Making Hot Cross Buns
There is something about small baked things, especially at Easter, when we think about the renewal of life and the birth of new life. This recipe for hot cross buns are those I made at Rachel’s Bread for many years. I love the seasonal holidays and the chance to make some more unusual breads and rolls.
Though many of us remember the children’s rhyme about hot cross buns, we now know they have been around for centuries. They represent for many the cross of Easter, but for others, they represent fertility and the beginning of spring.
What I know is that their fragrant spices and light dough are part of my Easter baking tradition. I like the way the bun fits in my hand. And the tart cross on top complements the soft doughy roll. It is said that if the hot cross buns are baked on Good Friday, they hold special curative powers.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, both baking them and eating them.
Hot Cross Buns
½ c. sugar
¼ c. butter, melted plus some for brushing
2 eggs, room temperature, separated (+1 egg for brushing tops of buns)
1 c. + 2 T. milk, lukewarm
2 t. yeast
3 ½ to 4 c. flour
⅔ t. salt
½ t. nutmeg
⅛ t. cloves
½ c. currants
For icing: confectioners sugar and lemon juice
This dough is made in two or three days so you need to plan ahead.
The day before:
In a bowl, mix the sugar, cooled melted butter, egg yolks and milk. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir in. Measure out 2 c. of flour and add the salt, nutmeg and cloves. Beat into the batter. Let sit until you see some bubbles.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until not quite stiff. Gently add to the batter. Sprinkle in currants. Then add additional flour, ½ c. at a time, until the batter is a rough mass that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead it in the bowl for 2 or 3 minutes, until soft and elastic. Cover the top with plastic wrap and let rise for 3 hours.
Then, punch down. Put back in the bowl. Recover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day:
Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. Turn dough onto floured work surface and punch down and knead until smooth.
Divide dough into small pieces (this amount of dough should make 20 to 24 buns.) Shape into balls and place 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with butter. Cover with wax paper.
Option1: let rise at room temperature for about one hour. Then using a scissors, cut a cross in each one. Brush the tops with egg wash made with an egg and a little bit of water. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until nicely golden, turning the pan halfway through baking.
Option2: place in the refrigerator overnight. Take out in the morning and let warm up to room temperature for about one hour. Then using a scissors, cut a cross in each one. Brush the tops with egg wash made with an egg and a little bit of water. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until nicely golden, turning the pan halfway through baking.
Once cool, ice with a mixture of confectioners sugar and lemon juice made into fairly thick icing, forming a cross on each bun. Enjoy!