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  • Katie Stilo

Hot Cross Buns

Ive been trying to get my hands on some essential baking products like yeast and eggs for weeks. Turns out people heard they would be locked in their homes indefinitely and decided to become all-star bakers? Which means I had to settle for the leftovers. Rapid-rise yeast isn't the end all be all, but it certainly isn't what I'm used to working with. Im used to using SAF-Instant yeast, which is the same product but is treated differently because its is larger granules of yeast and requires you to 'bloom' the product before using. This challenged me to create this recipe with some adjustments and learning curves along the way. Another roadblock was the fact that my original recipe was written using grams and my scale was broken... SO I had to phone a friend and talk thru the conversions till the amounts looked right. Also, I don't think many people at home would appreciate me posting a recipe that requires you to use a scale in order to make it. I know I would not. I may be straying from the tradition on this recipe but IMO there are no traditions when you're in quarantine.

What are hot cross buns?

These yeasted sweet buns are made with the subtle addition of spices and studded with dried fruits then marked with a cross on top using either an icing or some type of edible paste baked into the buns. There is a tradition that says buns baked on Good Friday will not go bad and will last the whole year but I don't recommend eating these past a week. Another wise tale says these buns used to serve as a medicinal purpose, helping the ill to recover. Maybe all we need right now is just some good hot cross buns to get thru this?! Another story says that buns baked on Good Friday can be hung from your kitchen ceiling for an entire year, without going bad, to ward off any evil spirits. There are many tales and stories online as to why hot cross buns are an easter staple but don't let that limit you to only making them once a year!

Hot Cross Buns

Basic Bun Dough:

This can be made into several other baked goods such as cinnamon buns, simply omit the orange zest, raisins/currants, cinnamon and allspice.

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

2 3/4 teaspoon Rapid- Rise yeast

Zest of 1 orange

1 cup raisins or currants

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

3 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to about 110-115 degrees

Hot Cross Bun Paste:

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower

3/4 cup water, plus more as needed

Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 water

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, orange zest, sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed till throughly combined, about 1 minute.

2. Add butter. Mix on low-medium speed for about 3 to 4 minutes till dough resembles sand.

3. Meanwhile, warm milk in the microwave in increments of 15 seconds till warm to the touch. If you have a thermometer, it should be around 110-115 degrees. Add milk to beaten eggs and mix to combine.

4. Add raisins, and milk/egg mixture to stand mixer and beat on medium speed till dough is formed, about 3 minutes.

5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes in a warm spot till dough has rested slightly. It will not be risen at this point.

6. After 30 minutes, remove dough from the bowl and divide into 24 pieces. To shape into buns: turn the the top corner of the dough into itself, rotate 90 degrees clockwise then fold the top piece of dough down into center of the bun again, rotate another 90 degrees and fold top down into the center, finally rotate another 90 degrees and press down into the center. This is called the 1-2-3-4 method. See video at bottom of this recipe for visual instructions on this step.

7. Place shaped buns on a 11x17 sheet tray that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and lined with parchment. If you do not have a tray this size, divide buns into two batches of 12 in a smaller pan. The buns should have about 1 inch of space between them to allow room for them to rise while proofing and baking. Cover the tops of the buns loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place to rise till doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

8. Meanwhile, prepare the paste for the tops of the buns that will create the crosses. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oil and water. Mix until well combined. This paste should be the consistency of a thick pancake batter. If too thick, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. There should be no lumps in this paste. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip, such as an ateco 801. If you do not have a pastry bag or piping tip, transfer mixture to a large ziploc bag and set aside. You can simply snip off a small piece of the corner of the bag to replicate a pastry bag.

9. Once buns have proofed and doubled in size, using your pastry bag or ziploc bag of paste, draw 6 vertical lines down the center of each row of buns and 4 horizontal lines across each row to resemble a cross in the center of each bun. Transfer buns to 400 degree oven and bake for about 25 minutes, till tops are golden down and buns have cooked thru. If you have a thermometer available, the center of the buns should read about 200 degrees. This will ensure the dough is cooked thru completely.

10. While buns are baking prepare your simple syrup. Add sugar and water to small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook till sugar granules have dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

11. Once buns are removed from the oven, let cool slightly for about 5 minutes. Brush tops of buns with simple syrup being sure to soak them thoroughly. Serve.

Instructions for variation with Instant Yeast:

1. Heat milk to 110-115 degrees. Add yeast and pinch of the sugar you are going to use for the recipe. Allow yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes, till foamy.

2. Mix together all dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter and mix until mixture looks like sand. Add in eggs, raisins and bloomed yeast. Mix till dough comes together, about 3 minutes.

3. Knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl and let rest until double in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Continue recipe as listed above from step 6.

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