On Good Friday, my mother always made Hot Cross Buns--it was her ritual. Since I had the day off, I loved to help her make up these sweet buns that we enjoyed for breakfast and delivered a pan to my grandparents, who anxiously awaited their treat. I have continued her ritual, making up the recipe she knew by heart, for my family and friends. However, this morning, I don't know what came over me, but I decided to change the recipe to reflect where I call home--the Pacific Northwest.
Yes, we get a bum rap about our rain, rain, and more rain, but there are some beautiful reasons to live here. One, that I've especially enjoyed, is the abundant crop of cherries that appear in the Farmer's Market in early June through August. Over the years, I've enjoyed baking with several varieties, as well as, making jam and of course, adding fresh cherries to summer fruit salads. And, Washington and Oregon cherry crops are enjoyed not only throughout the United States, but we export our harvest to other parts of the world to enjoy as well.
Just in case you weren't aware of the incredible health benefits, I'll fill you in. First, they're a great source of dietary potassium, found to reduce hypertension and strokes, which has become a growing concern here in this country. The two properties I find interesting is the benefit of reducing your cancer risk--high in fiber, Vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins have been found to protect cells that may be prone to cancer and phytochemicals that inhibit enzymes responsible for inflammatory responses. Of course, it doesn't stop there; sweet cherries are being researched for reducing the risk or morbidity related to Alzheimer's because of the phenolic compounds that protect neuronal cells involved in neurological function. And finally, for all you insomniacs, cherries are an excellent source of melatonin that plays a role in promoting healthy circadian rhythm and healthy sleep patterns.
So, scientifically cherries were a good choice to add to my Hot Cross Buns, but moreover, I took a traditional recipe, created year after year, and made it my own to pass on to my daughter and grandchildren. Isn't that what tradition is all about!
Pacific Northwest Hot Cross Buns
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup currants
Place fruit in a small sauce pan. Add about 3/4 cup water to cover and heat on medium to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover pan. Set aside while you prepare the dough.
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the icing)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk
2 pkgs. (or a scant 2T) dry active yeast
1 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
6 to 6 1/2 cups King Arthur All-purpose flour
In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, add the milk, then, the butter. Microwave on High for 40 seconds, adding an addition 20 seconds for butter to have melted. Add water to measure 2 cups of liquid.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, place the sugar, salt, egg and egg yolk. Mix on low just until combined. Slowly add the liquid and mix to combine. Sprinkle the yeast over this mixture and blend. Let rest 5-10 minutes until it becomes foamy. Add the vanilla bean, 2 cups of the flour and the spices, blend on medium speed. Before adding to the dough, drain cherry/currant mixture, reserving the liquid to add to the icing. Rough chop the fruit and add along with the an additional 2 cups of flour, blend once more.
Change to the dough hook attachment and add flour, in 1/2-cup increments. Once the dough has left the sides of the bowl, turn out onto a board and knead until smooth.
In a large bowl, add 1 T butter and microwave on High for 40 seconds. Brush the melted butter up the sides. Add the dough, turning it over with the buttered-side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour or more until doubled in size.
Turn risen dough out onto a board and divide into 24 pieces. Roll dough into balls and place in a buttered pan, leaving about 1/2-inch space between for rising.
Brush tops with melted butter and cover once again with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 40-55 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Half way through the last rising, preheat oven to 400F-degrees. Use kitchen shears to snip a "cross" in the tops of the buns. Sprinkle tops with Sparkling Sugar.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and the internal temperature is 190F-degrees. Let cool.
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
Reserved egg white*
Reserved cherry liquid
*If you're concerned with using the raw egg white, replace with 2 T meringue powder and 1 tsp. light Karo syrup.
In a small bowl whisk the sugar and egg white (or substitution). Add enough of the cherry liquid to make a spreadable icing. I placed the icing in a pastry bag, fitted with a #7 tip and piped the traditional "cross" on top of the buns. Alternatively, if you don't have a pastry bag, place icing in a plastic sandwich bag and at one of the corners, cut a small opening with scissors and pipe the cross.
It's so comforting to bake a recipe you've grown up with. The memories come flooding back, helping my mother and in later years, my daughters helping me, create these traditional Good Friday treats. I hope one day to have Ari and Maddie in the kitchen to make my version and start some new traditions of their own. Enjoy!