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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

Staying in the them of Easter, let's explore another baking tradition. A delicious treat which seems to always turn our noses around and lead us to buy at least a dozen of them at a time. Yes, Hot Cross Buns are one of my favorite Easter time bakery items. Best part is, they are easier to make then most people would think.

These sweet buns are believed to even predate Christianity, with the first record of them being in 1733. At that time, a lot of controversy surrounded this yeast risen treat. Protestants English monarchs thought the bun as a strong holdover of Catholic beliefs in England. They fought to ban the hot cross buns, but instead, Queen Elizabeth I legalized commercial sales of the buns during the Easter and Christmas holidays. Even to this day, some institutions still find offense in the representation of the crucifixion on top of the baked product. And this to the point that schools in England even go as far as having to ban the product from being sold in cafeterias.

Whether you mind the legends and significations or not, this still remains one of my favorite and I definitely had to try and make them on my own this year. Have some spare candied fruit, cherries or raisins laying around? Make them yourself for Easter, or any other time of the year for a taste treat! This following recipe was adapted from the one found at Martha Stewart's website. Keeping the dough part of the recipe intact, I change the type of fruits added to the dough. Here's the recipe.

HOT CROSS BUNS (makes 30)
- 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp and 2 Tsp whole milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 ounce (4 1/2 Tsp) active dry yeast
- 6 ounces (170g) butter, melted and cooled
- 1 1/2 Tsp salt
- 1/2 Tsp Nutmeg (Freshly grated if available)
- 1/4 Tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (more for dusting surface)
- 3/4 cup candied maraschino cherries (found at bulk food stores)
- 1/2 cups golden raisins
- 1/4 cup candied fruit mix (also found at bulk food stores in the same section as cherries)
Egg wash:
- 1 large egg white + 1 Tbsp water, whisked by fork to brush over buns before placing in oven
Icing for after baking:
- 2 Cups icing sugar, sifted + remaining 3Tbsp and 2Tsp whole milk + 1/2Tsp Vanilla
- Mix well to obtain a smooth texture, place in piping bag with a 1/4 inch round tip, or in a plastic sandwich bag, cutting a small hole in one of the corners to pipe lines onto the buns.
To make the buns:
Step 1:
Heat 1 Cup of the milk in a small saucepan for it to reach 110F (or till very hot to touch seemed to be good enough for me). Pour milk in mixer, armed with a dough hook attachment. With the mixer on slow speed, add to the milk; the granulated sugar, yeast, cooled melted butter, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and the slightly beaten eggs.  Then add the flour, 1 cup at a time and knead till the mixture comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the hook as much as needed. Knead till the dough becomes smooth.

Step 2:
Add in the fruit to the mixer and knead until incorporated. I had a little trouble at this part to get my fruit incorporated so I just finished kneading them in by hand by transferring the dough to a well floured work surface. Knead to a nice smooth ball and place in a well buttered bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise till doubled, about 1 hour. Again for yeast mixtures, I place the bowl on top of my warming oven to give the yeast mixture more heat and make it rise faster.

Step 3:
Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet. I used a 12" by 18" cake mold from Wilton. Turn out the risen dough on a lightly floured surface and lightly knead. Divide the dough into 3 parts and cover the unworked ones with a plastic to not dry them out.  Divide each third into 10 pieces, and shape each into a tight ball. If wanting to have them all exactly the same size, you may use a scale. Simply start with the total weight of the dough. Let's say that the total weight of the dough was 1800. Divide that into 3 parts of 600g each. Then Each part of 600g, divide into pieces of 60g to make the small balls of dough. Place them on the prepared sheet pan, 1/2 inch apart. In my case, 4 rows of 7, i had 2 extra pieces which i squeezed in there. Cover the pan with a plastic, place on top of your warm oven and let double in size again.

Step 4:
Make sure that your oven is now at 375 degrees F. Before placing the buns in the oven, brush them lightly with the prepared egg wash. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden brown, 20-22 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.

Step 5:
Whisk together remaining 3 Tbsp and 2Tsp of the whole milk with the icing sugar and vanilla. Pipe the mixture in a cross shape on top of the buns. Serve immediately.

Hope you get to try out this recipe sometime soon, or even get your hands on a dozen of them at your grocery store while they are in season. For those of you who have already fallen in love with these Easter time treats, why not try and make them yourself next time you crave them! 

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


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