Pauline is gone now, and I’ve thought about those buns every Good Friday since. Finally this year I thought I’d try to make some myself.
I asked around and checked all the usual places on the Internet, and found some recipes. Neighbor and prodigious baker Charlotte Robinson made two whole trays full to pass out at Sewing Circle and shared her recipe. My neighbor up the road, Diane Ferris, who used to run a bakery, shared hers.
There were a lot of similarities among the recipes, and as so often happens it turns out to be a basic rich dough with variations. Probably the “best” hot cross bun will be the one you remember from growing up. There are versions from various parts of Europe. Some are flavored with orange rind, some with lemon. Some have currants or raisins or both. There was cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices. They all, however, have a criss-cross in icing on the top.
Most of the time, I prefer sweet yeasty breads to the average cake, partly because I like the lovely chewy texture. I always like it best warm, straight from the oven and these are no exception.
I used golden raisins but you might like the sturdier flavor of dark raisins. Charlotte glazes her hot cross buns with orange juice. Diane’s trick for making the icing for the top is to dissolve the confectioner’s sugar with straight vanilla. The icing is beige colored but it sure tastes good.
Hot Cross Buns
1 cup milk
½ cup butter (one stick)
3½ teaspoons dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
1-2 eggs, beaten lightly
Rind of one orange grated
½ cup raisins, or currants or a combination
3¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the milk and melt the butter in it. Put it into a large bowl let cool to lukewarm, then add the yeast, sugar, eggs and rind. Mix well together. Stir or sift together the flour, spices and salt and add them to the milk and yeast mixture, beating well. The dough will be sticky and glossy looking. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about an hour or hour and a half.
When risen, stir it down and turn it out on a very lightly floured board, and knead it once or twice, turning it over. It ought to feel soft and smooth. Pull off 12 to 16 chunks of dough, smooth them up and place in a greased baking pan, allowing a little room between to rise. Allow to rise for a quarter hour or so, then bake them in a 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes until they have an evenly golden brown appearance. Remove from oven and apply glaze.
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of hot water or orange juice
Dissolve the sugar and then brush the mixture over the top of the hot buns. Then allow them to cool.
6 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar (or more to taste)
Vanilla, milk or cream
Mix sugar and liquid together until you have reached the desired, pourable consistency. Dribble or pipe over the buns to create a cross of icing on each.
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