Thursday, April 14, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Hot Cross Buns

One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns!  Yummy - I always loved that my mom and grandma both would make hot cross buns this time of year.  These are definitely worth a try for Palm Sunday, Passion Week or Easter breakfast.

Here are some interesting sites regarding Hot Cross Buns and their traditions:
BBC News
Nursery Rhyme Lyrics

Last year I tried King Arthur Flour's recipe (before I had always stuck to grandma's recipe).  I have to say I really liked it.  Plus they have awesome photo instructions if you like that added help.  They also have a blog -Baker's Banter with even more photo details.

Here's my modified recipe that tastes so good!


1/4 C               rum
1/2 C               golden raisins
1/2 C               dried currents
1/4 C               dried cranberries - chopped
1/4 C               dried pineapple - chopped (optional)
1 1/4 C            milk, room temperature
3                      large eggs, 1 separated
6 T                   butter, room temperature
2 t                    instant yeast
1/4 C               light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 t                    ground cinnamon
1/4 t                 ground cloves
1/4 t                 ground nutmeg
1 t                    lemon zest
1 3/4 t              salt
1 T                   baking powder
4 1/2 C            all purpose flour


1 C      confectioner’s sugar
¼ C     milk
¼ t       butter, melted
(should make a very loose consistency spread)

Decorator’s Frosting (Crosses):

1 C      confectioner’s sugar
1 T       milk
1 t        lemon juice

(stiff enough to pipe/decorate with)

1) Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.
2) Mix the rum  with the dried fruit in a bowl with a tight lid.  Mix/shake well.  Allow to sit overnight (this is my preferred method) or for a couple hours.  You can also use the microwave method used by KAF.
3) Mix together all of the dough ingredients in bread machine.  Set machine to dough cycle.  When machine beeps for add-ins put in the fruit and rum mixture - at this point more flour will probably be needed to absorb the extra moisture.  The dough will become puffy, though may not double in bulk.
If you are using a stand mixer - mix all ingredients except the fruit.  Knead in the fruit by hand (or mixer) you will need to add more flour (probably) due to the added liquid.
5) Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3 3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. (I love the muffin scoop method) You'll make 12 to 14 buns. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.
6) Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
7) Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.
8) Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
9) Mix together the glaze ingredients, and when the buns are slightly cool (don't let them cool down too much), brush glaze on top of buns.  It will be gooey - add more as needed.
9) Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.

I looked through lots of Hot Cross Bun recipes on-line this week and about the only thing they all have in common are a blend of spices and dried fruit (usually raisins or currents) and a cross.  There is a large difference between US buns and English buns.  Most UK recipes call for the cross to be cut into the top and they treat the buns more as a savory rather than sweet treat.  Whereas most US recipes call for a cross out of frosting.  The one and only time I exhibited hot cross buns at the ISF the judge recommended the cutting in of the cross before baking to help the frosted cross stick to the buns better.  I guess I stick to the method I'm most familiar with.
There are also lots of philosophies on when to eat hot cross buns.  Some people eat them all year long, some save the treat just for the Lenten or Easter season and some have very strict guidelines on the buns being for Good Friday only.  In the BBC article a Church of England spokesman discusses the symbolism of the buns.  I found this interesting since before reading the article I only saw the cross as symbolic.  However, the article states that the bread could represent the breaking of bread or communion and the spices represent the spices Jesus was wrapped in in the tomb.
Not that you may have wanted a brief history lesson with your recipe.  You'll have to indulge me on this one.  I enjoy learning the history behind foods - especially foods that have remained strong traditions in my family.  Which thinking about that makes me realize a lot of my family food traditions revolve around breads.

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