This is my take on traditional Hot Cross Buns — flavor-filled, spiced sweet dough buns with the sign on the cross frosted on top to remember Good Friday.
My take on these buns is the selection of spices and dried fruits — fresh orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon perfume the dough while dried sweetened cranberries and currants bring bits of sweetness. All in all this is one tasty addition to breakfast or afternoon tea.
For those of you who have experience with yeast doughs, just go straight to the recipe below and get baking, ignoring the photos embedded in the instructions. I’ve taken several extra photos for this post to help yeast dough newbies feel more comfortable with their process. But trust me — this is a pretty forgiving dough and you will be delighted at the deliciousness of the end result. Enjoy!
Hot Cross Buns
makes 24 buns
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup hot water (about 105 degrees)
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
2 TB or 2 packages dried yeast
2 eggs for dough, 1 egg for egg wash
1 TB water for egg wash
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
unbleached all purpose white flour, about 7 – 8 cups total
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried currants
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (I buy whole seeds, then grind with mortar and pestle as needed.)
zest of one orange, fine mince
2 cups powdered sugar
cream or half and half, about 2 – 3 TB
Begin by scalding the milk in a microwave oven on high just until milk comes to a boil. After you remove the milk from the microwave, you will see a skin form. Remove it with a fork, as shown in photo. Removing this particular protein will help the dough be light and springy:
Next, mix dry yeast, 1 tsp. sugar, and hot water together in a bowl. This is to get the yeast active and growing. Below, you can see the yeast dry and after a couple minutes in the water sugar mixture:
Dry yeast in hot water
Yeast, sugar and water after a few minutes
Put the butter pieces in the hot milk, stirring to melt the butter. Add 1/2 cup sugar, the salt and 2 eggs to the mixing bowl with milk and butter. Mix until combined. Then mix in about a cup of the flour and the yeast mixture. With mixer running on low power, add in more flour, about a cup at a time, until a the dough begins to be a thick, shiny batter. Continue to mix for a couple minutes. This is developing the structure of the dough. Here is what the dough will look like after beating to develop structure:
Now, continue adding enough flour to make a soft dough that begins to pull away from the sides of the mixer, but is still soft. Set the dough in a warm place with a loose cover to rise. When it has doubled in volume, you are ready to give it a knead, add the spices, and form the buns.
Spread some flour out on your clean counter. Turn the warm, risen dough out on the the floured counter and gently give it a couple kneads, adding only enough flour so that it doesn’t stick to your hands or the counter. Pat the dough out to a rough rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Spread the spices and orange zest out on top of this dough. Then scatter the cranberries and currants on top. Fold the dough over itself in half, or in a three part fold. Then gently roll the dough out into a rectangle again, about the same size as the original one. Then fold and roll the dough one more time. Now you are ready to form the buns.
Cut the dough into about 24 even sized pieces. Create a good ball shape by pinching the bottom of the dough while bringing the top of the piece down. This will create a pretty round shaped bun. Space the buns on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise. The buns should double in size before they are ready to bake. How long this takes will depend on how ideal of a temperature you can give them.
Dough balls before rising
When the buns have risen, preheat the oven to 350.
Mix together one egg and 1 TB water. Just before baking, brush this egg wash on each dough ball. This will give the buns a nice shiny coat. Bake at 350 for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and smell heavenly good. Cool the buns on on a cooling rack.
To make the frosting, put the powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add about 1 TB cream, and mix. Add more cream in dribbles until a very thick frosting forms. Pipe this frosting onto the cooled buns in the shape of a cross, and serve.
Hot Cross Buns