One a penny, two a penny (Hot Cross Buns recipe)
For some people Easter is about the ham, or the lamb cakes, or the chocolate bunnies. For me, growing up, it was about the Hot Cross Buns my mom would make on Good Friday, and which we’d eat through Easter week.
I’ve tried making traditional baked yeast things before, but honestly I’m so enamored of the whole Artisan Bread in Five Minutes thing that I couldn’t help wondering if some nice bun recipe could be crossed with one of their master doughs and baked up fresh on the semi-spur of the moment for a week or so.
For those unfamiliar with the method, this recipe is intended as something you mix up a big batch of, don’t knead at all, let rest for 2 hours or so, then punch down and stick in the fridge; from there you can pull out as much as you want for another quick rise and bake, without having to go through the process of re-mixing and kneading and long-term babysitting. This recipe has changed my life. Changed my life, I tell you. I used to be intimidated by yeast recipes; this is seriously foolproof. Take it from a big fool.
Nine times out of ten, despite the book-ful of recipes I have for this bread, I make the basic master loaf with a mixture of white and whole wheat flour, and a little oat bran thrown in for extra fiber. But in this case, I’ll mess around with it a bit…I’m using the Challah bread recipe as a template and then adapting it.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes method)
In a 5-quart bowl, mix (in this order works best):
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter (please don’t substitute neutral oil; Easter is only once a year…)
- 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tbs granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1 tbs coarse salt
Mix in, without kneading:
- 7 cups unbleached flour.
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves (note that the type and quantity of spices are largely a matter of taste, so if you’re missing one of the above, as long a you have cinnamon, you’ll probably be fine!)
- (last, after everything else is well-mixed-in) 1 cup or so currants, raisins, or candied dried fruit. These may knead to be kneaded a little just to get them in there…
To mix, use dough attachment of a food processor, heavy duty stand mixer, or possibly a pair of clean very wet hands.
Cover (but not airtight) and let rise for 2 hours or so at room temperature. At this point either refrigerate (also covered and not airtight) or immediately get ready to bake. The dough will keep in the fridge for about a week; it’s easier to work with when it’s cold.
On Baking Day
When you are ready to bake, grease and flour a baking dish, or line it with parchment, or do what I do, which is just make the buns on flat parchment lightly dusted with flour. (You get more crust this way, so it’s up to you. This makes a very sticky dough, so make sure you grease and flour well if you’re using a dish of some kind!)
Break off a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit, or a little bigger. Cut into pieces the size of a golf or maybe ping-pong ball, depending on how big you want the buns to be. For each one, dust with flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom all around. (This forms the “gluten cloak” that helps it all hold together.) Place in your baking sheet or on your parchment about half an inch apart for small balls, up to an inch for larger ones.
Let rise about 40-45 minutes. Near the end of the rise (they will probably be touching each other by now), use a sharp knife to score a cross-shape in the top of each bun. (This isn’t totally necessary, but it helps with that extra oven-rise thing and gives you a little channel for the icing later.) Brush the tops with egg wash (1 beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon or so of water).
Bake about 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Verdict: These are amazing. The dough is a little easier to handle than the traditional Artisan dough, because of the butter and egg; it’s less sticky. And way yummier. Next time I might go heavier on the spices, although it’s delicious the way it is. I need to stress that one must wait till the buns are completely, completely cool before putting the icing on, or the stuff just melts and drips off. Still tastes good, but you miss the whole “cross” aspect…
(it suddenly occurs to me…if you can’t have crosses on them when they are hot, how can we call them Hot Cross Buns? Hmm….)