Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny two a penny, Hot cross buns!
Hot Cross Buns are an interesting little pastry. Although no one is really sure exactly how they got started, legend says that they could have been invented way back in Roman times. British bakers in the 1700s supposedly hung a single hot cross bun from a piece of string, in their bakeries, on Good Friday. If the bun lasted the entire year without molding or being eaten (Eeeewwwww . . . I won’t even ask eat by what . . .), it was said to possess magical qualities, such as healing the sick (Um, perhaps they were “healed” because they would do anything to avoid the thought of eating that rock-hard bread after an entire year . . .). Hot Cross Buns were also taken on ships to prevent shipwreck (apparently they never made it on the Titanic. Haha. Sorry. O_O Serious). Christians eventually adopted the bread as a symbol of the cross and as an end to the Lenten season. Even today, Hot Cross Buns remain a traditional favorite on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. My Mom always used to make these on Good Friday, and even to this day, I just love them. With their sweet, slightly spicy taste and creamy frosting, these beautiful buns are sure to be a hit at your Easter get-together. You just might love them so much that you find yourself making them all year round.
Hot Cross Buns are a great Easter brunch favorite– who doesn’t LOVE brunch– a leisurely meal with the deliciousness of breakfast, and the laid-back timeline of lunch? Oh, man– I just love it. Speaking of brunch, I am working on a new e-book on Amazon on how to create the perfect, stress-free brunch by making your meal ahead of time. It includes recipes, a quick and easy timeline, and even decorating tips for making your brunch table look its best, with as little stress to you as possible. That way, you can spend the day enjoying your guests, not freaking out in the kitchen. The book will be making its sweet debut, hopefully, around Mother’s Day, so keep an eye out! 🙂
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Hot Cross Buns
(my Mom’s recipe)
4 tsp. SAF Gold Instant Yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisins
4-5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. milk
Whisk yeast, water, milk, sugar, shortening, and eggs together in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup flour and add salt and cinnamon. Whisk in enough flour to make a thickened, soupy batter. Add in raisins and enough flour to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough on a floured silpat until it is soft and pliable, like a human earlobe. Place dough in a greased bowl and mist the top with cooking spray. Allow to rise for 1.5 hours, or until dough is doubled in size. Carefully roll dough into a rectangle with 1″ thickness. Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds out of the dough, and allow rounds to rise again for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until buns are golden brown. Remove buns from oven and brush with melted butter. When buns are cool, top with an icing cross. To make icing, slowly mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add in vanilla and just enough milk to make a stiff icing and cover until ready to use.
To start with, look for the eyeballs in your bowl . . . haha. Just kidding. But those eggs do appear to be gazing out at me. Oooh . . . creepy. Let’s hurry up and whisk them in so they aren’t staring, anymore.
In a nice blue plastic bowl (doesn’t every kitchen have one of these???) whisk together your yeast, water, milk, sugar, shortening, and eggs. I love to use SAF Gold yeast for sweet breads, like my Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls. If you’ve never tried instant yeast . . . you really should. If you’re sick of teensy weensy baked goods that are hard as a rock, after you’ve been waiting, mouth watering, for hours to taste your delicious bread or rolls, then get ready for all that to change. Give instant yeast a try– it is like that person that wakes up, bright-eyed and bushy tailed on Monday morning, singing with happiness. It is peppy, perky stuff, and your bread will never rise higher than when you use it. Besides, it doesn’t need a “proofing” step (5-10 minute foaming period for yeast). It can be added directly to the recipe, like any other ingredient, and it keeps for ages in the freezer. Get instant Gold yeast here.
After you’ve whisked away the egg eyes (weird!!!), go ahead and add in 1/2 cup of flour. As I’ve said before, yeast and salt are like exes at a child’s wedding– they both need to be there, but unless something is between them, it’s gonna’ get ugly. You need a little flour in your dough, first, before adding the salt. Yeast thanks you. Saving the bread playground from bullies, one salty bad guy at a time. You’re welcome.
After you have that little flour buffer in there, go ahead and add in the salt and cinnamon. Add in a little more flour until you get kind of a soupy liquid.
And just what is this technical term, “Soupy liquid,” you may ask? There she is, folks. Think the consistency of buttermilk. You’ve never cooked with buttermilk???? Oh dear. And that’s your first problem 😉 Just think the consistency of a thin gravy, and that’s what we want for this dough.
Next, add in your raisins and a little more flour. You want to switch your whisk out for a wooden spoon and stir in flour slowly until you have a shaggy dough that is almost too stiff to stir. Adding flour to dough isn’t an exact science– that’s why you often see recipes asking for 3-4 cups of flour, etc. So keep adding slowly until you see a shaggy dough.
Hey– who you callin’ Shaggy???
Scrape ‘ole Shaggy out onto a floured silpat (something no baker should be without– I use one every single day. Get one of these amazing little gadgets here) and knead the dough, flouring slightly as you go, until you get a nice, pliable (but not sticky) dough. It should feel smooth and soft, like a human earlobe. That’s a weird comparison, but that really is what it feels like.
Place the dough into a greased bowl, mist the top with cooking spray, and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for an hour and a half until it is doubled in size.
After the dough has risen, gently deflate it (kids love “punching down” the dough and watching the air seep out of it– and who am I kidding . . . adults love this, too). Roll the dough into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out as many circles as you can get, and then squish the dough together, re-roll, and cut some more, until you’re out of dough.
Ain’t they purdy??? Cover the circles with another towel and let them rise for about 30 minutes, until they are nice and puffy.
When they have finished their second rise, bake ’em at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown. It can be hard to tell when brown colored dough is “golden brown,” so try to look at the edges and watch for the color to deepen.
When the buns are golden brown, take them out of the oven and brush them with butter. Of course, you can omit this step if you want to, but please don’t. It is deeeeeeelicious.
While the buns are cooling, go ahead and mix up your icing. Gently mix your powdered sugar and softened butter, together, with your mixer. Go slowly so you don’t get “baptized” with sugar. When the butter is fairly combined, add the milk, a teensy bit at a time, until you get a nice, thick icing. You don’t want to make the icing so thin that it will dribble off the rolls, so err on the side of caution when adding milk and get the icing a little on the thick side. Don’t “cross” the rolls until they’re cool, or the icing will melt off. But the SECOND they are cool, go ahead and give them a pretty little cross. And go ahead and eat one. You totally deserve it.
It’s a beautiful bread with an even more beautiful story.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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