April 15, 2006


Cross buns: A sweet tradition: FROM SCRATCH OR FROM FROZEN DOUGH, HOT CROSS BUNS ARE A COMFORTING AND TIME-HONORED EASTER TREAT (Aleta Watson, 3/23/05, San Jose Mercury News)

Few celebration breads have a longer tradition than hot cross buns. They trace their beginnings back at least as far as pre-Christian England, long before they became associated with Good Friday.

Yet more people in this country know them today as the source of a popular children's song -- ``One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns'' -- than as a sweet and spicy taste of history.

Too many leaden commercial products, overloaded with dreadful candied fruit, have ruined the reputation of the little rolls crossed with icing or custard in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus. [...]

But good hot cross buns are not as sugary as cake, nor as full-flavored as sourdough bread. They're lightly sweet, yeasty and punctuated with cinnamon, citrus and fruit -- perfect for brunch or an afternoon pick-me-up.

Fresh from the oven, just cool enough to ice with a cross, homemade buns infuse the house with aromas of citrus, spice and yeast. They're nicely chewy and dotted with currants or raisins. Substitute chopped dried fruit -- I like pineapple and apricots -- for the candied fruit and they sing with bright flavor.

Hot cross buns

Makes 12 buns

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup dried fruit, cut small
Vegetable oil for coating bowl
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons warm milk

In small bowl, whisk the yeast into warm water until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes.

In bowl of stand mixer or large bowl, combine flour, sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.

With mixer: Add butter to dry ingredients and cut it in with the paddle attachment on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until the size of small peas. Add yeast mixture, lukewarm water, ricotta and 3 of the eggs and mix on low speed until ingredients are combined, about 2 minutes. Switch to dough hook; increase mixer speed to medium and knead 10 minutes, or until dough loses its rough texture and begins to acquire a satiny sheen. Add currants and dried fruit and knead until fruit is incorporated, about 1 minute. Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

(If making by hand: Cut butter into dry ingredients with pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives. Add yeast mixture, lukewarm water, ricotta and 3 eggs and mix with wooden spoon until ingredients are combined. Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead 12 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Flatten dough. Sprinkle with currants and fruit and knead again until fruit has been incorporated.)

Form dough into ball and place in large oiled bowl. Turn dough over to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a loose round by tucking dough underneath itself to create smooth surface on top. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes, then form into small rounds by cupping your hand around one piece of dough at a time and moving it in a circular motion while resting the outside edge of your hand on the work surface. Use your thumb to pull the outside of the dough underneath the round.

Place rounds at least 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Cover with floured kitchen towel and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes, or until buns are rounded and puffy, and finger pressed into dough leaves an impression.

Fifteen minutes before buns have finished rising, place oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Just before baking whisk remaining egg in small bowl. Using pastry brush, brush the top and sides of each bun with beaten egg.

Bake 15 minutes, then rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Bake 15 minutes more, until rolls are golden on top and bottom. Cool 20 minutes on wire rack.

While buns are cooling, whisk confectioners sugar and warm milk together until smooth. Using teaspoon or pastry bag, drizzle icing on top of each bun in shape of cross.

Per serving: (1 bun) 420 calories, 10g protein, 11g fat (6g saturated), 70g carbohydrate, 366mg sodium, 95mg cholesterol, 2g dietary fiber.
The Cheese Board Collective Works.

[Originally posted: March 24, 2005]

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2006 11:54 PM

"then form into small rounds by cupping your hand around one piece of dough at a time and moving it in a circular motion while resting the outside edge of your hand on the work surface"

Since this is a family blog, I won't pass along the helpful imagery that a (male) baking instructor provided for this process. It works, though and you can likely figure it out for yourself.

Posted by: Rick T. at March 24, 2005 11:55 AM