Monday, April 21, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Fresh from the oven, glazed hot cross buns

As Easter approached last week, I was reminded of the delicious, comforting taste and aroma of hot cross buns that I used to have while studying in Sydney many years ago. I remembered the bread buns to be slightly sweet, with lots of raisins and a faint tinge of gingery/cinnamony spiciness, and of course the distinctive white cross on top.

The buns are traditionally eaten hot/toasted with butter/jam, during lent through to Easter. There are also many interesting superstitions surrounding it, for example that baking and eating them on Good Friday, will bring good luck or ward evil spirits (I baked prepared mine on Thursday and baked and ate some on Friday ^_^).

It seems hot cross buns are very popular in Australia, and England, but not so much in the US. Since I started taking up baking recently, I decided to try baking it myself here in the US. I ended up using Laura Vitale's relatively simple recipe as a base, with minor modifications (the ingredient for the cross and the glaze, to be more similar to the traditional one). And the result did not disappoint, pretty close to what I remembered was like back in Sydney. The spicy/citrussy/raisin-y smell of the dough and baked buns were wonderfully comforting and uplifting somehow, makes the whole experience of baking shaping and baking them such a joy. The buns also stayed soft in the days after, by just a quick reheat in the microwave.

I would definitely keep this recipe as part of my Easter tradition from now on, or for those days when you just need a soul booster. Enjoy!

Ready to go into the oven

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Adapted from Laura Vitale's Kitchen.  Flour paste & glaze from The Bread Kitchen
Makes 16 mini buns (or 8 normal-sized buns)


For the Buns
1.125 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp lukewarm milk
1 3/4 cup + 2 TBSP all purpose flour (scoop and sweep)
2-3 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Spices* (3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 pinch ground nutmeg, 1/4 generous heaping tsp fresh shreded ginger**)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp orange zest
2 TBSP melted butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup: mix of sun-dried raisins and golden raisins

Flour paste for the cross:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 - 2.5 TBSP water

For the sugar glaze:
2 TBSP water
2 TBSP granulated sugar

  1. Melt butter in a small bowl, set aside until slightly cool.
  2. In a separate small bowl, mix lukewarm milk and yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes or so until somewhat bubbly/foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (flour, salt, spice, zest of lemon & orange, sugar). 
  4. Add egg into melted butter and whisk together.
  5. Form well in middle of dry ingredients mixture.  Add butter & egg mixture and yeast & milk mixture in the well, and slowly swirl your whisk in the well, so that the liquid mixture begins to gather the flour, and overall mixture comes together eventually into a soft very sticky dough.
  6. Knead for 5 minutes (I used my bread machine on dough function to the job. You can knead by hand or using a standing mixer with paddle attachment).
  7. Add raisins mix into dough, and knead until well incorporated (I did another 5 minutes).
  8. Briefly shape dough into ball and place in lightly oiled bowl, and cover with clingwrap.  Place in somewhere warm to rise for about an hour or two, until volume doubles.
  9. At this stage, after the first rise, you can punch down dough and refrigerate overnight (which I did - prepared dough on Thursday to bake on Good Friday). Or you can proceed immediately to shaping.
  10. In a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a rough log and cut into 16 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball (with one hand, roll too and fro on work surface).
  11. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay balls of dough seam side down on the sheet, about 1/2 inch apart (you do want them to stick to each other when it rises). 
  12. Lightly cover with kitchen towel/plastic wrap and place somewhere warm for about 45 min - 1 hour until buns double.
  13. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  14. Once the buns have risen apply flour paste cross on top: Mix flour and water with spoon until well blended (mixture should be similar consistency to icing). Place mixture into ziploc bag; snip one corner of bag to make a 3 mm hole. Pipe crosses on top of the risen buns (which by now have stuck together), continuously from one end of the rows/columns the other end of the rows/columns of buns.  In an arrangement of 16 buns (4 down and across, you basically make 4 lines across and 4 lines down).
  15. Bake buns for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. 
  16. Meanwhile, make sugar glaze: mix sugar and water, microwave for 50 seconds, until sugar dissolves and glaze thickens. 
  17. Transfer buns to a wire rack. Brush top of buns with sugar glaze immediately, while still hot (the glaze really brightens up the buns to a slightly darker glossy color). Best served warm. Simply microwave briefly to reheat in the following days.

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