A number of foods are enjoyed during Easter celebrations, from hard-boiled eggs to ham to roasted lamb. Sweets such as candies and chocolates also take center stage on Easter Sunday. In addition to these traditional favorites, hot cross buns have become must-haves for many Easter celebrants.
Hot cross buns are yeast-based sweet buns that are lightly spiced and studded with raisins or currants. The tops are marked with a cross that is often piped with icing. While there’s no clear explanation of how hot cross buns came to be, there are indications that they once were reserved only for Good Friday. Others say they were consumed throughout Lent. The cross is a Christian symbol of the crucifixion and Christ himself.
Hot cross buns are soft and sweet, and they’re easily created. Enjoy this recipe, courtesy of King Arthur Flour.
Hot Cross Buns
Yield 12 to 14 buns
1⁄4 cup apple juice or rum
1⁄2 cup mixed dried fruit
1⁄2 cup raisins or dried currants
11⁄4 cups milk, room temperature
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the topping)
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1⁄4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
13⁄4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
41⁄2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 large egg white, reserved from above
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing
Lightly grease a 10” square pan or 9” x 13" pan.
Mix the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap and microwave briefly, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Note: If you worry about using plastic wrap in your microwave, simply cover the bowl with a glass lid.
When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients (including the eggs and egg yolk from the separated egg); hold out the fruit for the time being. Knead the mixture, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. It’ll be very slack, sticking to the bottom of the bowl and your hands as you work with it (greasing your hands helps). Mix in the fruit and any liquid not absorbed.
Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.
Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 33⁄4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1⁄3 cup) makes about the right portion. You’ll make 12 to 14 buns. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.
Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.
Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the buns out of the pan (they should come out in one large piece), and transfer them to a rack to cool.
Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.