Monday, March 25, 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Easter is a holiday full of symbolism and tradition. It is the most important of the Christian holidays, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. It celebrates rebirth and renewal, and the beginning of a new growing season. Whether you are religious or not, it is a time of celebration, and family and in our house wonderful food. 

Hot cross buns are a staple treat around Easter time. These sweet buns filled with spices and fruits are fantastic served with butter or jam straight from the oven. Traditional hot cross buns are made with raisins or candied fruit, but we prefer to make them with dried fruits such as cranberries and mango to give them a fresher taste. I don't like using pie dough or flour water paste to make the cross, I just carve a cross in the top with a sharp knife before baking. The glaze will then settle in the hollows.  These are incredibly simple to make, but have quite a few steps, so make sure you have enough time before you need to serve them.

Makes 2 dozen buns.

1 cup milk
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried mango, diced to the same size as cranberries

1. In a small bowl, warm milk in the microwave until just warmer than body temperature (105°–115°F.)
2. Stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.
3. In a small bowl put cranberries and mango. Pour enough hot water on fruit to cover. Let stand for 10 minutes to plump, then drain all water off and set aside.
4. Into a large bowl sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and remaining granulated sugar.
5. Add butter blend into flour mixture with pastry blender or fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. 
6. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a bowl. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixture, and fruit. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. 
7. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. 
8. Place dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
9. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
10. Turn dough onto a floured surface,  knead dough briefly and then divide into 24 balls. ( I prefer to use a scale and weigh out the balls, but you can also form into two logs and cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces.)
13. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

14. Preheat oven to 400°F.
15. At this point, if you like you can use pastry dough to add a cross to the top of the buns. But I prefer to just use a knife to carve a cross in each.
16. In a small bowl, whisk egg with a fork. Brush buns with egg glaze 
17. Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. 
18. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly. Buns may be made 1 week ahead and frozen, wrapped well. 

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