They look cool and are pretty simple to make, hot cross buns are in the family of enriched fruit/nut breads that are typically associated with a holiday of some sort. Others in this family include breads like Stollen, Panettone and various other European confections. I love them all. Hot cross buns are an Easter specialty but I really just make them whenever we want a treat for breakfast. They are not too rich like a Panettone and not terribly sweet. They toast very nicely and are equally great with a smear of butter, a slice of sharp cheese or a dollop of jam.
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My recipe is based on the one from Regula Ysewijn with some tweaks from my experience like changing the mixing method, proofing time and spice mix. I like to start these the night before we want to enjoy them. It is convenient and makes for a better flavor due to the long slow rise in the fridge (this is known as retarding the dough). It’s the same process I do with other breakfast yeast breads like cinnamon rolls. For these, the dough is flour, milk, melted butter, sugar, yeast, salt and spices get mixed together and allowed to rest briefly before adding the dried fruit and continuing to mix for another 10 minutes or so until the dough comes together on the dough hook and the gluten is very well developed.
The dough can then be divided into 12 equal-ish pieces (well, I usually weigh the whole dough and then divide by 12 because I want them to be as even as possible). Each piece gets rolled into a neat bun. To do this grab one lump of dough, tuck the edges under and into the center of it, then cup with your hand and roll it with your palms on the counter to get a tight ball. Really no need to be way to finicky here, but a quick search on YouTube will locate a bunch of how to videos for shaping buns and rolls. If any raisins or fruit are sticking out then tuck those in the bottom of the bun. You do not want them to burn in the oven later if you can help it.
After shaping these go in a 9 X 13 inch pan that I line with parchment paper. Spray them with non-stick spray and cover loosely with plastics wrap. At this point you can proof them on the counter for about an hour or so until they double in size. What I prefer though is what I mentioned before. Slide them into the fridge and go to bed. I take them out about 3 hours before I want to bake them for the morning. Before they go in the oven give them a generous brush with egg wash and use a paste made from equal parts flour and water in a piping bag to make cross patterns. Optionally, sprinkle on them some pearl sugar (as I did here) or nuts or both. Once baked they are lovely the same day but are still good for up to a couple of days if you toast them.
Hot Cross Buns
- 320 gr (1 ¼ Cup) Whole Milk cool or room temperature is fine
- 70 gr (5 Tbsp) Butter unsalted
- 50 gr Candied Orange Peel diced small
- 125 gr Raisins or Currants
- 500 gr Flour All-purpose
- 2 tsp Instant Yeast
- 10 gr Salt
- 60 gr Sugar
- 1 tsp Cinnamon dry, powdered
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg ground
- 1/8 tsp Allspice dry, powdered
- 1/8 tsp Ginger dry, powdered
- 1 Egg (about 50 gr) large
Flour paste and Egg Wash
- 50 gr Flour
- 50 gr Water
- 1 Egg
- Pearl Sugar
- Sliced Almonds, chopped pistachios or chopped hazelnuts
- In a small sauce pan, add the milk and butter and gently warm until the butter melts. Allow to cool to room temperature (about 7f F).
- Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and spices in the bowl of a mixer. Give them a stir to incorporate.
- Add the milk and butter mixture and the egg to the bowl. Using a dough hook mix the ingredients on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Scrap the mixture half way through to make sure all flour is incorporated. It will look shaggy and wet. Allow it to rest for another 5 minutes.
- Add the dry fruit and raisins or currants. Start mixing again and let it mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes. As the gluten develops the mixture will become more cohesive and will start pulling away from the sides. It will start sticking to itself more than the mixer’s bowl.
- Put the dough on a lightly floured counter and form it into a ball. As it rests on the counter, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray (I usually just wash the mixer bow and use that) and place the dough in it. Cover with a plastic wrap and allow it to proof at room temperature for 60 – 90 minutes until it doubles in size.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces (about 95 – 100 gr each) and form each one into a tight bun. The way to do this is to pick up each piece of dough and start by tucking all the corners into the bottom of the ball. Roll the ball on the counter top under your cupped hand to get a neat tight shape. If any dried fruit sticks out tuck it back under so that it would not burn in the oven.
- Line your baking dish (I use a deep rectangular 9 X 13 inch aluminum cake pan) with parchment paper. Allow the paper to come up the sides even if it is a bit crumpled. Place the buns evenly in there, spray with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Allow them to proof slowly in the fridge overnight (about 8 – 12 hours) or at room temperature for 90 minutes.
- If you put the buns in the fridge take them out about 3 hours before you want to bake. Let them rise at room temperature until they double in size. Heat the oven to 400F.
- Make the flour paste by mixing the flour and water. Place the mixture in a small piping bag or zip top bag with a small corner cut off. Make the egg wash by whisking the egg with a couple of tablespoons water or milk. Brush the buns with the egg wash and pipe cross pattern on them with the flour paste. Sprinkle on any garnishes you are using. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until rich golden brown.