Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why they're called Hot Cross Buns

Because they're a massive amount of work to make for a holiday where everyone is supposed to be uplifted and rejoicing and frolicking with baby chicks and bunnies and eating deviled eggs and chocolate and Starburst jelly beans.

If you, like me, are trapped by tradition into thinking that you need these buns on top of all that other good stuff to truly celebrate Easter, you're just screwed, unless you have a nice bakery nearby and do take out.

Nope.  I had to go and make mine from scratch.  The sink is overloaded with dishes, everything is sticky and I think there's flour behind my ear.

Yeah, I'm cross.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from a recipe on the Good Food blog.   I probably should have turned back as soon as I saw the phrase, Candied Kumquats.  But no.

For the Candied Orange Peel*:
You could easily go buy some.
Or, if you are a glutton for punishment:

Peel from 3 large oranges (Use the insides for a nice glass of juice, with vodka)
2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. water
1 vanilla bean

Blanch the peel by dunking in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, 3 separate times. (Yes, this means you need 3 different pots of boiling water!).  This will remove the bitter taste from the peel, and soften the peel so it can better soak up the candying liquid.

In yet another pot (!), combine the sugar and the 2 1/4 c. of water.  Cut the vanilla bean open, and scrape the little seeds into the sugar water with a sharp knife.  Add the pod to the water, too.  Bring this mixture to a boil over high heat.  Add the blanched orange peel, and stir until the peels are submerged.  Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until peels are completely soft.  Transfer the peel and the liquid to a glass bowl or jar, cover and allow to cool completely for several hours or overnight.  Use immediately, or keep indefinitely in the fridge.

For the buns:
1 c. + 2 Tbs. milk, lukewarm
1 Tbs. + 1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
1 Tbs. + 1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fennel seeds (can sub in cinnamon or cardamom)
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/4 c. currants
1/2 c. of the candied orange peel, chopped
~ 3 1/2 c. flour, plus more for shaping as needed.
5 oz. almond paste, to form the crosses

For the glaze:
1/2 c. candying liquid
1 Tbs. dark rum or Grand Marnier
1 Tbs. butter
pinch of salt

In a large bowl, combine milk, yeast and 1 Tbs. of sugar, whisking until yeast is mostly dissolved.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until quite foamy.   Using your whisk, add the 1/4 c. sugar, and stir to combine.  Then add the salt.  Stir.  Add the fennel seeds.  Stir.  Add the melted butter.  Stir.  Whisk in the egg.   Stir in the currents and the orange peel.  Add the flour, about 1 cup at a time, until the dough is too thick and sticky to use the whisk anymore, and then use your hands to mix in the rest of the flour.  If the dough is super sticky and still clinging to to bowl, keep adding flour a few tablespoons at a time, until it is soft and almost smooth.

Transfer to another bowl (!) coated with cooking spray or oil, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in until doubled in size, about 2 hours in a warm spot (or overnight in a cool kitchen, if you prefer to bake these in the morning).

While the dough is rising (because you have nothing better to do than to start yet another messy project for these things) form crosses out of the almond paste.  Divide the paste into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece out into a long, thin rope about 18 inches long.  Using a sharp knife, cut each rope into six 3 inch pieces, so you have 24 segments total.  Form 12 crosses by pressing two segments together in the center.  Set the crosses aside, covered with a slightly damp cloth so the paste doesn't dry out while you form the buns.

Turn the puffed up dough out onto a lightly floured surface (it will collapse), and knead gently a few times.  Divide into 12 roughly equal portions, and form into rounded balls.   Place onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat, so the buns are a little less than an inch apart.  Press a cross on top of each bun, using your hands to secure them snugly.  Cover the buns with a slightly damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm spot for another 30 minutes or so.   Preheat the oven to 350.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

While the buns are baking, combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.  When the buns come out of the oven, baste generously with the glaze, going over each bun several times until most of the glaze is used up.

Allow to cool completely, then serve.
Hmm.  Those look pretty good.
OK.  I'm going to go try one.

Oh my God.
These are...miraculous.
Beyond worthy of their association with this season of renewal and goodness.
I on the other hand, am not worthy**.  I am humble and grateful and filled with delight.

I think this, in a small, baked goods kind of way, is what Easter is all about.
A time when we sinners are forgiven and granted grace by something greater than ourselves***.


Click to Print this recipe!

* I didn't have any kumquats.
** I had faith, but I bitched and moaned about it.
*** By something which rises.  With a cross.  It's like the Narnia of breakfast treats. 

1 comment:

  1. ha! great post! i love the extra touch with crosses--we always just make them with buttercream frosting. :)