Hot Cross Buns

Ah, toasty, sweet, spicy, fruity hot cross buns. A traditional Easter treat eaten in many parts of the world, who wouldn’t enjoy a festive treat such as this?

easter bun

Me.

Seriously, screw hyeast of all 2ot cross buns. Not because they are necessarily a bad dough; on the contrary, the dough itself and the subsequent bread product is good. I would consider it delicious. The reason for my hatred for these buns revolves around the “traditional” filling: mixed peel. This atrocious, objectively shitty mix of candied citrus peel and maraschino cherries is the bane of otherwise delightful holiday baking. Whether it’s Christmas or Easter, you can bet that these little bits of sugar coated garbage will find their way out of Hell and into your mouth at some point.

Due to my intense dislike of the previous ingredient, I will be making hot cross buns with chocolate, which is better in every possible conceivable way. If you disagree with me and are of the opinion that mixed peel is delightful, then you may sub out the chocolate chips in this recipe with said peel and continue on being dead inside. At the very least, toss in some raisins and/or currants with the mixed peel in order to redeem your damned soul and make your buns taste somewhat passable.

Anyway.

The dough for hot cross buns is pretty much the same as every other dough known to man: get your ingredients, mix, knead, rest, shape, proof, bake, eat, whatever. Where this dough is a bit more unique is in the mixing process. There’s a few key steps that are a bit different that may seem weird but will ensure your end product turns out real nice. As well, the cross on top of each bun probably isn’t what most people think it is. It’s not icing. It’s a mixture of flour, water, oil, salt, and baking powder that’s combined and then piped on top before it’s baked. The flour and baking powder give the mix a bit of structure and leavening so that it doesn’t just goop on top and look like ass.  Furthermore, at the very end after the buns are baked, they get brushed with a spicy sugar syrup that turns them from somewhat spicy chocolaty bun things to crispy holiday bun-shaped donut things.

Scroll down to the bottom for an express recipe if you don’t care about anything I have to say about anything.

Let us begin.

Things you will need:ingredients

  • Flour (preferably a mix of cake and bread, but just bread will do), water (or milk), canola oil (or margarine or butter), white sugar, salt, eggs, instant yeast, baking powder, and various spices such as allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
  • A medium to large sized mixing bowl.
  • A digital scale (or cup measurements and teaspoons and whatever, if you’re weak)
  • A cookie sheet or cake pan, with some parchment paper.
  • Spray oil.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Some kind of tool for piping icing, whether it be a piping bag with a fine tip, a reusable plastic squeeze thing with a tip, or a ziploc bag with a corner cut out.
  • Chocolate chips if you’re a decent human being. Mixed peel if you are not.

The dough gets mixed in three stages. The first one involves adding every ingredient together except for the oil (or butter/margarine), the spices, and the chocolate chips. The second step involves mixing in the oil and the spices into the already kneaded dough. Lastly, the chips (or whatever) are mixed in last. Doing this in three stages is necessary for several reasons. First of all, due to the high sugar content in this dough, proper formation of gluten can be difficult. Anything that is not water or flour that is in your dough will inhibit the flour and water’s ability to mix and create gluten, which is the protein responsible for creating the structure and shape of bread. Without proper gluten formation, the gas that the yeast excretes is lost and your buns will be sad. Kneading the dough to completion before adding the oil & spices helps develop the gluten better. Second, adding the chocolate chips or fruit after the dough is kneaded ensures that the chocolate chips do not melt or that the fruit does not get shredded in the kneading process. If you are using a stand mixer, it is very easy to rip open and smear the candied fruit and raisins. Doing this releases acids from the fruit which can inhibit gluten formation, resulting in bad buns and your mom blaming you, once again, for ruining the holidays. Way to go.

Measurements for each ingredient will be in grams, but I will try to estimate amounts in volumetric measurements for those of you without a scale. I really recommend you get one, as I personally do not like converting all these gram weights to milliliters. I’ve got better things to do.

Ingredients – 

  • Bread Flour: 426 grams (806 ml (about 3 & 1/4 cups))
  • Cake Flour: 107 grams (253 ml (about 1 cup))
    • Alternatively, you can just use 533 grams of bread flour.
  • Water (or milk): 213 grams (213 ml (about 3/4 of a cup plus two tablespoons))
  • Canola Oil (or butter/margarine): 106 grams (114 ml (about half a cup))
  • White Sugar: 107 grams (126 ml (about half a cup))
  • Salt: 11 grams (10 ml (about two teaspoons))
  • Eggs: 80 grams (roughly two small eggs)
  • Instant Yeast: 15 grams (23 ml (about 1 tablespoon and two teaspoons))
  • Chocolate Chips (or mixed peel & raisins and junk): 186 grams (about one cup)
  • Spices: 2 grams (about one teaspoon)

Method – 

Begin by mixing the bread flour, cake flour, water, white sugar, salt, eggs, and instant yeast together in a mixing bowl. Mix it with a spatula until you can’t, then dump it out onto a clean and sanitized work surface. It will look like lumpy crap. You will be fixing this.

yeast of all 35

Knead it until it is firm, tight, elastic, and great. It should be smooth and nice, not bumpy and weird.  This may take upwards of 15 minutes, even though it’s just a little ball of dough. Kneading is, as always, an exercise in patience. Just keep going. Resist the urge to add more flour for whatever reason. If you accurately weighed out your ingredients, the amount of flour and water in the dough should be perfect to attain the desired dough consistency.

yeast of all 34

Once you’ve gotten your dough kneaded to a happy point, brace yourself. This next step may seem derpy, but I assure you, it is not.

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Put the dough back in the mixing bowl you were using and proceed to merrily dump the oil and the spices on top. Using one or two hands, squish the absolute hell out of the dough until the oil begins to absorb, which may take five or so minutes of strenuous squishing. This may seem gross. I don’t care.

