Monday, March 25, 2013

2 recipes: hot cross buns and sourdough hot cross buns

Earlier I talked about how to convert a regular yeast bread recipe to a sourdough recipe.  Although the theory is pretty straight forward, I've always felt rather intimidated by the idea of trying it.

Finally, my desire for sourdough hot cross buns overcame my fear of failure, and I set to work converting an old favourite recipe from commercial yeast to sourdough.

This first recipe come from one of my all time favourite bread (and cake books) Homemade Bread by the Food Editors of Farm Journal   It's out of print now, but if you ever see a copy at a second hand bookshop or yard sale, snatch it up.  Not only is it full of yummy bread recipes, the decidedly sexiest attitude is always good for a laugh.

Hot Cross Buns

Easter Buns with frosting crosses - traditionally served on Good Friday

1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (about)
3/4 cup currants
1 egg white
1 tsp cold water
white frosting (recipe below)

  • Scald milk,add sugar, salt and shortening; cool to luke warm.
  • Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.
  • Add eggs, yeast and 1c flour to milk mixture; beat with electric mixer at medium speed about 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the bowl.  Stir in currants and enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough that is easy to handle.  Beat well.  Place in lightly greased bowl' turn dough over to grease top.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch down.  Turn onto lightly floured board.
  • Roll or pat to 1/2" thickness.  Cut in rounds with 2.5" bisket cutter; shape cutouts in buns.  Place about 1.5" apart on greased baking sheets.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • With a very sharp knife, cut a shallow cross on top of each bun.  Brush tops wit unbeaten egg white mixed with cold water.
  • Bake in moderate oven (375F) 15 minutes  or until golden brown.  Cool on wire racks about 5 minutes.  Then with tip of knife or teaspoon, fill in the crosses on buns with White Frosting.  Best served Warm.  Makes about 18 buns.
White Frosting: Combine 1c. sifted confectioners sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 Tbs hot water.  Mix until smooth.

Now, the above recipe makes a decent hot cross bun, but I do usually add spices and candied peal to it.  I also find it a wee bit sweet for my taste, particularly the frosting.

This next recipe takes a long time to make, but it's so worth it.  I recommend making the sponge in the morning, the first part of the dough late in the evening, leaving it to rise overnight, then shape and do the second rise in the morning.  The buns should be ready for late afternoon on the second day.  Doing the second rise overnight ends up drying out the surface of the buns before they go in the oven which makes them hard to cut.

It's also very difficult to photograph these hot cross buns.  By the time I have the props and camera ready, the buns are all eaten.  Three days of baking from dawn till 3am the next day and I finally learned to hide the buns while they cool so that they didn't get snatched up.  (I did a lot of test batches and testing, so I'm confident they are fantastic).

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

A word about Sponge.  Although the word sponge can mean different things in various parts of the word, I use it here to mean a fairly active runny batter like substance made of sourdough starter, flour and water.  Make the sponge at least 4 hours before you plan to begin the bread.  I usually make mine the night before.  Mix at least 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup water (or more) and at least 1/8th cup sourdough starter.  Mix them well to make a runny batter, and leave in a warm corrner of the kitchen, covered with a cotton or linen towel.  After a few hours, depending on your temperature, the weather, whatnot, it should be bubbling.  You know the yeast is active in it.  If you leave it more than 24 hours, you need to feed it again.

1/4 cup sourdough sponge
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey/maple syrup/or other sweet liquid (I use the juice the fruit is candied in if there is any left over)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter/lard/or other fat (butter is best)
3 eggs
less than 4 cups flour (your choice but I recommend the first cup be all purpose or bread flour).
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied ginger (optional)
1/2 cup other dried or candied fruit or peal
pinch each nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves

  • Scald milk, add honey, salt, butter.  cool to luke warm.
  • In a big bowl, add eggs, sponge, 1 cup of flour, and milk mixture.  Mix a lot.  What you are trying to do here is to blend everything and activate the gluten in the flour.  It takes about 5 to 6 minutes to mix this by hand.  I do it in 2 min sessions, with a min or two rest in between.  Wooden spoon is my favourite tool for this.  Alternately, you could mix in electric mixer for 2 min.
  • Add spices, and fruit, mix some more.
  • Mix in the flour a little at a time until a soft dough forms.  Should be barely firm enough for you to handle.
  • Place in a lightly greased bowl, grease the top of the dough, and cover with a linen or cotton towel.  Rise until double in size.  Even with a very active sourdough starter, THIS TAKES A LONG TIME SO YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO THIS OVERNIGHT.
  • Punch down and break off egg sized balls of dough.  Form into bun shapes and place in a lightly greased tray or baking pan.  Cover and raise till double in size.
  • Carefully cut the cross in the top with a VERY sharp knife.  Optional:brush with egg white mixed with 1 Tbs of cold water.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 min.  

I'm not bothering with the egg wash (I don't like egg whites much, especially with bread) or frosting, but feel free to do it if you like.

Ideas for fruit to put in them: dried currents, dried cherries  dried raisins  dried peal, freshly grated organic citrus peal, candied peal, dried pineapples, dried anything... make sure you pit and chop up anything bigger than a raison.  My favourite is to get the chunky runny marmalade they have in Europe and strain off the juices (use this instead of honey) and the chunks of orange as the fruit for the bun.

Healthy: well, um.  I don't recommend  eating as many as I have this week.  But hey it's only once a year and when compared with commercial made hot cross buns full of highly processed ingredients and florescent coloured lemon peal like substance, YES they are much healthier.

Affordable:  I have no idea.  I don't even want to price these out, they are so delicious.  They do however help use up the left over dried fruit you have in the back of the cupboard... that's got to count for something I suppose.

These are NOT suitable to serve to your Vegan Friends because of the egg, honey, butter, &c.  See this vegan friendly recipe for hot cross buns.

Allergies: This is fairly easy to modify for allergies.  I don't recomend cutting down on eggs and butter though, it is what makes the dish.  If these are the things you are allergic to, then please make the vegain version I just linked to in the last paragraph.


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