Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are an old English Easter tradition, and a recipe that has been on my to-make list for some time now (somehow it didn’t end up on my Top 100 though?!). Given the upcoming holiday and my yearning to bake something with yeast (I really need to start making home-baked bread a regular practice!), this seemed like a perfect time to tackle the spiced rolls. I waded through all of my cookbooks and found that, surprisingly, only a few had a recipe for these traditional rolls. I wasn’t sold on what I found, so I turned to some trusted food blogs and found the recipe that called out to me over at Simply Recipes. The dough was simple and straightforward, with tons of spice and a hint of citrus. Perfect!

The buns are traditionally made (and eaten) on Good Friday, and adorned with an icing cross to symbolize the crucifixion. The history of the buns goes back to the 18th century, when it was believed that the buns were eaten by Saxons in honor of the goddess Eostre, which is thought to be the origin of the name “Easter”. There are many current superstitions about the buns: that they will not go moldy if baked on Good Friday, that a piece of a hot cross bun will help someone who is ill recover, and sharing a hot cross bun will ensure friendship for the next year. They are also said to guard against shipwrecks, and if hung in the kitchen, to prevent fires and ensure perfectly baked bread.

It seems that this little bun has the weight of the world on its shoulders! So much to take care of! I’m happy enough to just eat it and enjoy how fluffy and moist the crumb is, how deliciously spicy and oozing of a fresh orange scent. These very much remind me of the Greek Celebration Bread that I made a couple of years ago. It’s likely that the two may be related if we trace the family tree back a few centuries!

One year ago: Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

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Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

1¼-ounce package active dry yeast (about 2½ teaspoons)

¾ cup warm milk, divided

3¼ to 3½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup currants

2 teaspoons grated orange zest


For the Glaze:

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk


For the Icing:

2 teaspoons milk

6 tablespoons powdered sugar


Directions:

1. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the warmed milk and one teaspoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.


2. In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, vigorougly whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving additional flour for Step #4), the salt, spices, and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar.


3. Create a well in the flour and add the foamy yeast, butter, eggs and the remaining ½ cup of milk. Using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients on low speed until well incorporated. The mixture should be shaggy and quite sticky. Add in the currants and orange zest.


4. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and start to knead on low speed. (If not using a mixer, use your hands to knead.) Slowly sprinkle in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition, until the flour is still slightly tacky, but is no longer completely sticking to your fingers when you work with it.


5. Form a ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. let sit, covered, at room temperature (or in a warm, draft-free spot) for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.


6. Press down on the dough to gently compress it. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Take the individual pieces and form them into rolls, placing them 1½ inches apart from each other baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (or a warm, draft-free spot) to rise again, until the rolls have doubled in volume, about 30 to 40 minutes.


7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough.


8. Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the buns are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.


9. Wait until the rolls have cooled completely before painting the cross on top. Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar. Place in a plastic sandwich bag and snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag (or use a pastry bag and decorating tip - I did this and used a #7 tip). Pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross.


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(Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)


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