Once the vast majority of the oil has been absorbed by the dough but it is still kind of greasy feeling, dump the dough back on to the table. Continue kneading until it once again reaches a smooth, shiny consistency and is nice and tight. The dough should feel nice and soft at this point in time. Like, real nice. Nice enough for you to be able to step back and say, “Damn, that’s smooth.”

You may be able to guess the next step. Put the dough back into the bowl, dump the chips (or fruit) on top, and squish the bejeezus out of it. Once most of the chips have incorporated into the dough, dump it all back on to the counter and keep kneading. You don’t need to over knead it at this point in time, just enough to fully incorporate the chips. The dough is ready for resting at this point in time. Round it into a nice round shape and then spray it with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit until it’s risen decently – it probably won’t double in size, but that’s okay.

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I let mine rest for 100 minutes before I started to divide it up. It didn’t double in size, but was roughly 1.5x it’s original size. It’s a slower moving dough, due to all the extra fat and sugar we have so lovingly stuffed in there.

The next step is to divide the dough into 75 gram pieces, roll it up, and arrange it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

When rolling these buns, don’t worry if chips fly out of the dough. Just stick them back in. A mottled appearance is totally fine. For more help on how to roll buns properly, click here to see a previous video explaining some bun rolling basics. It’s not for the same kind of dough, but the exact same methodology applies. Roll it up, make it nice, and impress your mom. Tray your buns up so that they are either touching or very close to touching. The idea is to bake them together so that you have to pull them apart. People seem to enjoy buns done in this style.

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Let your buns proof until about doubled in size. If they don’t quite double, it’s not a big deal. This dough should expand mightily in the oven. I let mine sit for about one hour.

Now that the buns have proofed and are ready to go in the oven, it’s time to create the cross mix that goes on top. Here’s what you need:

More Ingredients:

  • Water: 64 grams (64 ml (about four tablespoons))
  • Cake Flour: 58 grams (137 ml (about half a cup plus a teaspoon))
  • Canola Oil: 13 grams (14 ml (about a tablespoon))
  • Baking Powder: 1 gram (1 ml (about one wee smidgen))
  • Salt: 1 gram (1 ml (about a teeny pinch. Like, just a lil’ bit.))

Whisk these together until real smooth, then put into a piping bag, a ziploc back with a corner cut out, or a plastic squeezy bottle thing. Whatever you fancy, pipe a THIN string of the mixture in a cross pattern across the buns. This mixture isn’t icing. It doesn’t taste good by itself. If you layer it on thick, people will wonder why the top of their buns taste so horrible, and you’ll have to explain to them that you’re a shitty baker.

yeast of all hot cross bun

At this point in time, the buns are ready to go in the oven. If you mess up with putting the cross-mix on the buns, don’t try and fix it. You’ll do more damage smearing the paste around and possibly deflating your buns. Just eat those ones as testers when they come out.

Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They will look quite dark when they are done, darker than other breads. This is because of all the added sugar in the dough. Sugars caramelize, causing the dark color of the bread. More sugar, more dark. Basic math. When they are done, take a moment and inhale deeply with your face mere millimeters away from the buns. Few things smell as nice as freshly baked bread, and freshly baked bread with holiday spices smells awesome.

hot cross bun

While the buns are baking, you have ample time to make the sugar syrup. It’s dead simple. Get a frying pan and boil 1/4 cup of water. This does not take long. When it’s bubbling, dump in 1 cup of sugar. Heat while stirring until it reaches a boil and all the sugar has dissolved. Let it boil for about 10 to 15 seconds, then take it off the heat and stir in about a tablespoon of cinnamon or other appropriate spices. I like cloves. Ensure that you stir vigorously to distribute the spices. When the buns are done, re-heat the syrup if it’s cooled, and then brush it on the buns with a pastry brush.

good friday bun

Let your buns cool for at least a few moments before diving in. The sugar syrup is probably still molten and won’t have that delightful crispness quite yet. If you are baking these a day or two ahead of time, I recommend putting them into a plastic bag once cooled and tying the end so that they do not go stale, then re-heating them in an oven for a few minutes before serving. Hot cross buns are best served warm, and these guys re-heat quite nicely.

spiced sweet bun

That’s it. Hot cross buns with chocolate, because anything else is for suckers. Make them this holiday weekend to impress your friends and family. Church groups especially would be impressed by your work – these buns are symbolic for a number of reasons to Christians around the world. You can rest assured that if I attended a weekly service, I’d sure as Hell be bringin’ these bad boys around to impress the church-goers.

Actually, that’s a good idea. I should do that. I’d be so popular.

 

— The Breadest

 

EXPRECIPE:

Ingredients – 

  • Bread Flour: 426 grams (806 ml (about 3 & 1/4 cups))
  • Cake Flour: 107 grams (253 ml (about 1 cup))
    • Alternatively, you can just use 533 grams of bread flour.
  • Water (or milk): 213 grams (213 ml (about 3/4 of a cup plus two tablespoons))
  • Canola Oil (or butter/margarine): 106 grams (114 ml (about half a cup))
  • White Sugar: 107 grams (126 ml (about half a cup))
  • Salt: 11 grams (10 ml (about two teaspoons))
  • Eggs: 80 grams (roughly two small eggs)
  • Instant Yeast: 15 grams (23 ml (about 1 tablespoon and two teaspoons))
  • Chocolate Chips (or mixed peel & raisins and junk): 186 grams (about one cup)
  • Spices: 2 grams (about one teaspoon)

Method – 

Mix it.

Knead it.

Squelch it.

Chip it.

Rest it.

Divide it.

Roll it.

Pan it.

Proof it.

Pipe it.

Bake it.

Brush it.

EAT IT.

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