Hot Cross Buns

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

Easter weekend is here! Yay for new life, for time with family, and for the resurrection of Jesus! We’re spending the weekend with family in Northern California, and I can’t wait.

Okay, now for a perfect Easter recipe: hot cross buns.

A hot cross bun is a soft, sweet, spiced roll made with currants or raisins. They are traditionally served on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday. Marked with a cross that symbolizes the crucifix of Christ, hot cross buns are an old English tradition.

Before baking hot cross buns, my only reference point to them was the childhood nursery rhyme of the same name. I vaguely recall my elementary school days when music education consisted of learning to play four or five notes on a red and white plastic recorder. “Hot Cross Buns,”was among the repertoire each child was expected to know in order to graduate on to greater musical endeavors, such as the ukulele (which is what little kids learn in Hawaii).

Okay, back to the hot cross buns. The buns take some time and care, like any yeast bread. The result is soft and spicy mounds of bread that create a delightful scent as they bake. Don’t skimp on the currants or spices – they set these buns apart from your typical roll.

Happy Easter weekend to you all!

Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from Simply Recipes
print recipe

2 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons ground spices (for example, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup currants or raisins
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Glaze:
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
Frosting
1 teaspoon milk
3 to 4 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the warmed milk and one teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, vigorously whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving additional flour for later step), the salt, spices, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Create a well in the flour and add the foamy yeast, softened butter, and eggs, and the remaining milk. Using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients until well incorporated. The mixture should be shaggy and quite sticky. Add in the currants (or raisins) and orange zest. 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. Form a ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit, covered, at room temperature (or in a warm spot) for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Press down on the dough to gently compress it. Roll the ball of dough into a log shape and cut it into two halves. Place one half back in the bowl while you work with the other half. Take the dough half you are working with and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Take the individual pieces and form them into mounds, placing them 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and then work the remaining dough into 8 equal pieces and place them in mounds on a baking sheet, again cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough mounds sit at room temperature (or warm place) to rise again, until the mounds have doubled in volume, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough mounds. The egg wash will give them a shiny appearance when cooked. Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the buns are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for one or two minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.

To paint a cross on the top of the buns, wait until the buns have cooled (or the frosting will run). Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar and orange zest. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get a thick consistency. Place in a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag and use the bag to pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross. Let icing harden completely, and store in an airtight container.

Makes 16 buns.

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