Hot Cross Buns:
1 cup (240 ml) milk
1 package (1/4 oz.) (7 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
3 1/2 - 4 cups (455 - 520 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup (80 ml) candied fruit and peel mix
1/3 cup (80 ml) currants (or raisins)
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 tablespoon milk or cream
Hot Cross Buns: In a small saucepan, or in the microwave, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F or 38 degrees C). Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter and egg and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on medium low speed, with the dough hook, gradually add the candied and dried fruit and continue to knead the dough until it is silky smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours).
When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (Place three buns to a row, four rows altogether. They should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size.) Make an egg wash of one beaten egg with 1 tablespoon milk, and brush the tops of the buns with the wash. Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with a nonstick cooking spray, and place lightly over the buns. Place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, and with clean kitchen shears (or a a sharp, lightly greased knife), cut a 'cross' in the top of each bun. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Glaze: Combine the confectioners sugar and milk and mix until smooth. Place the glaze in a paper cone or a small plastic bag. Cut the end of the cone or bag and pipe a 'cross' on the top of each bun.
Makes 12 buns.
Hot Cross Buns are a seasonal yeast bread traditionally served on Good Friday. These sweet buns are nicely spiced with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, and are studded with currants (raisins) and candied fruit. What makes them instantly recognizable is that the tops of the buns are marked with a 'cross' which symbolically represents the Cross of Christ and the Crucifixion. Before baking, I like to cut a cross shape into the tops of the buns using kitchen shears. Others may prefer using two strips of pastry or you can even with use a paste made with flour and water. After baking you can lightly brush the buns with honey or corn syrup to add sweetness and a nice shine. Personally, I prefer to just pipe a cross on the buns with a sweet sugar glaze made from mixing confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar) with a little milk.
There are many stories as to when the first Hot Cross Buns were made, and the story I like is related to the Anglo Saxons. It comes from Alan Davidson's "The Oxford Companion to Food". He tells us they were first made in honor of their goddess of Spring, Eostre, from whom the name Easter is derived. Today they are traditionally served at Easter and there is a superstition that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday never became moldy and it was good luck to save one bun until the next year's buns were made.
A few notes on ingredients. You can adjust the amounts and types of ground spices to suit your own personal taste. If you are not familiar with ground allspice, it has a spicy, almost woody, flavor has the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper all rolled into one. (If you cannot find it, you can simply leave it out.) While I have added brown sugar to the dough for sweetness you can just as easily use white sugar. Sometimes it can be difficult to find candied fruit this time of year so oftentimes I just use currants or raisins, or even a combination of dried cranberries and cherries. Making Hot Cross Buns is not difficult, just keep it mind that, all told, it will take three to four hours as the dough needs to rise twice. The first rise takes between one and two hours depending on how warm your room is. Then the dough is formed into rolls and, again, left to rise. This will take about an hour. Lastly, the buns are baked in a hot oven until nicely brown and once they have cooled, I like to pipe a "cross" on top of each bun using a glaze made from a mixture of confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar and milk. Hot cross buns can be eaten plain, or buttered, or split in half, toasted, and served with butter and cheese.