I’m not a big bread eater. Most of the time it doesn’t fall far enough into dessert for me to justify spending my calories on it, and most of it is so . . . well . . . bready. When I go out to eat, I’ll indulge in a piece or two if I love it, and the breads from Zingerman’s Bakery are often irresistible in small servings, but other than that I’m not a bread girl.
However there are those breads that fall clearly into the realm of dessert. Panettone (as long as I make sure it doesn’t have chocolate – it’s surprising how many do) and stollen are two of my favorite treats. I’ve never had a hot cross bun before this adventure. The plan has been to go to Zingerman’s to pick some up for a couple years, but it hasn’t happened yet. They were a favorite of my Granny, and around this time of year I see them all over TV and in the grocery store circulars. It was finally time for me to try making my very own hot cross buns.
I adapted John Barricelli’s recipe. He has become one of my favorite bakers from seeing him on The Martha Stewart Show all the time. All of his recipes I’ve tried have come out perfectly and he makes everything seem easy and approachable. I also received his signed cookbook for Christmas, which was very exciting.
Yes, this is a yeast dough recipe. But don’t be afraid. These buns were easy to make. Seriously. The ease was kind of shocking. There’s always some nervousness and risk when working with yeast. Is the yeast alive? Will it rise? Will all my hard work go to waste? If you check the date on the yeast, it’s probably alive and will rise, and using this recipe will ensure your hard work will not go to waste. I used the little packets of Fleischmann’s Dry Active Yeast. They’re easy to find in most grocery stores and very reliable.
I didn’t mess with the major structural components of the recipe, but I did mix up the flavorings quite a bit. Adding extra sugar ensured I would be left with the dessert bread I was looking for. The lemon and orange zest of the original recipe were greatly enhanced by the addition of a bit of cinnamon, and I like the swap of raisins and dried cherries (both Sun Maid) for currants. I also chose to skip the bun crossing paste and go with the traditional icing cross, mostly because when I think of hot cross buns, I think of that thin white cross on top of them.
They are time consuming, but only due to the rising time. There is very little active time. I didn’t know what to expect, having never tasted one of these little treats, however, while chewing the first bite, I wondered where they had been all my life. The top is slightly golden and firm, while the interior and bottom are white and soft and sweet. The raisins and cherries interspersed throughout add just a hint of chewiness and extra flavor. The lemon and orange zest kind of fade to the background while the hint of cinnamon comes through. Even though I did make the icing cross, which had an amazing vanilla flavor, I still added the preserve glaze. I used American Spoon Red Haven Peach Preserves, which I didn’t strain. I broke up large chunks using a spoon, leaving the few small pieces of peach as a delightful addition. Any peach or apricot preserves would do the job, but I absolutely love American Spoon’s products. They are made in Michigan using ingredients from Michigan, giving them a superb flavor. No extra or strange ingredients here.
Perfect for Easter or anytime, really, these hot cross buns are one of my new favorite treats with the perfect combination of flavors.
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl
- 1 cup milk (I actually used skim)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 4 ½ teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Zest of 1 orange (I used a Cara Cara)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 large eggs, slightly beaten (Pasteurized if you like)
- 5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ¾ cup raisins
- ¾ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup American Spoon Red Haven Peach Preserves
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pour 1 cup milk into small saucepan with candy thermometer clipped to side, and bring to about 110 degrees F over medium heat. Once heated, pour milk into bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment. With machine running on low speed, add sugar, yeast, salt, butter, cinnamon, orange and lemon zest, and eggs. Mix until combined. Add flour, continuing to mix on low speed until soft, slightly sticky dough forms around dough hook. This should happen quite quickly. Continue mixing on low speed about 4 more minutes until the dough is smooth. Scrape down hook and bowl as necessary. Add raisins and cherries, mixing to incorporate.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead briefly only to make sure raisins and cherries are fully incorporated throughout the dough. Shape dough into ball. Place dough in a large well buttered bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl so it is covered with butter. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for about 1 hour 30 minutes until it has roughly doubled in size.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto unfloured work surface. Knead very briefly before shaping into log. Cut log in half, each half in half and each quarter into six pieces. Shape each piece, roughly the same size, it doesn’t have to be exact, into a tightly formed ball. Place each ball on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, 4 rows of 3 on each tray. Cover baking sheets tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for about 2 hours, until buns are doubled in size and touching.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Unwrap buns before transferring them to the oven to bake until golden brown, about 18-25 minutes, rotating after 10 minutes if necessary. Depending on your oven, watch them to make sure the bottoms are not browning far more quickly than the tops. Let cool on trays.
- While the buns are cooling, heat the peach preserves in a small saucepan over medium heat, breaking up large pieces of peach with a spoon. Brush or spoon jam over buns. They can still be warm for this step.
- When buns are completely cool, make the icing. In a medium bowl, whisk or stir together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and about 2 tablespoons of milk, you may need more. The icing should be thick but spreadable. Adding more confectioners’ sugar or milk may be necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
- Spoon icing into piping bag or plastic zipper bag with a tiny tip cut off. Pipe crosses on buns. Serve and enjoy. Buns will keep for one day at room temperature in an air tight container, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months.