Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

I've never enjoyed cooking with yeast. I find I'm too impatient when it comes to waiting for the yeast to do its thing so I end up rushing the recipe which usually ends in disaster. Last night I found I had some time on my hands. Enough time to wait for yeast to get...yeasty. It's the playoffs and the Habs are still in the hunt so no plans were made to do anything other than sit in front the television. Which was nice. There was popcorn to be had, for one thing. And the boys are old enough now that they ask intelligent questions about the game that David is only too happy to answer. What's a girl to do when all of her boys are otherwise occupied for several hours? Make hot cross buns, of course!

There are a lot of recipes out there for hot cross buns. The one I decided to try is featured on a blog called Cookin' Canuck: When I saw that the recipe was adapted from America's Test Kitchen I was in. ATK know their stuff. And when I'm cooking (baking) something I'm not all that confident about, I want to use a recipe that is as close to no-fail as possible. That's what you get with ATK. Plus Cookin' Canuck had very kindly inserted visuals into the recipe. Another plus when you aren't sure what you're doing.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make these hot cross buns. As an added bonus, I finally got to use the dough hook for my KitchenAid mixer. So yes, it was a big night for everyone. The Habs prevailed over Boston and I got to use my dough hook. Win-win.

I stopped short of letting my hot cross buns rise a final (second) time and put them in the fridge, covered, as suggested by the recipe, Saturday evening. Then I got up early (well, early-ish) this morning and let them sit for an hour and a half before finishing them. So we got to enjoy fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven hot cross buns today. While I was waiting for them to rise and bake I ran two miles. Then I came upstairs, glazed the buns and promptly devoured two (yes, deux). So much for exercise. Given my little indiscretion I'd say this recipe produces a very tasty bun.

Several years ago I ripped a recipe out of a magazine for hot cross muffins, which were heralded as 'hot cross buns without all the fuss of working with yeast'. Given my aversion to working with yeast these seemed a good idea at the time. Reflecting on how easy these buns were to make and how good they are I feel I can recycle this particular clipping. This recipe produces hot cross buns that are just a nice size (although perhaps not designed to be eaten in pairs) and they aren't overloaded with 'stuff' - just a few well-placed raisins and lots of fragrant cinnamon. I will definitely be making another batch.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from
America’s Test Kitchen

3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, well-shaken
1 (0.75 ounce) package (2 1/4 tsp) dried yeast
4 tbsp sugar, divided
3 large eggs
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup currants (or raisins)
1 large egg
1 tbsp water

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Pour buttermilk into a small saucepan. Heat to approximately 110 degrees F. Pour into a large liquid measuring cup. Stir yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar into the buttermilk. Let the mixture sit until foamy bubbles appear on the surface of the buttermilk, about 10 minutes. Whisk in eggs and the cooled melted butter.

The next part can be done with a stand-mixer or by hand. In the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook, combine 4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Turn the mixer on low for about 10 seconds to mix the ingredients. With the mixer set on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Mix until the ingredients form into a dough. Turn the mixer to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, mix in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough reaches the desired consistency.

Turn the dough onto a clean surface and add currants (or raisins). Knead the currants into the dough until they are evenly dispersed. Place the dough into a bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place until the dough doubles in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 12 pieces. With the palm of your hand, roll each ball to form a ball. Coat a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place the 12 balls of dough into the pan. Wrap tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the rolls double in size and are pressed against each other.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle position.

Using a small, sharp knife, cut a 1/4-inch deep X through the top of each bun. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the buns are puffed and golden brown. Sit the pan on a cooling rack and let the buns cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Using a small spoon, drizzle the glaze over top of the buns in an X, in the grooves on the buns. Serve warm or cool to room temperature.

Make ahead:
Once you place the balls of dough in the baking pan, do not let the dough rise. Instead, store in the refrigerator overnight, up to 16 hours. Before baking, let the buns sit at room temperature until they double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Makes 12 buns.

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