Lenten Season comes rather early this year. We don’t really make anything in particular for Lent, I just thought these were a good place to start. There is just something about Hot Cross Buns that are so fitting for the occasion. Aside from the cross on top of course, they look so unassuming. They remind me of the Christian teachings about learning how to appreciate simplicity in our lives, rather than the material, more ornamental things.
It is said that Hot Cross Buns baked on a Good Friday never became moldy, and so keeping one bun until next year’s batch for the Lenten Season would supposedly bring good luck. And while I have not, and most likely will never, attempt to find out if this is true, I did attempt to bake my own Hot Cross Buns at home.
I came across a couple of Easter recipes while I was browsing through King Arthur Flour’s website, but this one caught my attention more than the others. So may people are saying this is an excellent Hot Cross Bun recipe by King Arthur Flour, and that was what I was expecting as I made these. I was expecting soft, melt-in-your-mouth buns, full of dried fruit surprises in every bite. From all the comments I read on the King Arthur Flour page, I was expecting something that would blow me away.
Unfortunately it fell way short. But that might have been my fault.
Sometimes I just can’t leave a recipe alone. Take this one for instance. I guess I only realise now that there will be times when it just doesn’t pay to add in whole wheat flour into a recipe that calls only for regular flour. I wonder why it did not occur to me that I would take away the lightness and softness of the buns by doing so. (Because I wasn’t thinking, that’s why…)
I always love switching less than half the amount of flour to whole wheat whenever I bake something, and I’ve always had good results when it comes to quick breads. It’s a different story with yeast breads though.
I simply do not have that much experience in making bread to tell when a particular recipe has enough liquid to balance out the roughness of whole wheat flour, or how much whole wheat flour can be substituted without altering the texture of the resulting bread too much. This recipe calls for 4 1/2 cups of flour, and I switched out 1 1/2 cups of regular flour for whole wheat. The bread became heavy almost immediately, making the crumb tight rather than soft the way that it was meant to be.
What I’m trying to say is, I should have stuck with the original recipe when I made these buns. Or, I should have used a recipe for whole wheat hot cross buns instead. Because then my Hot Cross Buns wouldn’t have looked so oddly like rocks. And although there was that very nice fruity taste from the apple juice and dried fruits- and the colour of the buns was absolutely gorgeous- the very rough and dry texture of the bread was a great distraction. I did not appreciate the buns as much as I could have because of this.
So that was a lesson learned and a recipe somewhat failed. But I’m not about to pack up and go home. I actually found time to make this recipe again the way it was intended, but I incorporated it with other recipes that create Hot Cross Buns the way I wanted them. The dough for the buns is the same. I made sure I used all-regular flour this time. But because I don’t like those thick white sugary crosses on top, I went looking for a hot cross bun recipe that had the crosses baked with the dough. Then I put them together and voila!
If you would observe the large difference in the crumb in the photo below, the presence of whole wheat flour really changes the characteristics of the buns in a dramatic way:
No doubt the colour of the whole wheat buns were nicer, and yet it does not have the fluffiness and rise of the very soft buns made purely with all-purpose flour. So next time I think of adding in whole wheat flour, I’m going to need to do a lot of research first just to make sure I know how much of the flour I can replace, if I can at all.
For the recipe below, I’ve included two choices for you: You can either go with the white paste plus the sugar glaze, or the egg white glaze plus the confectioner’s sugar icing. These two are the better fit with each other. I actually made the paste and the egg white glaze but did not add a sugar glaze, so my buns were not as sweet as they could have been.
Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12 to 14 buns
For the buns
- 1/4 cup apple juice or rum
- 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit of choice
- 1/2 cup raisins or other dried currants
- 1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk, white saved for topping
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 firmly packed cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
(Option 1) For the white paste
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 to 4 teaspoons sugar
- a pinch of ground cinnamon, if desired
For the sugar syrup glaze
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- , Option 2
- For the egg white topping:
- 1 large egg white, reserved from above
- 1 tablespoon milk
- For the icing:
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar, PLUS 2 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipe-able icing
- 1. Lightly grease a 10" square pan or 9" x 13" pan.
- 2. Prepare the buns: Mix the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just till the fruit and liquid are very warm, and the plastic starts to "shrink wrap" itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature.***
- 3. Once the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, till the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid not absorbed.
- 4. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.
- 5. Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3-3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. You'll make 12 to 14 buns.
- 6. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.
- 7. Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up and are touching one another. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Make the white paste
- 8A. Before baking the buns, mix together all the ingredients to form a smooth paste. The paste should be thick. If it is still a bit runny, add a little bit more flour until you get the right consistency. Transfer the paste into a piping bag or ziplock bag and cut off a small corner. Pipe crosses on top of the buns, but do not make them too thick.
Make the egg white topping
- 8B. Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.
- 9. Bake the buns for 20 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Make the simple sugar glaze
- 10A. Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and boil for 5 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. **
OR Make the icing
- 10B. Mix together the ingredients for icing. When the buns are completely cool, pipe it into a cross shape atop each bun. ****
- 11. Serve warm or at room temperature.
** You can use honey diluted with a bit of water in place of the sugar syrup.
*** If you worry about using plastic wrap in your microwave, simply cover the bowl with a glass lid and microwave for about a minute and a half.
**** One of the reasons why I like making the buns with the flour paste is because I can pop them in the toaster to reheat before eating. If you pipe some icing for the cross on top, toasting leftovers is no longer advisable. Adapted from King Arthur Flour
I probably should have brushed the buns with honey or syrup, or added more dried fruits to the mix, just for an extra dose of sweetness. We ate it with Malaysian Coconut Jam, and it was absolutely scrumptious while hot.
The search continues for the Hot Cross Bun of my dreams!