Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns…

The following was published on April 3, 2019  in my weekly column for The Forum newspaper. 

CLICK HERE TO GO STRAIGHT TO THE RECIPE

There are myriad stories and superstitions surrounding the custom of serving Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, but for most of us, it’s simply a matter of tradition. Adorned with their signature white cross on top, hot cross buns were an Easter season mainstay throughout my childhood, and each year we eagerly awaited the arrival of these wonderfully spiced, gently-sweet yeast buns.

You can typically find hot cross buns available in our local grocery bakeries in the weeks leading up to the Easter holiday, and until this year these are what I have served my family. However, after playing with a recipe over the past month from one of my favorite baking websites, joyofbaking.com (hosted by Stephanie Jaworski), I may never go back to a store-bought bun.

These homemade hot cross buns are just delightful, with a rich, spiced flavor and beautiful texture that includes a lovely, firm crust encasing a thick, soft crumb inside. Traditional recipes, including Stephanie’s, use dried fruit like raisins or currants to add flavor, but I prefer dried cherries instead to give these buns even more seasonal appeal (available at Costco in Fargo).

You don’t need to be an advanced baker to make these buns from scratch, but an electric stand mixer is ideal as the dough requires a good bit of kneading. Time is also an essential element. Hot cross buns are a yeast bread, and after the kneading is done the dough requires two lengthy periods of proofing for the dough to rise.

The first proofing takes about one and a half to two hours for the dough to almost double in size and occurs after the dough has been thoroughly kneaded. After the first proofing, the dough is divided into individual portions, shaped into round balls and then allowed to rest again for one hour until the buns have almost doubled in size.

After brushing with an egg wash, the buns are then baked in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until they have puffed up in size and the tops are a lustrous, golden brown. The buns are ready when the tops are firm to the touch, but the sides are still somewhat soft.

There are two schools of thought on how and when the signature cross should be applied to the tops of each bun. Some folks heartily believe that the cross should be added before baking, by creating an almost paste-like dough made from flour and water.

I grew up enjoying the white-topped version with crosses created from a sweet, powdered sugar glaze which are added to the tops once the buns have cooled. This is an easier option than fussily making the crosses out of dough, and since the buns themselves aren’t overly sweet, this added touch of sugary goodness is a welcome complement.

Easy to make, these Hot Cross Buns are deliciously aromatic and will fill your kitchen with the comforting warmth of homemade bread and tradition. When properly stored, they’ll stay fresh for up to three days and even longer in the freezer, but, if your family is anything like mine, they won’t last that long. I wish you a peaceful Good Friday and Happy Easter! Ea

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: Makes 12 buns
  • Print
Ingredients:
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg or freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
¾ cup dried cherries, cut in half or roughly chopped if large – do not use a food processor for this step (whole raisins or currants may be substituted)

Egg wash:
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze:
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Directions:
An electric stand mixer is best for this recipe.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, yeast, sugar, spices and salt. With the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest speed until combined.

Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla and mix on low speed just until combined. Add the dried cherries and mix on low just until incorporated.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on the first speed (not the stir setting), until the dough is silky smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Use vegetable/canola oil or a nonstick cooking spray to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so that it is greased on top and bottom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. A microwave is a great place for proofing the dough.

When the dough appears puffy and soft, use a dough scraper to divide the dough into 12 equal portions, making quick, straight-down cuts for best results. To ensure consistency, use a food scale to weigh the dough first to calculate the amount needed for each portion (roughly 85 grams or 3 ounces per piece).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To shape the dough pieces into balls, form a rough ball by tucking the sides in toward the center and place on an un-floured work surface, tucked side down.

Cup your palm firmly around the dough and quickly rotate your hand in circles until the dough forms into a springy, smooth ball. The un-floured surface helps to create a little resistance so that the dough will roll more easily into a smooth ball.

Place each ball on the parchment-lined baking sheet, about 1 ½ inches apart. With cooking spray or oil, lightly grease a piece of plastic wrap and place lightly over the buns so that they are free to rise. Proof at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack placed in the center position.

Prepare the egg wash by vigorously whisking the egg, milk and salt together until fully combined. The salt will help to break down the egg white to create a smoother wash.

When the buns are read to bake, brush the tops of each bun with the egg wash. Bake in the 400-degree oven until the buns are a rich, golden brown, the tops are firm to the touch and the sides are still somewhat soft, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool completely before adding the glaze.

To prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine the powdered sugar, half of the milk, vanilla extract and salt. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk in small amounts until desired consistency is achieved. For a thicker glaze, sift in more powdered sugar and whisk to combine.

Transfer the glaze to a small piping bag fitted with a small, plain tip and pipe a cross on the top of each bun. Let dry at room temperature. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can cut a bottom corner off a plastic zip bag and use that instead.

To store: Store glazed buns in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

To freeze: Unglazed buns may be stored in an airtight container and stored in the freezer for 1 to 2 months.

Adapted from a recipe by Stephanie Jaworski at joyofbaking.com


Recipe Time Capsule, week of Apr. 7 – 13

This Week: Madeleine Cookies, A Recipe for Life, Honey Sesame Soy Asparagus,
Italian Stuffed Artichokes, Elegant Egg Strata, Classic Tiramisu

I write a weekly food column for Forum Communications, which appears in the Lifestyle section of The Forum newspaper and several of its subsidiaries throughout the Midwest. Below you’ll find links to past columns featured this week, since the column’s debut in 2012. Just click on the photo to visit each link. For a printable recipe, see the list at the end of the post.

This week’s time capsule features a host of springtime specialties, including an elegant egg and cheese strata, and two of our favorite desserts: Classic Tiramisu and French Madeleine Cookies. 

Enjoy, and please let me know what YOU’RE cooking this week! Read More


Recipe Time Capsule, week of Mar.31 – Apr. 6

This Week: Symphony Salad with Minty Orange Dressing, HoDo Lavosh, Salade Niçoise, North Dakota White Bean Puree, Fresh Berry Friands, Pasta Primavera

I write a weekly food column for Forum Communications, which appears in the Lifestyle section of The Forum newspaper and several of its subsidiaries throughout the Midwest. Below you’ll find links to past columns featured this week, since the column’s debut in 2012. Just click on the photo to visit each link. For a printable recipe, see the list at the end of the post.

This week’s time capsule features a host of springtime specialties, including one of my favorite pastries: Fresh Berry Friands. These oval-shaped Australian tea cakes get their wonderful texture from almond flour and egg whites. They are charming and delicious, no what shape you make them. 

Enjoy, and please let me know what YOU’RE cooking this week! Read More


Recipe Time Capsule, week of Mar. 24-30

This Week: Three Cheese Scalloped Potatoes, Orange Chiffon Cake, Minestrone Primavera with Chicken Meatballs, Triple Coconut Cream Pie, Honey Mustard Rack of Lamb

I write a weekly food column for Forum Communications, which appears in The Forum newspaper and several of its subsidiaries throughout the Midwest. Below you’ll find links to past columns featured this week, since the column’s debut in 2012. Just click on the photo to visit each link. For a printable recipe, see the list at the end of the post.

This week’s time capsule features a selection of sumptuous springtime dishes, including a perennial favorite, my Triple Coconut Cream Pie which gets a triple infusion of super “coconutty” flavor by using shredded coconut, coconut rum and coconut milk. Quite simply, this is a must for coconut-lovers.

Enjoy, and please let me know what YOU’RE cooking this week! Read More


Score a *Game-Day* Win with Super-Crispy Buffalo Chicken Wings

Need a hearty appetizer for your NCAA weekend? Score big with my crowd-pleasing, oven-baked (NOT fried!) Super Crispy Buffalo Chicken Wings.

These wings are a favorite in our family, and when I recently made them for one of my sisters, she practically swooned and proclaimed, “These are one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.” 

I featured this recipe in my weekly newspaper column for The Forum, and have pasted the article below so you can learn the secrets I use to make these wings super-crispy. If you’re not in the mood for a little light reading, you can go

STRAIGHT TO THE RECIPE

Read More


6 Beautiful Salads to Welcome Spring

Spring is *finally* here! After a long (LONG) North Dakota winter, this day could not come a moment too soon. Even though my house is still surrounded by mountains of snow, our recent trend of above-zero temperatures means that soon we will be witnessing the last vestiges of winter and I AM GRATEFUL.

To celebrate spring’s arrival, here are six of our favorite spring salad recipes, including our newest favorite feature from my weekly column in The Forum newspaper: Rainbow Layer Salad with *Mayo-Free* Buttermilk Herb Dressing. Read More