Introduction: Hot Cross Buns
I first encountered hot cross buns in England, and wanted to recreate them as authentically as possible. These hot cross buns have a cross made of pastry dough rather than the more common sugar frosting found in most recipes. Though requiring slightly more effort, the difference is well worth it. The contrast between sweet, fruit-studded dough and light flaky pastry on top makes these hot cross buns something special.
Step 1: Ingredients
- 8 oz (1 cup) warm milk (105°–115°F.) - microwaving for one minute worked perfectly for me
- two 1/4-ounce packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 100 g (1/2 cup) plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 500g (4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/3 cup raisins or sultanas
- 1 tablespoon mixed peel or lemon and orange zest
Pastry dough for crosses (opt):
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 155 g (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water or cold vodka (the alcohol will bake off leaving a very flaky dough!)
Step 2: Proof the Yeast
Warm the milk to between 105 and 115F (40-46C). Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar.
Let mixture stand for 5 minutes until it gets a nice foamy top.
Step 3: Make the Dough
I did this with a mixer, but you could also use a food processor or do it by hand!
Whisk together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
Cut butter into small pieces and blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. This is made easy by a food processor, but I started with my hands, and then switched to the whisk attachment on my mixer.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 whole egg with egg yolk.
Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, currants, raisins, and mixed peel or zest. Stir mixture until a dough is formed.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, which really took me about 10 minutes. It was a long time, so be patient, and don't forget to keep flouring your surface and your hands.
Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. The pilot light in my gas oven created the perfect environment.
Step 4: Making the Pastry Dough (opt)
You can do this by hand, but I recommend a food processor if you have one. However, doing it by hand is pretty good, messy fun.
Pulse together flour, butter, and salt until mixture resembles coarse meal with remainder in pea-sized lumps.
Add 2 tablespoons ice water or vodka and pulse 2 or 3 times, until just incorporated.
If the mixture is too crumbly to hold together, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just holds together. Too much water will make your dough tough. (Those two words should really rhyme. . . )
Turn the dough out onto a surface and squish it together with your hands.
Chill dough until firm.
Step 5: Second Rise
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly. I decided to freeze half of the dough to make later.
Form the dough into 24 equal pieces. The easiest way to do this may be to form two 13" logs, and cut each of those into 1" pieces. I screwed up and made 11 out of a 12" log. Oopsie. They were bigger than I wanted.
Then form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment.
If you don't wish to make the pastry dough for the crosses, use a sharp knife to slash a cross into the top of each bun.
Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Step 6: Making the Crosses
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to a 20" x 6" rectangle, about 1/8" thick.
Cut dough crosswise with a pizza cutter or sharp knife into 1/8" wide strips.
Of course, if you work in a tiny kitchen like mine, as soon as the oven gets hot, it will be sweltering in there, causing the butter in your pastry dough to melt and stick to the surface you rolled it out on. If this happens, gather it back up, pop it in the freezer until it's firm, and pinch of little bits of dough. Mash them into appropriate shapes and hope they look better than mine did.
Stupid sweltering kitchen.
Step 7: Baking
Lightly beat an egg with 1 tablespoon sugar to make an egg glaze for the buns.
Brush each bun with the egg glaze, and (if using) lay two pastry strips in a cross along the top. Trim the ends of the pastry dough to be flush with the bottom of the bun.
If you have two racks in your oven, you can bake both sheets of buns at once. If you don't, bake them one at a time!
Place sheets in oven, and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. For even baking, remember to rotate the baking sheets half-way through baking.
Let cool on rack.
These are best served warm with butter. Enjoy!