Friday, April 10, 2009


So, today is Good Friday. Obviously some hot cross bun-making was in order.

We took our base recipe from the 1979 Farmhouse Kitchen by Mary Norwak, which Zoe's dad so kindly scanned in and shared with us. I don't know if all of you are familiar with hot cross buns, or the beginner recorder tune of the same name, but they are just delicious (I might even say heavenly).

We've modified the original recipe and method somewhat.

Recipe: hot cross buns
225g flour + a bit extra
pinch of salt
≈ 0.5 tsp spices (we used almost equal parts ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon + one clove)
125mL (0.5 cup) milk
15g yeast
50g butter
40g sugar
1 egg
75g mixed raisins and currants
15g finely chopped peel
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sieve the flour, salt and spice in a large mixing bowl.
  • Melt the butter.
  • Beat the egg in a small bowl.
  • Warm milk to body temperature (Mrs. Norwak suggests "blood temperature") and add the yeast and sugar. Fact! (according to Papa Belk): yeast + sugar = alcohol + carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what makes the dough rise, and the alcohol is an added benefit. After a few (5-10?) minutes, the mixture will begin to rise and look puffy, like the top of a cream soda.
    • A note about yeast! If the yeast is too cold, it won't work, and if it's too hot you run the risk of killing it. Try to keep the bowl in a warm place, like on top of the stove while the oven is on (but not while the elements are on!). This is also a good place to let the dough rise later on.
  • While you are waiting for this to happen, put all the dried fruit (including peel) into a plastic bag and shake it up with some flour, making sure there are no clumps of fruit. This will encourage the fruit to distribute itself evenly in the dough.
  • Once the yeast mixture has reached its desired puffiness, add it to the large mixing bowl of flour, along with the butter and egg. Beat until smooth.
  • Turn on to a floured board, work in the dried fruits and peel, and knead well. Put the dough into a buttered/oiled bowl, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap (and if desired, a clean cloth). Place it in a warm, draught-free place as mentioned earlier. Make sure to remember how big it is, because you want it to double in size before continuing.
  • Once this has happened, knock it down (knead or punch it briefly) with your hand. It kind of collapses, and decreases its size. Divide it into eight equal parts and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and wait for the buns to double in size (prove) again.
  • While you're waiting, make a dough of just flour and water. Make sure it's not sticky... a little less sticky than bread dough itself. Roll the dough into thin strips (like little snakes). Make 16 strips (two for each bun) about 10-15cm each, and kind of flatten them out (ours as pictured are a bit too round).
  • Once the buns have risen, carefully remove the plastic wrap and (very carefully) mark an X in the top of each one with a sharp knife. Be careful not to press too hard, or the buns will fall again. Brush (with your finger) one side of each strip/snake with water so it will act like glue, and very gently lay the snakes over the X. This is the "cross" part of the hot cross bun (the "hot" will come later).
  • They should look something like this:

  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden and scrumptious-looking.
  • Toward the end of this time, make a glaze of equal parts milk and sugar (3 tablespoons each). Heat them together until they come just to a boil. Once the buns are out of the oven and still hot, drizzle or brush the glaze onto them.
  • Eat.
    • Hint: you can also save them for the next morning, at which point they are possibly more delicious toasted. We couldn't wait and just ate all of them within the very hour of finishing them.

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