Not just for Easter, these are superlative sweet buns. For a slower rise, and denser, moister buns (instead of feather, light ones), reduce yeast a teaspoon. This is my own, favorite recipe for the best Hot Cross Buns around. I forgo the dried citron or orange peel and head instead for fresh spices, raisins, and plenty of dried cranberries and sweet-sour dry cherries. An easy fondant makes these awesome.
5 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 - 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons plumped currants
1/2 cup plumped dark raisins
1/2 cup each dried cherries, dried cranberries, plumped
Zest of one large orange, finely minced
Egg wash, 1-2 beaten eggs
Mock Vanilla Fondant
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons water or lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
First, prepare the dried fruits by plumping in steaming water and then drain and dry. Set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, whisk together the yeast and water and let stand a minute. Stir in a cup of the white flour, and then the milk, butter, sugar and salt. Add in eggs, and then most of white flour, whole wheat flour and spices and mix by hand to make a soft dough. When dough can no longer be mixed by hand, begin kneading (5 - 7 minutes by hand or using a dough hook on an electric mixer). Dust in more all-purpose flour if needed. When dough is somewhat smooth, knead in raisins, currants, cherries, cranberries and orange zest, and knead gently, dusting in more flour if dough gets sticky when slightly wet fruit is added.
The dough should be smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and let rest, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap for 20-30 minutes.
Divide into 12 pieces and shape into balls.
Place buns on a lightly greased baking sheet about one inch apart. Using floured scissors, snip a cross on the top of each bun (about 1/2 inch deep). Paint with egg wash. Let rest about 25 minutes or until buns look puffy and light.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place buns in oven and reduce heat to 350 F. Bake for 17-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack. When cool, apply fondant.
For the Mock Vanilla Fondant, mix ingredients to make a very soft icing. Pipe fondant or drizzle it onto the bunds. Allow to set before serving. If fondant is too soft, add more confectioner's sugar. If too thick, add water.
Makes about one dozen buns.
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