue to knead on low speed for 10 minutes until you have smooth and elastic dough. 

Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap.  Place in a warm spot in the kitchen and let rise about 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled.  Punch the dough down and let rise the second time for an additional hour or more until doubled.  You can skip the second rising but you will have a far superior bun with the second rising. 

When the dough has risen double, turn out on a floured surface and cut into 12 -18 equal pieces, depending on how large you like your Hot Cross Buns.  I like them a little smaller so I usually go for the eighteen.  But it's up to you.   Shape into round buns and place on a greased pan.  You can have the buns just barely touching for a higher baked bun or have them separated an inch for a lower rise. Loosely cover the buns with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let double.  This will take at least an hour or hour and a half. 

During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  When the buns have doubled in size bake 15-20 minutes to a golden brown colour.  Remove from oven and while still hot brush with a little warm diluted apricot jam.  Cool completely and use the Thin Buttercream Icing to make crosses on each bun. 

Thin Buttercream Icing
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
Few drops of vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk or water, as needed for the correct consistency

Mix all the ingredients together to form a thin icing that will pipe easily onto the buns.  Most glazes do not use butter but I like the taste better with a little butter.  It also remains creamier and doesn't dry out and crumble on the bun.
Makes about 12-18 buns. 

The buns may be eaten as they are or split and spread with butter or jam.  After a day or so the buns can be split, toasted and buttered for a delicious breakfast or anytime treat.  


Place most of the ingredients in the bowl.  Use only 2 cups of the flour to begin with and add more until the desired consistency is achieved.  Mix in the fruit and knead 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise until double, about 1½ hours.  Punch down and let rise again.  Turn the dough out on a floured surface and cut into 12-18 equal portions.  I cut 16 buns and they were quite large.  

Form each portion into a round bun and lay on a greased baking sheet or pan.

Let the buns rise until double about 1 - 1½ hours.  

You can also make the Hot Cross Buns smaller, similar in size to a dinner roll.  

Bake the buns in a preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
If you wish, brush each hot roll with apricot jam diluted with a little water. 

To make the Thin Buttercream Icing, combine all ingredients and blend until desired piping consistency.  If the icing is too thick add a little more liquid and if too thin add a little more icing sugar.  Place the icing in a piping bag with a round tip.  If you don't have a piping bag, use a freezer bag and snip off the corner.

Frost each bun with a generous cross of icing.  These are the smaller buns.

These are the larger buns.  They were sooooo spicy good.

Eat the Hot Cross Buns with or without butter.  Some people like jam as well. 

What a tasty Easter treat!

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