April 21st 2011

Hot Cross Buns: a must-have on Good Friday

Delicious, bakery fresh hot cross buns are here, making their headway as Easter and Good Friday come to fruition this weekend.

A sweet, spicy flavour that is hard to resist, it’s no wonder why their availability becomes increasingly abundant each year.

Back in English Tudor times, the law told us that Hot Cross Buns could only be sold on Good Friday. Imagine that? Gooey, delicious buns available ONLY once a year… so says the LAW? Terrible.

Lucky for us, we now get to eat them weeks upon weeks before the big weekend, enjoying fresh buns dotted with candied fruit, a hint of cinnamon, and it’s characteristic cross. The marking of the cross is connected with religious offerings of bread, associated with Christianity and the crucifixion.

The traditional recipe includes a basic sweet yeast dough, with spices and dried and candied fruit. The cross is most often done with a strip of flour/water dough.

Hot Cross Buns

1/3 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 cup  lukewarm water
4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup  milk
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
4 cups  all-purpose flour
1 cup dried currants
1/2 cup candied orange peel
3 tablespoons honey

Stir together 1 teaspoon of sugar into the water in a small bowl. Sprinkle with yeast, stir and let sit until bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat together remaining sugar, milk, butter and salt until sugar has dissolved, over medium heat. Remove from heat, let cool to lukewarm temperature, and stir to mix well.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, yolk, spices. Add milk and yeast mixture.

Add in 2 cups of flour, beating at medium for 3 minutes. The batter should be smooth.

Mix in currants and flour by hand, creating a soft (not sticky) dough.

Using floured hands, turn out onto a floured surface, and shape into a large ball. Place in a buttered bowl, turn to coat and cover, letting rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 90 minutes. Press to deflate, then let rest 10 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Turn dough out again onto floured surface. Cut in half, rolling each into a 16 inch rope. Cut each row into 8 sections for 16 pieces of dough in total. Shape each piece into smooth round balls, dusting with flour if necessary. Space dough on prepared sheet and let rest five minutes, then press down to about 3/4 inch thick.

Cover with towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Cut a cross in each one with a sharp knife. Preheat oven to 375F, letting dough rest an additional 5 minutes.

Bake in center of oven for about 15 minutes, until buns are golden brown  and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, about 15 minutes. Transfer pan to rack, then brush warm buns with honey. Transfer buns to rack to cool completely.

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.