Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Seasonal Buns

Although the fruit trees are blossoming and the bulbs are showing their bright beauty, the nights are still pretty chilly. Springtime here in Northern California can be that way, and I love it. We've had foggy mornings and some sunshine in the afternoons the past few days, so I decided that it was good baking weather today and, after the gym, started some Hot Cross Buns dough rising.

This seems like a very seasonal treat to me, one that highlights the citrus of early spring but retains some of the warm spices of winter. Since I like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, those are what I used, even though the recipe only called for cinnamon. I also grated some lemon zest to add to the sugar and chose candied orange peel to go with the golden raisins instead of using mixed candied fruits. Those mixed fruits always make me thing the bread is for Christmas, which is fine in December but not in mid-March.

There are a few ways to make the cross on top of the buns including making a score, making a paste of flour and water which is piped in a cross on each bun, and my choice...a mixture of soy milk and confectioners sugar is stirred together and used to make a cross on each bun. Sweetie asked for a bun without a cross and he enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed my bun with the cross. Of course I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

This is an easy recipe, with only one rise. Because the dough has both milk and butter, plus an egg, it is rich enough to require a bit more rising time than simpler breads. I used soy milk for the milk part, changed the spices and fruit as described above, but otherwise stayed with the recipe. These buns are perfect for Easter, for breakfast, and/or for afternoon tea. If you reduce the sugar and leave off the icing cross, they would work well with ham and cheese for a sandwich, too.

Happy Easter, a little early!

Hot Cross Buns
Based on a recipe in The Festive Bread Book by Kathy Cutler

2 3/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)
3 tablespoons butter (I used margarine)
1 egg
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons milk (I used soy milk)
enough confectioners sugar to make a firm enough icing to
frost crosses on top of the buns - about 1/2 cup

Combine 2 cups flour (reserve the rest), sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and yeast in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Heat the butter in a quart glass measuring cup until melted, then add the milk. Stir to combine. Mixture will be lukewarm. Add the egg and whisk to mix.

Place milk mixture in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 3/4 cup flour mixture, putting 1/4 cup of the mixture into the bowl at a time. Place bowl in stand mixer and, using the dough hook, slowly add the remaining flour mixture. Once that has be incorporated, add additional flour, using small amounts for each addition, until a soft dough forms. Knead in the mixer for 8 minutes, or turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand. Dough will be silky and satiny when finished.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, then turn dough over to oil the second side. I used olive oil, but vegetable oil is fine. Cover loosely and let rise 1-2 hours in a warm, draft free place. Because of the milk, butter and egg this dough make take longer than 1 hour to rise, but rarely more than 2 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a floured surface and punch down. Divide dough equally into 9 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place in a greased 9 x 9-inch pan. Let rise until double - about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If desired, brush buns with light cream or an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water). Bake risen bun about 25 minutes. Buns will sound slightly hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

If desired make the confectioners' sugar icing and make a cross on each bun once buns are almost cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. Oh, I was going to make these, but we opted for Simnel Cakes first time this year. It's a lot of the same flavors (well, the oldest recipes; the newer ones are really cake and not bread), really, but in different form. These look lovely.

  2. Your cake looks luscious in the photos you sent. It does look like bread, with lots of currents. Yum!