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“One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, hot cross buns!” was once a British street-vendor cry heralding the sale of spiced and fruit-studded buns traditionally eaten on Good Friday. When I was a little girl, I loved the American version of these buns, soft and warm, with snow-white icing crosses piped over their glossy tops.
The buns are generally linked with Christian symbolism (crosses for Christ’s crucifixion, citrus peel for the bitterness of his last drink, and spices for his shroud) but food historians tell us they have pagan roots. Ancient Romans offered cross-marked buns to their moon goddess Diana. And before that, Saxons baked buns etched with horns in a cross-shape meant to represent the four quarters of the moon’s cycle. Briton’s went on to credit the buns with all sorts of good luck: Curing illness, protecting from shipwrecks, warding off kitchen fires and more. Me? I just like the way they taste!
Although store-bought ones come with just raisins or currants, I like extra dried fruits and candied fruit peel. My recipe plumps a mix of seedless black raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, and sweetened dried cranberries in hot rum. That, plus a few tablespoons of home-made candied citrus peel makes them delicious. The dough is spiced with a freshly grated nutmeg, Jamaiican allspice, ground cinnamon and clove.
The buns are best eaten hot from the oven, but well-wrapped and then warmed the next day, they are still delicious
Hot Cross Buns
2 hours, 41 minutes
3 hours, 6 minutes
- FOR THE CANDIED CITRUS/MARMALADE:
- 2 seedless clementine oranges, cut into thin wheels
- 1 fresh lemon, seeds removed, cut into thin wheels
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- FOR THE DRIED FRUIT MIXTURE:
- 1/3 cup rum
- ½ cup seedless black raisins
- ¼ cup sultanas (golden raisins)
- ¼ cup dried apricots cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2 Tbsp candied citrus peel, (from recipe above,) cut into tiny pieces (save the marmalade portion to serve with the buns)
- FOR THE DOUGH:
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk warmed to room temperature
- 2 large eggs plus one large egg yolk (reserve white to glaze buns)
- 6 Tbsp butter, softened
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Jamaican allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- FOR THE EGGWASH:
- 1 Egg white (reserved from dough ingredients)
- 1 Tbsp whole milk
- FOR THE ICING:
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/16 tsp salt
- 4 tsp whole milk
- Make the candied citrus peel/marmalade: Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small pot over medium high heat. Add sliced clementines and lemon. Once mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the citrus slices are translucent and the liquid in the pan has reduced and cooked down to become a marmalade. Cool.
- Make the dough: Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Set aside. Mix dried fruit together in a microwave-safe bowl; add rum. Cover with plastic. Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.
- Measure flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment. Remove 2 Tbsp of the flour to a small sauce pan. Whisk ½ cup of the 1 ¼ cups of warmed milk into the pan set over medium high heat. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until it thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Remove 1 more Tbsp of the remaining warm milk to a small bowl. Mix with yeast. Set aside to bloom yeast. Stir spices, salt and baking powder into the flour. Add cooled thickened milk/flour mixture, 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk, butter, brown sugar, baking powder and yeast. Knead mixture with the dough hook until soft and elastic. Remove dough from mixer bowl and knead a bit more. Pat dough into a large flat circle. Stir 2 (or slightly more) tablespoons of the snipped candied citrus peel with the plumped mixed fruit. Spread the fruit mixture over dough. Repeatedly fold and knead dough until the fruit is mixed throughout the dough. Butter a large bowl; place dough in bowl. Cover and set dough bowl in a warm, draft free place to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Place dough balls three across in the prepared baking pan. Cover the pan and allow buns to rise for another hour until buns have puffed up a bit. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk egg white and whole milk together; brush over the buns. Bake buns for 20 to 25 minutes until a deep golden brown. Remove buns from the oven; cool slightly and then turn out of pan. Once cooled, whisk together icing ingredients to make a thick frosting. Place in a piping bag; pipe an icing cross on the top of each bun. Allow crosses to set slightly. Serve buns split and buttered with a little of the marmalade reserved from making the candied citrus peel.
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