Hot cross buns

A version of the traditional hot cross bun tasty enough to eat without butter.

Tastes Like Home
Soft and sweet hot cross buns with a clear sugar glaze instead of the traditional icing cross.

Each year when Easter rolls around, I am always searching and tweaking various hot cross buns recipes trying to come up with something that I like, something that suits my taste. There have been hits and misses. Some years I have been determined not to bother making cross buns. But when the time comes around, I can't seem to help myself, and so I give in.

For a cross bun to satisfy me, it has to be soft and tender and I want it just sweet enough that I don't need to slather it with butter or anything else. I want to be able to eat the bun as is with a cup of tea.

The origins of the cross buns are as varied as the ingredients they are made with. Christians around the world eat cross buns on Good Friday morning with the cross on the bun being symbolic. There are people who believe that the buns pre-date Christianity and that they were used in pagan rituals. There is another legend that the Church of England tried to ban the buns, however, because they were so popular, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law permitting them to be eaten but only on special occasions such as Easter and Christmas. The word “hot” in front of cross buns is said to describe how the buns were sold long ago and meant to be eaten – just out of the oven. In Guyana, cross buns are also one of those foods, like pancakes, that are exchanged and shared among friends and family.

So I set out to make a bun that is soft and fluffy like my butterflaps, sweet like an Amish White Bread and with the gloss and stickiness of a coconut turnover or a sticky bun (minus the nuts). I deliberately set out not to dress my buns with the traditional icing cross or the flour-paste cross. I have to tell you, I am one happy woman, the recipe I created produced a bun that totally suits my taste and my tasters. Soft. Sweet. Sticky.

Hot Cross Buns
12-14 buns

1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or instant)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cup warm whole milk (110 – 115 degrees F)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1/3 cup currants

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup whole milk

1 medium bowl
1 large bowl, oiled
Plastic wrap or kitchen towel
1 (13 x 9-inch) baking dish, brushed with oil
2 small bowls
1 pastry brush
1 small whisk
1 tablespoon
1 large baking tray/sheet
1 wire rack
1 flat spatula

Add sugar to bowl along with milk and stir to dissolve sugar. Toss in yeast and give a little stir (be sure to wipe off any yeast stuck on the spoon), cover and leave to proof for 10 minutes in a warm place.

Add flour to bowl along with ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt and stir to mix thoroughly; toss in raisins and mix.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast-milk mixture and mix to form dough. Once formed, knead the dough for 2 minutes, place in an oiled bowl, cover and put in a warm place to rise for 1 -1/2 hours or until the dough has more than doubled in size.

Punch down risen dough and knead for 2 minutes and then cut dough into equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place in oiled baking dish. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with the rack in the middle 20 minutes before the 1 hour of rising is complete.

Add 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water to small bowl and stir to dissolve sugar.

Brush risen dough with sugar-water and transfer dish to the oven. Bake for 12 minutes; brush with sugar-water and bake for another 12 minutes. Brush again with sugar-water and bake for 3 minutes.

Remove dish from oven, place on wire rack and brush a few times with sugar-water and leave to cool in the dish for 10 – 12 minutes.

Use your spatula to pry the buns from the pan and transfer to wire rack then place the wire rack on the baking sheet/tray and let buns continue to cool.

Meanwhile, add icing sugar and milk to a bowl and whisk to dissolve. Using a tablespoon, drizzle the glaze all over the buns – on the top and sides. Let buns continue to cool until you are ready to serve them.

Cynthia Nelson blogs at Tastes Like Home.

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