In case some of you have never heard the Nursery Rhyme of "Hot Cross Buns", or have never actually tried one, they are a very old and traditional "sweet" yeast roll- containing spices, dried fruit, and are specifically marked with an icing "cross" on top. Although these rolls are enjoyed all year round in many places today, they are still an Easter tradition in many countries- due to their historic Christian meaning.
For centuries, (specifically in the United Kingdom), these buns mark the end of Lent.
The cross represents Christ's crucifixion (Good Friday), and the spices represent those that were used to embalm Jesus at his burial. There are also other historic findings to suggest that a similar bread marked with a cross was also made by the Ancient Greeks as well, to celebrate the goddess of Eostre, (where "Easter" is derived), during their pagan spring festival.
These are fairly traditional, but with just a minor twist: instead of using just currants & raisins, I've added dried blueberries, cherries, and golden raisins, with some lemon zest! The combination of fruits adds some additional complexity of flavors, and compliments the citrus and spice nicely! You can use either lemon or orange zest, citron, or even some chopped candied ginger.
Fresh rolls out of the oven are always the best! Serve with a hot cup of coffee or tea, and spread some butter, jam, or even drizzle some honey over them right before serving. So good!
Yield: 24 rolls
4 to 4 1/2 cups of AP flour
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. cloves
1/4 t. cardamom
zest of 1 lemon or orange
3/4 cup milk
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup golden or regular raisins
1 beaten egg white
1 T. water
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 drop cinnamon bark essential oil
2-3 drops lemon essential oil
milk (just enough to make an icing you can pipe)
****Note: if you don't have the essential oils, you can use extracts, or zest of 1/2 a lemon or orange.
1) In a small pot, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt just until butter is melted, (about 120- 130F.) Remove from heat and set aside.
2) Using a Kitchen Aid mixer, (fitted with a bread hook), stir together half of the flour (2 cups to start), spices, and zest. When milk mixture is still warm, (but not too hot!), place on low speed and add in with the dry ingredients. Increase speed when ingredients become incorporated for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add remaining flower- adjusting speed to low so the flour doesn't fly out! Increase to higher speed to knead the dough. When the dough is tacky, add the dried fruit until incorporated. Remove the dough from mixer, and place in a greased bowl. Cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, (about 1- 1/2 hours.)
3) When the dough is doubled in size, punch the dough down, and cover again for another 10min.
4) Turn dough out onto a clean and lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 24 even pieces, and shape each one into a round ball- placing about 1 1/2 in. apart on a parchment or silpat covered sheet tray. Cover the trays, and allow to rise again, (until almost doubled in size), for 45- 60min. Preheat oven to 350F.
5) Using a sharp knife, make a criss cross slash on top of each roll. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg white with the 1 T. of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash on top of each roll. Bake for 10-12min. at 350F, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool.
6) Make the icing, by simply whisking the powdered sugar with the flavored oils, and milk. Using a ziploc bag, pastry bag, or parchment triangle, snip a small hole at the bottom, and simply pipe a "cross" in the already marked slashes on top of each roll. Serve immediately!!
***If covered in a sealed container, these will be the freshest consumed within 3 days of baking.
****TIP: These are great just heated in the microwave for like 20 sec. to re-warm!