Hot cross buns (or hot x buns, as I call them, in honor of my rudimentary decorating skills and slightly twisted Catholic school girl days) are delicious breakfast food, full of warm spices, juicy raisins, and whatever else you happen to want to throw in with the dough. They’re a relatively quick yeast bread, though they would do well with a little rest in the fridge. Fresh-baked breakfast treat, anyone? They also happen to be ubiquitous in Australia, especially around Easter-time.
This is my first go at making hot cross buns, after years of hearing James suggest we should try and make them. Clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing. My Easter memories are limited to cheap chocolate and countless hardboiled eggs, carefully decorated and gathered in the morning dew. But trying out new traditions is kind of fun, especially when I have to ask James to translate the ingredient list for me. Caster sugar? Sultanas? You get the picture.
This one’s a new one for me, so it’s not quite right yet. It’s good, but it’s not “correct,” as James would say. But I did get to taste an authentic (and delicious) version of these just this morning, thanks to some friends of ours. So I’m kind of hoping I can help you skip this initial awkward phase and get straight to the good stuff.
So, Happy Easter, even if your celebration is limited to a Cadbury creme egg or two. And since I’m in a curious mood, I’ll leave you with a question: what are your favorite holiday foods?
Hot X Buns
Makes 12 rolls.
I’m giving you the recipe as I made it, as adapted from Cooking: a commonsense guide, but here’s what I would do next time: up the cinnamon and nutmeg content, make my own version of “mixed spice,” as the original recipe called for, switch to instant yeast and use only 2 t. of it, and let the dough rise overnight in the fridge before shaping and baking. I’d also make them in a pan with sides, so they take on the characteristic square pull-apart shape they usually have in Australia.
- 4-1/2 t. active dry yeast. See comment above.
- 4 c. (16 oz.) all-purpose flour. I actually used 6 oz. oat flour here, but next time, I’d choose whole wheat.
- 2 T. granulated sugar.
- 1 t. pumpkin pie spice. I had some leftover from a particularly ill-fated attempt at recreating Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, but you can make your own, following the mixed spice guidelines above. You should have quite a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, and all spice in yours, for the correct flavor.
- 1 t. ground cinnamon.
- 1 1/4 oz. (a little over 1/4 stick) butter.
- 3/4 c. raisins
- 1/2 c. mixed candied fruit. I used candied citron, from a local Italian market, and it was great, though I should have sliced it a bit smaller.
- 1/2 c. warm water.
- 3/4 c. water.
Paste for crosses
- 1/4 c. (1 oz.) all-purpose flour.
- 1/4 t. granulated sugar.
- 2-1/2 T. water.
Glaze (My variation. The original called for gelatin??)
- 1 egg white.
- 1/2 t. agave nectar.
- 1 T. water.
Mix the yeast, 2 t. flour, 1 t. sugar, and 1/2 c. of the warm water (~105-110°F) together in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside for a few minutes or so, until the mixture is foaming like crazy. (If you are using instant yeast, you don’t need to do this; just throw all these ingredients in a bowl with the rest of the dough ingredients).
In the meantime, sift the remaining flour and spices together in a large bowl. Add the sugar, then grate the butter (yes, with a cheese grater) onto the flour mix. Stir together, then add the raisins and mixed fruit. Toss a bit more, and then add the wet yeast mix and ~3/4 c. of water or so, until the dry mix comes together into a dough. This is really dry dough, so be careful not to add too much water; you just want to get the dough to form.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth. Place in a large floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour or so, until the dough has doubled in size. (If you have used the reduced amount of instant yeast I suggested, throw the dough in the fridge overnight at this point.)
(If you’ve let the dough rise overnight, take it out an hour or so before you want to bake the dough.) Preheat the oven to 400°F, and prepare a 9″x15″ pan by greasing it lightly with butter. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form 12 balls, and place them in the greased pan side by side, 3 rows of 4. You want the rolls to be just touching. Cover with a tea towel for 20 minutes or so, until the rolls have doubled in size. (If you use less yeast, they probably won’t grow this fast. You’ll get a nice rise in the oven, though, so aim for 1-1/2 times the original size, and handle them gently when shaping).
Make the paste for the crosses in the meantime, by mixing all the paste ingredients together and putting it into a ziploc or paper piping bag. If you’re going the ziploc route, cut one of the edges off of the bag, and pipe crosses (or x’s) onto the rolls just before putting them in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes or so. While you’re waiting, make the glaze mixture. Remove the buns from the oven and paint with the glaze mixture. Cook for 5-10 minutes more, until the buns are golden brown. Enjoy hot or toasted with butter.