For years now I have been telling people that my go-to recipe for Hot Cross Buns (which we eat as our ‘snacks’ on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as at every other opportunity between Mardi Gras and Easter) is the one easily available on Epicurious “but not.”
It’s not really the fault of Epicurious that they haven’t updated their recipe to use fast-acting yeast, but there you have it. My baker husband has fully weaned me from the near-superstitious use of proofing, and I am here to spread the good news. I also don’t cut the butter into the dry ingredients, and I’ve changed the eggs to be more frugal. I also switched out the golden raisins for chopped apricots. So. Here we go: hot cross buns in a way that won’t make you hate making them, which we have to admit can’t be said of the original.
Makes enough buns to be Lenten-ly gluttonous. Or, 24.
Combine, preferably in the bowl of a stand mixer:
- two 1/4 oz packages (or about 5 teaspoons) fast-acting yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup dried currants
- 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots. Or golden raisins. Or what have you, as long as they are fairly dry, not oversweet dried fruit. None of that candied citron please.
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine
- 1 cup cold milk
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk. Keep the egg white for an egg wash
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Add wet ingredients to dry, and knead until smooth and elastic. Allow to rise until doubled in an oiled bowl (covered)– about 1 1/2 hours– then punch down, divide into 24, and shape. Set to rise on greased cookie sheets or (my preferred method) in 9 x 11 lasagna pans, which helps the crusts remain somewhat softer.
I ignore everything about the puff pastry from the Epicurious recipe, so I bake them at about 375 for about 20 minutes. If I want a cross I add it with a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze.
Obviously this is extremely flexible, since I have been casually ignoring instructions for six years. Today I was out of citrus to zest so I decided to mix up both the dried fruit and the seasonings. For the dry ingredients, switch out the allspice, cinnamon, and zests with 1 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp mace, and 1/4 tsp allspice. To wet ingredients add between 1 to 1/2 tsp almond extract and, if available, 1-2 tsp orange flower water. In place of the currants, use 1/4 c dried cranberries and 1/4 c currants.