Spring is here! I know this because last weekend I went for a run in a t-shirt, there are crocuses everywhere, the cherry trees are blossoming, and hot cross buns are appearing on the bakery shelves. Also, Sunday was the first day of spring, so… I guess that makes it official.
I like hot cross buns – or rather, I want to like hot cross buns, but I rarely find a store-bought one that meets my expectations. Mostly because they all contain either candied peel or glacée fruit (bleh!). I also find the texture of store-bought hot cross buns to be somewhat lacking, so I decided to try making them myself.
I’ve gotten fairly comfortable with yeast doughs through experimenting with the no-knead doughs in the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (which is super fantastic and I would recommend to everyone), and I had an idea of what kind of dough/final texture I was looking for. I considered using the no-knead challah dough from Artisan Bread, but then I realized that I just needed to find a recipe that used a similar kind of dough, enriched with butter and eggs. I finally settled on a Martha Stewart recipe, which had an enriched dough that contained lemon and orange zest, but no spices. So, I consulted a Canadian Living recipe and used it as a basis for adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to the Martha Stewart recipe. The result is exactly what I ever could have wanted in a hot cross bun: rich, dense-but-light texture, just the right spice with citrus notes, and best of all, no nasty candied peel or glacée fruit! In my search for the perfect recipe, I came across several that contained only currants, and one with golden raisins and dried cherries, so I used all three, and it’s a great combination. Another thing to consider was what kind of “cross” to put on the buns – a flour/water paste combination applied before baking, or an icing cross applied after baking. My personal preference is for the flour/water paste, so I went with that. As a result, there is actually nothing about the recipe I would change next time – I would just refine my technique a little!
I halved the original recipe (which yielded two dozen), and after the first rise, I took half the dough and stuck it in the freezer because I though that twelve buns at once would be overkill, so I only ended up with six buns. When I decide I want more (which will probably be much sooner than later!), I will let the dough thaw to room temperature, divide it into six, and continue on from the second rise….