My problem with Hot Cross Buns has always been that an icing cross just isn’t enough icing. I’d rather have a completely iced bun and then make the cross out of chocolate chips or jelly beans. Somehow, wanting to Gild the Lily when it comes to an Easter bread seems somehow wrong. Irreverent, maybe? The whole point of the exercise is that the cross is a representation of what an entire religion is all about.
And while I could wish that the symbol was a nice broad circle so I could use icing with abandon, it is just not so.
Still, I rather enjoy a sweet bread, so rather than appearing irreverent by completely frosting my hot cross buns, I decided to sweeten them up in other ways.
I had been searching for a likely recipe with which to tinker, and I came across this recipe for Hot Cross Buns, New England Style from Gesine from G Bakes! and shared by the lovely Red Star Yeast folks on their facebook page. Maple and cranberry? And turbinado sugar? Yes, please.
I made a few changes to the recipe, most notably subbing cream cheese for half of the butter called for. I find that shoving some cream cheese in a yeast dough imparts a rich, mellowness that is quite nice, especially if rich mellowness is your thing.
Since this dough has a relatively high sugar and fat content—both tenderizers that inhibit gluten formation—it is by no means a chewy bread. I gave my guys two rises, one relatively short (about 45 minutes) and another about 1.5 hours. The resulting buns were almost cake-like in texture.
For a more bread-like, brioche-type dough, giving the dough an initial long rise and then wrapping and refrigerating overnight before shaping and giving it another long rise will result in a much more “feathery” crumb. Either way, I highly recommend these.
- 4 oz Greek yogurt
- 4 oz hot water (140F)
- 1/2 oz dry yeast (2 packets)
- 2 teaspoons of maple syrup (don't measure. Just a wee splash)
- 1/4 cup (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (2.75 oz) real maple syrup (Grade B if you can find it)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 16-20 oz bread flour (approximately. See note below)
- 2 oz unsalted butter , softened and cut into small pieces
- 2 oz cream cheese , softened and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 whole egg
- Demerara or Turbinado Sugar , for sprinkling.
- 1/2 oz butter , melted
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons orange juice
- pinch or two of fine sea salt
- enough powdered sugar to make a fairly stiff glaze that holds its shape , about the consistency of buttercream.
In your mixer bowl, mix together the yogurt and water until smooth. Mixture should be warm but not hot.
Stir in the yeast and the two teaspoons of maple syrup.
Let sit until small bubbles form on top, about ten-fifteen minutes
Add the rest of the ingredients except for the dried fruit, butter and cream cheese, starting with 16 oz of the bread flour.
Attach the dough hook and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
Increase speed to medium and knead for five minutes.
Check the dough. If it is very soft and sticky--more like a batter than a dough, add extra flour, an ounce at a time, until the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the mixer bowl. Some dough may still stick in the bottom of the bowl, and that's just fine. You're looking for a soft, slightly sticky dough that stretches nicely when you pull on a piece of it.
Once the dough is lovely, with the mixer on low speed, add the butter and the cream cheese, just a bit at a time, until it is well incorporated. The finished dough will be fairly sticky, shiny and smooth.
Mix in the dried fruit so it is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
Scrape the dough into a nice ball in the bottom of the mixer bowl, spray thoroughly with pan spray, and let rise in a warm place for about forty five minutes. Dough will not double in size.
Press any gases out of the dough, turn out onto a lightly oiled surface, and with lightly oiled hands and a bench scraper, divide the dough evenly into 12-15 pieces. I ended up with 13 pieces of dough, each weighing 3.3 oz. (Yes, I did math).
Before dividing and shaping, you can also just wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to help develop the crumb a bit more.
Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then round on the counter so the top of the dough becomes taut.
Space evenly on a jelly roll pan covered with Silpat or parchment.
Snip a cross shape in the tops of each bun using kitchen scissors (like I did) or just a sharp knife (which works fine too). Spray well with pan spray.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2-2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400F
Brush the buns thoroughly with egg wash and sprinkle on a liberal amount of demerara or turbinado sugar.
Bake the buns in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes.
Turn the oven temperature down to 375F and continue baking until the buns are a deep golden brown (and probably darker on the snipped points) and they reach an internal temperature of 195F, another 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven.
Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
After about ten minutes, pipe a cross onto each bun. I used a number 5 tip and went over my cross about four times. Like I said, I like my frosting. If you use a 10 or 12 tip, you will probably only need to do it once. Your call.
Cool completely and then rewarm to serve.
These are best eaten the same day, but do try to eat them all within three days. You can also freeze them and then reheat for a treat whenever you want.
Whisk together all ingredients until you have a smooth, shiny glaze that is thick enough to pipe. I never measure for glaze, honestly. Just go for it.
I didn't weigh the cranberries, and a volume measurement is just fine here. Feel free to sub in some currants and/or raisins or even some dried blueberries--or a mixture--for all or part of the cranberries.
I do hope these buns bring a bit of extra sweetness to your Easter table. After Easter is over, feel free to make these into whatever shape you want and glaze the whole roll, too.
Have a lovely day.