Hot Cross Buns

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We are coming up on Easter, and my friend Clare asked me if I was going to make hot cross buns for Good Friday.

Clare and her clan, enjoying hot cross buns in their backyard, quarantine-style.

She said she had them growing up, made by her dad. I love that. I hadn’t really considered making hot cross buns because of the dried fruit, as half of my family is not keen on dried fruit. But I couldn’t resist the challenge. Plus, hot cross buns are so cute!

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Since I’ve never had a hot cross bun, I was going blindly into the whole thing, but I trust my friend Clare (she’s a Brit!), and she sent me a great recipe from a Delia Smith cookbook. There were a few things I had to tweak, since I didn’t have candied peel or currants. I chose to use a dried fruit combination from Trader Joe’s (don’t freak out; it’s what I had on hand) that has dried cherries, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins. Clare said it seemed wrong, but I did it anyway. She just used raisins in hers because she didn’t have currants or peel either. We both agreed that we would chop up our dried fruit so the pieces would be nice and small, like currants.

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A good substitution, in my opinion.

The recipe also called for “ground spice mix”. I asked Clare what that meant, and she said she uses a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Sounds good to me. I found a recipe for it on the food network – 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon ginger. And then I threw in some allspice for good measure, and because Clare said so. I mixed it all up and put it in a tiny jar. My own ground spice mix.

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The recipe also calls for “caster sugar”, which can be replaced with “superfine” sugar, or just plain old granulated. Oddly enough, I happened to have superfine sugar in my cabinet. So other than a few changes, I followed the recipe pretty much word for word. The first time I made them, I chose to make deep cuts in the dough instead of dough crosses. So cute, and you can see the sugar glaze that I put on afterwards, which makes them sticky and sweet. They looked like this.

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But when I made them the second time, I decided that I wanted the actual crosses made of dough. Very easy really, just a paste of flour and water. I also decided not to use the sugar glaze, since the stickiness of them was not pleasing to certain family members. But I did like the shiny appearance, so I used an egg wash before popping them in the oven, and they came out golden brown and shiny, with the lovely white crosses. Matthew said they looked absolutely medieval. (And for the record, Matthew doesn’t like dried fruit, but he does like these, quite a bit.)

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I halved the recipe, which is why you only see six buns in all the pictures, but below I will include the whole recipe, which makes a dozen. And you might be glad you have a dozen.

Hot Cross Buns

(Adapted from Delia Smith’s recipe, makes one dozen buns)

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) superfine or granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 5 fluid ounces warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1 level Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 2/3 cups (1 pound) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground spice mix (*see note)
  • 5 ounces raisins or other dried fruit, chopped (**see note)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces warmed milk (110° to 115°)
  • 1 egg, beaten (plus one more if you use an egg wash)
  • 2 ounces salted butter, melted (unsalted is fine too)

For Sugar Glaze:

  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Dough Crosses:

  • Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons water, more or less

To make the buns:

  1. In small bowl, mix warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and spice mix. Add remaining sugar and dried fruit.
  3. Make well in the center of dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture, warm milk, 1 beaten egg, and melted butter. Mix until a dough forms, then knead it in the bowl until the edges of the bowl are clean. This only takes a minute or two.
  4. Cover bowl with tea towel, place in a warm place in your kitchen, and let dough rise for about an hour, or up to two hours. (Mine barely rose at all both times I only let the dough rise for an hour, but the end product was lovely anyway!)
  5. Knead dough briefly to bring back to original size, and cut into twelve equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut a small cross on top of each bun. Cover buns with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat over to 425°.
  6. Shortly before the 25 minutes are up, if you want the little dough crosses, make a paste with 1 cup flour and 2 Tablespoons water, adding just enough water to bring the dough together. Add more water drop by drop until you have a workable dough. Cut into twelve pieces, and roll each one into a long rope and cut in half. You should have 24 strips.
  7. Place crossing strips on each bun (if using), cutting any excess. Press dough to adhere. If you would like to use an egg wash instead of the sugar glaze, brush each bun with beaten egg now.
  8. Place buns in preheated 425° oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. If using sugar glaze, mix water and sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. When buns come out of the oven, glaze with sugar water while buns are still hot. (If you have used the egg wash, do not use the sugar glaze!)
  10. These buns are best while still warm from the oven, with butter. Enjoy!

*Note: Spice mix is a blend of 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice. This recipe makes more than you need, so store it in an airtight container for future use.

**Note: On Easter I made a full batch, substituting chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips for the dried fruit in half of the dough to appease my teenager, and they were delicious, if a bit unconventional. Spice bread and chocolate anyone? I still like the dried fruit version better, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at the chocolate ones. The moral of the story is: add whatever you like!

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Magic.

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Dry ingredients.

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Dough.

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They’re even cute unbaked!

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Crosses waiting to happen.

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One-a-penny…

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With egg wash.

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An old-world treat.

Happy Easter!

And just for fun…

My daughters and Clare’s sons, a long long time ago…

 

 

 

 

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