Njom Week 1: Hot cross buns

Note: I’m going to try this thing where I get in the kitchen once a week to bake something new— hopefully a new dessert or bread each week.  We’ll see how it goes, won’t we?

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
(source)

For the upcoming Easter, it only seemed appropriate to make a seasonal dessert—hot cross buns! Similar to the pączki situation last month, I’d never eaten a hot cross bun in my life (or at least according to my memory), so I was exploring unfamiliar territory.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand
Makes 6

1 egg plus scalded milk equal to 2/3 cup
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup bread flour
2 tbsp nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp raisins

Icing:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1/8 tsp almond extract

Warm the egg under hot tap water, and then crack it into a measuring cup. Heat the milk until warm, between 105° F and 115° F, and add it to the egg to make 2/3 cup. Pour the mixture into a large, warmed bowl, and add the yeast. Let stand 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to bubble. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, sugar, butter, whole wheat flour, half of the bread flour, and the dry milk. Beat until smooth. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Slowly add the remaining bread flour, and beat until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. (Add a little bit of extra flour if needed at all; I never needed any.) Knead in the raisins. Grease a bowl and place the dough in it, turning the dough over to grease both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Punch the dough down, and divide it into six pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place on the baking sheet with the smooth side up, and brush each piece with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are golden. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix until smooth. Put the icing into a small plastic bag and cut off the corner, then squeeze the icing out to make the crosses on the buns.

Note: The recipe originally called for currants, but I simply used what I had in my kitchen at the time.)

While making hot cross buns, I discovered that there are several different ways of creating the crosses on the top. After I had finished mine, Sean mentioned that the hot cross buns that he’d had in his youth didn’t have icing crosses on top, but rather the cross was part of the bun itself. My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the sweet icing version that I made if more of an American thing (which would make sense). Should I ever make hot cross buns again, I’ll definitely be trying another version… either slashing the top of the dough, or using a water and flour paste mixture for the cross that’s applied prior to baking.

I liked the recipe I used here, as the dough wasn’t overly sweet, but you still got a quick burst of sweetness from the almond-flavoured icing. The contrast was quite nice, and made these a lovely afternoon treat! I also really liked that I could make a half batch so easily, so Sean and I wouldn’t be stuck eating buns for eternity—always good for my tummy.

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