© 2013 Mel IMG_5193

Hot Cross Buns

Tis the season for….

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Hot Cross Buns!

Swoon! The best part? That spicy bread smell that fills the house when these are baking. I want to bottle that smell.

I don’t think I could ever get sick of these. Last year at this time I worked at a bakery that turned out THOUSANDS of these little guys in the weeks leading up to Easter. I think there were actually days where I spent my entire shift making making hot cross buns….making sponge after sponge and criss crossing hundreds of crosses by hand. I think the only part I actually got sick of was piping those little crosses. I almost skipped that part this time around, but didn’t, for tradition’s sake ;)

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A few weeks ago, my well trained sense of smell detected that familiar scent of warm spices and yeast wafting from the bakery next door to my yoga studio…a torturous smell when I am hungry after a hard yoga class. I resolved to make my kitchen smell like that heavenliness.

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The method for this recipe is based on that in Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipesrequiring the use of a sponge which is added into the final dough. I’m not a fan of using mixed peel such as that is is used in more traditional recipes, but because I do like that faint citrus-y flavor that it gives, I actually use lemon and orange zest in its place, as well as nice plump juicy raisins instead of currants. Using a mix of bread flour and whole wheat flour produced a deliciously doughy but fluffy texture.

Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

For the Sponge…

  • 37 g (1/4 cup) bread flour
  • 190 mL milk (warmed to about 100 F or “bathtub temperature”)
  • 1 1/tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

For the Final Dough…

  • 170 g (1 1/4 cups) bread flour
  • 170 g (1 1/4 cups) whole wheat bread flour
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 62 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 125 g raisins or currants
  • zest of half a lemon
  • zest of half a small orange

For the crosses…

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk

1. Make the sponge. Warm the milk until it lukewarm, or bathtub temperature. If you want to be precise, it should read 100 F on a digital thermometer. In a medium bowl, combine the warm milk, sugar and yeast. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the flour, then cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, your starter should look like this…

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Nice and bubbly!

2. Time to make your final dough. To the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flours, sugar, butter, egg, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and zest. Scrape in your starter. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed until combined, then on medium for about 5 minutes, until the dough is nice and elastic and comes together off the sides of the bowl. Now add the raisins/currants. Mix again on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the hook and bowl if necessary to get all of the raisins incorporated into the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, forming a round boule of dough. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

3. Form the buns. Turn the risen dough onto the countertop and divide into 12 equal portions. Mine were 2.5 oz each. Round each portion into a nice tight, round ball, pinching the seams together on the bottom. Place all 12 rolls into a lightly greased 9 X 13 pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature for about an hour. At this point, they should be slightly larger than before and look “puffier”. Preheat oven to 400 F.

4. Meanwhile, make your crossing paste. Combine flour and sugar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle milk in until you have paste that is a pipeable consistency. Pipe the crosses using a piping bag with a small plain tip, or just use a small ziplock with the end snipped off, like I did. Be thankful that you’re piping 12 crosses, not 1200.

5. Bake  for 20-25 minutes. When they are done, they will be a deep golden brown on the outside and will have an internal temperature of 200 F. Let cool in the pan only for about 5 minutes. They should come out of the pan easily, then allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. They are best eaten the day they are made but are great warmed slightly or toasted the next day.

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