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Monday, March 25, 2013

Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns

Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
I love food with a story...with history.  You can find many variations for the beginnings of Hot Cross Buns.  Probably originally called simply "cross buns", they were sold hot - earning the expansion of their name.  Whether their lore lies in Pagan or Christian roots is probably the biggest debate.  But, like many beliefs, there is a golden thread of truth that runs throughout each sect to connect them all.

It is that that for most of time, bakers have marked their buns, breads, and other baked goods with a cross to ward off the evils spirits (this gives them an escape) that could cause the bread to go stale or moldy.

Hot Cross Buns were often studded with dried fruit and warming spices such as cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg.  Some even believed in their healing properties.  When made at home, one from each batch would be allowed to dry - this bun was considered good luck and hung in the kitchen for 12 months.  It was believed to ward of fire, but could also be grated and sprinkled into medicine to ward off disease.

Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
There all sorts of interesting history and lore, and I'm not going to re-write it here - however, this is a great article if you're interested in reading more: recipewise: The History of the Hot Cross Bun.

I have a favorite Hot Cross Bun recipe that I make yearly... and not just on what is the "traditional" day to make a batch, Good Friday.  I've never actually dried one out and kept it in my kitchen, but I may give that a try this year.  A little good luck could never hurt.

While I love those buns, I did want to give them a little twist.  So, I adapted the recipe and turned it around a bit...keeping the dried fruit in the dough, but taking those warming spices out of the dough and making it into a filling...and turning them into a cinnamon bun!  The fat "cross" of frosting that finishes them is the perfect amount of sweetness to contrast the tender, hearty bun.  And hopefully combines with those twists to let out the evil spirits.

Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns
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Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 2½ - 3 hours
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: bake bread breakfast spice orange Easter American

Ingredients (1 dozen (12 buns))
    for the dough:
    • 2 c. (250g) white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
    • 2 c. (250g) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • ½ c. warm water
    • ½ c. warm milk
    • 2¼ tsp. (7g) instant yeast
    • 2 tsp. (10g) fine sea salt
    • 3½ Tbs. (50g) sugar
    • 1 large egg, at room temperature
    • 3½ Tbs. (50g) butter, at room temperature
    • ⅔ c. (100g) mix of dried fruit (raisins, currants, cherries, cranberries)
    • finely grated zest of an orange
    for the filling:
    • 2 Tbs. (1 oz. / 28g) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 c. (210g) packed brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1 tsp. ground allspice
    • pinch fine sea salt
    for the frosting:
    • 2 Tbs. (1 oz. / 28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 c. (4.5 oz. / 126 g) powdered sugar, sifted
    • 1 Tbs. buttermilk
    • tiny splash of pure vanilla extract
    • pinch fine sea salt
    making dough and first rise:
    In large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flours, water, milk, yeast, salt, and sugar. Turn mixer on low to combine. Add egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough. Add orange zest and dried fruit, raise speed to medium and knead until silky and smooth, ~5 minutes. Lift dough out of bowl, spray the bowl with nonstick spray, and lower dough back into bowl. Cover with plastic film and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 60-90 minutes.

    making and adding the filling:
    Grease a 10"x10" (or similar) baking dish and set aside. Stir together the brown sugar, spices, and salt until well combined.

    Deflate risen dough and turn out onto an unfloured work surface. Roll and pat into a rectangle that is ~18"x12" in dimension. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a ½-inch border along one of the long edges. Scatter the sugar and spice mixture over the melted butter, gently pressing it into the dough. Starting with the end opposite the "naked" edge, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching the seam to seal.

    Set the cylinder in front of you, seam side down and slice into 1½-inch rolls (sections), using a serrated knife. Place evenly apart into prepared dish. Cover with plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, ~30-45 minutes.
    Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
    Preheat oven to 375° F during last 20 minutes of rise time.
    Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
    Remove plastic and slide pan into preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Set pan on a tray and allow to cool down a bit before adding the frosting crosses (otherwise the frosting will just melt...still delicious, but no longer "crossed").

    making frosting and adding crosses
    In a small bowl, beat together butter, sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy. Place into a piping bag or a baggie with the corner snipped off. Pipe fat frosting crosses across the top of each cinnamon bun and serve.

    Store loosely wrapped at room temperature.
    Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns |
    So, how about you?  Do you bake Hot Cross Buns?  Do you have a favorite recipe or a tradition or superstition that you follow?

    “Good Friday comes this month—the old woman runs
    With one or two a-penny hot cross buns,
    Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said,
    They’ll not grow mouldy like the common bread.”
                                                                 -popular rhyme from 1733 A.D. (and commonly the first song learned on a recorder, at least for my kids....)

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