Friday, April 2, 2010

Hot Cross Buns...Hot Cross a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns, as we know them, have been around since 1361 when a monk, Fr. Thomas Ratcliff fed them to the poor at St. Alban's Church in England.  However, similar buns date back to pre-Christian cultures when the "cross' stood for the four phases of the moon during harvest time.

For me, they are definitely one of the traditions I hold onto from my mother.  She baked them on Good Friday, but you can actually serve them anytime during Lent, including Easter Sunday.  Her recipe is a little unique and I have, as usual, made a few changes to update it through the years.  One thing you will notice is that she used buttermilk.  I like the use of buttermilk, but whole milk will work also.  I've added the citrus zests through the years, but if you don't like zest, omit it.  Typically, cinnamon is added, but the cardamon is extra.  I'm partial to cardamon because it gives that unique flavor that no one can guess what it is from.  Lastly, I like to make the buns up and place them on a large baking sheet which allows almost two inches between each bun.  I figure, it makes the bun its own entity.  However, you can bake these in a 9" x 13" pan and produce a softer, pull-apart bun.  Lastly, you can make up the dough the night before, place it in a buttered rising tub (or bowl covered with plastic) and place it in the refrigerator to do a "cold rise."

Hot Cross Buns

3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk (you could also use whole milk)
6 T. unsalted butter
2 T. yeast
5-6 cups All-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamon (optional)
1 T. lemon zest
1 T. orange zest
1 cup currants

Start by covering the currants with boiling water, then, set aside while you're making up the dough.
In the bowl of the KitchenAid and using the paddle (to start with), mix the eggs, sugar and salt to combine.  Meanwhile, heat in a 2-cup measure, the buttermilk and butter in the microwave for 1 minute.  (Cut the butter into small pieces so it will melt quicker).  While the mixer is running, add the milk/butter mixture and combine.  Keep mixer running on low and add the 2 tablespoons of yeast.  Turn mixer off and let the mixture set for 5 to 10 minutes for the yeast to proof.
Add 2 cups of flour, spices and citrus zest and mix well.  Change to the dough hook and continue to add flour, one cup at a time until the dough has pulled away from the sides.  Drain the currants and pat them on paper towels to dry.  Add to the dough and mix until combined.
Turn dough out onto a bread board and knead.
Place in a bowl that has been brushed with melted butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (until doubled in size).  This is a rich dough and with the currants, it takes a little longer for the dough to rise--be patient.

Turn dough out and roll in a long roll.  Now, divide in half, half again, half again, and half again until you have 24 pieces.
Roll the pieces by placing the palm of your hand over the dough, gently press down against the board while you roll into a ball.
Once you have all the buns made, cover with plastic wrap which has been lightly sprayed with a vegetable oil spray.  Again, let rest about an hour. Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.
Once the buns have doubled, use kitchen shears to cut a "cross" in the top.  Brush the buns with an egg wash (1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water).  Place in the oven and bake 16 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  Half way through the baking process, turn pan for even browning.

Meanwhile, make the glaze.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 T. meringue powder
2-3 tsp. hot water
1 tsp. Vanilla Bean Crush extract

Whisk the glaze ingredients together until you have a pipeable glaze. While the buns are still warm, pipe the glaze into the "cross".
..."If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.  One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns."  Enjoy!

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