Easter is not the same without freshly baked hot crossed buns. They’re easier to make than you might think – these just came out of the oven, about ten minutes ahead of the houseful of friends and neighbors who came for coffee and an Easter egg hunt.
It’s a simple enough yeast dough, spiked with cinnamon and ginger, and filled with currants, raisins, candied citron or any combination of dried fruits. If you don’t want to start from scratch first thing in the morning, mix up the dough the night before and set it in the fridge – the cold will slow the rise, and you can start in the morning by shaping the dough into balls and letting them warm up and rise as you go about getting ready for your Easter festivities. Give them an hour or so – they’ll rise again with the heat of the oven.
Some pipe icing into crosses atop baked buns – you could do that. I’ve always baked the crosses on – they’re made of a simple paste of flour and water piped out of a zip-lock bag.
They bake on paler than the rest of the bun – this is the way I remember them growing up. Either way, really.
I put them in the oven as it gets close to time for people to arrive, so that they walk in the door to the smell of baking bread. Once baked, brush the tops with another simple mixture of sugar and water, stirred together in a small dish – this gives them nice glossy tops along with a bit of sweetness.
I’m glad the boys will have memories of the smell and taste of warm cinnamon hot crossed buns on Easter weekend mornings. Come to think of it, these would be as well received any weekend of the year. (Leftovers are great toasted.)
Hot Crossed Buns
1 pkg. (or 2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, milk or a combination of both
4- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup mixed candied citron
Paste for crosses:
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. water
Place the yeast, a bit of the sugar and the milk in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes to make sure the yeast is active.Sift the flour with the spices and salt, and add almost all of it to the yeast mixture along with the butter, remaining sugar, egg and candied citron. Mix until you have a sticky dough.
Take the dough out and place it on a floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as you need to if it gets sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead for another minute for good measure and an upper-body workout.
Place back in the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. If you want to bake them fresh in the morning, put the bowl in the fridge overnight to slow the rising.
Divide the dough into 12 balls and place in a 9”x13” baking dish or on a cookie sheet – space them close together if you want them to rise and touch and be soft, pull-apart buns, or space them further away if you want them to have a baked crust all the way around. Cover with a towel or loosely with plastic wrap and put them in a warm place for another half hour to an hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix the flour and water for the crosses, put the mixture in a zip-lock bag and snip a tiny piece off the corner. Pipe a cross onto the top of each bun and bake them for 25-30 minutes, until golden and well risen. If you want to glaze them, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves (alternatively you can do this in the microwave). Brush this hot syrup generously over the tops of the buns while they’re still warm.