I am just about to die of shock that I am making a timely post. After all, according to Wikipedia, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Woohoo, I'm on time! Now, I don't really celebrate Easter but I can totally get behind any holiday's food traditions. I don't remember making hot cross buns as a kid, but I think we did buy some at the grocer occasionally. But actually I don't remember eating them until college, when one of my dormmates' parents sent her some in the mail, and even then, the only really memorable thing about them was how intensely sweet and sticky the icing crosses were. Tooth-achingly sweet! So when it came time to looking for a recipe, I focused mostly on the more traditional, British style recipes which contained a lot less sugar and had baked on crosses of a flour/water mixture. The one I came up with is cobbled together from a bunch of different sources, including the Joy of Cooking and epicurious.com.
Please excuse the terrible lighting in my kitchen. I have fiddled and fiddled with the settings on my camera, and this is about as good as it gets. I find kneading dough to be very soothing so I thought this was pretty easy to make; the most time of course goes into waiting for the dough to rise. After the buns have risen for the second time, you pipe on the crosses (my mixture was a bit loose and kept running off the top of the buns) and then consign them to the oven.
Post-baking, the buns are glazed twice with honey. The buns themselves are certainly not sweet (except for the fruit) so the glaze adds just a hint. I wish I had been a bit more heavy handed with the spices, but overall, not bad! They are best fresh out of the oven, but the slight staleness of the buns is easily fixed with some toasting and copious application of butter. In fact, I think I will go have another one right now....
Hot Cross Buns
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature, in tablespoons
1 cup mixed raisins and dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the dough, except for the fruit. Mix either with a stand mixer or your hands until it comes together in a rough ball of dough. Turn out and knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Knead in the fruit, taking care to distribute it evenly. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled (approximately 2 hours).
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, deflate gently, and form into 16 round buns. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment, about an inch apart. Snip a cross into the top of each bun with scissors. Cover, and let rise again, until the buns are 1.5 times larger (about an hour). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the cross ingredients and stir until smooth. Place in a plastic baggie, and cut a tiny bit of the corner off. Pipe crosses (following the snip marks in your buns) on each bun. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, combine water, sugar, and honey in a cup. Microwave on high for a minute, then stir. If the honey and sugar aren't melted yet, give it another minute. Stir until smooth. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush each with glaze. If you can wait, let stand until warm, and the glaze has set a bit. Otherwise, eat immediately and lick your fingers clean!