Hot Cross Buns
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)
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
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.