These were exactly what I was dreaming of when my own personal Throwback Thursday of a brain brought forth memories of eating at Van De Kamps in Burbank, CA in the 70’s and tearing away at sweet, and slightly tangy Hot Cross Buns. The NYT recipe came through my email and reminded me of some sweet and easy days of being a little girl, ordering these buns and sitting in a booth with feet dangling at least two feet from the ground and sticky fingers ready to be licked after the buns were devoured. Of course, my taste buds were not highly evolved at the age of five, and so I’m sure my memory exaggerates the reality of these buns, but once I had them on my mind, I knew I needed to make them for Easter Brunch.
Soft and slightly chewy, studded with candied oranges, golden raisins and currants and perfumed with orange blossom water and cardamom, these little buns rocked my world yesterday! At my Easter table, we each tore ours apart, steaming hot, and slathered them with pats of sweet cream butter. Murmurs, oohs and aahs, and even a groan was uttered by my guests; I knew together the NYT food section and I had hit this one out of the park.
I made a few small changes and that was due to a few repeated comments by some of the NYT reviewers who had made this recipe. These buns were touted as being “very traditional English buns” and “not very sweet”. I opted for just a touch sweeter than the original recipe by adding 1/8 cup of additional sugar and added 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and swapped out some of the raisins for dried currants. I made the dough the day before I wanted to bake up the rolls so as to keep my Easter Sunday enjoyable and simple. They rose perfectly given ample time in the morning and were served warm and soft.
Hot Cross Buns from the NYT Recipe Section
Makes one dozen buns
Ingredients for the Dough:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
3/8 cup super fine granulated sugar + 1 tsp for the yeast mixture
3 2/3 cup/500 grams bread flour(A little extra for flouring the board is needed). I did weigh my flour since that can make a big difference with breads.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter brought to room temperature, plus more for the bowl
1 large egg
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup currants (or another 1/2 cup of raisins if you can’t find currants)
1/2 cup dried candied orange peel (can be found online and are really nice to use, try not to substitute)
Ingredients for the dough for piping the crosses
1 3/4 teaspoons orange blossom water
1/4 c. water
1/3 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until just barely boiling, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Separate out 1/4 cup of the hot milk to cool in a small bowl. Once the 1/4 cup of milk is cooled to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, then add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Wait for the yeast to proof or “bubble and foam” to insure that the yeast is indeed good and will activate so your dough will rise. This is a critical step.
Turn your oven on to 200 degrees F to create a rising area. Boil two cups of water in the microwave in an oven proof bowl or glass loaf pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Once the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar and bread flour through the salt. Add the butter to the hot milk that is still in the sauce pan and stir until melted. Add the yeast and milk mixture and the butter and milk sauce pan mixture to dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Add a beaten egg. Using the DOUGH HOOK or a large rubber spatula and then hands, mix together the ingredients on a low speed to combine and then on a medium speed to knead.
Knead in the bowl for ten minutes using the mixer. Then turn the dough onto a floured pastry board and add the currants, raisins and orange peel. Knead on the board for an additional five minutes incorporating the dried fruit, or until you have a nice, elastic shiny and smooth ball of dough. See pic above.
Butter a large mixing bowl (enough room for your dough to almost double in size), place the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a CLEAN dish towel and place it in the oven. The oven should have been OFF for at least ten minutes. You don’t want to start baking your dough! Let it rise for one and a half hours -two hours or until the dough has doubled.
Punch down the dough in the center. Roll the dough into a thick log on a floured pastry board and cut into twelve equal parts. Roll each portion into a ball. Place the balls in a 12×18 rectangular dish coated with cooking spray. Either put in the fridge overnight, covering with plastic wrap to halt the rising, or place the buns back in the pre-warmed oven (covered with a clean towel) to let rise for another 1 1/2 hours or until almost doubled in size. If you are storing the dough overnight, take them out the next morning and lest rest on the counter for about thirty minutes to bring them to almost room temperature. Turn your oven on to 200 and repeat the rising prep by boiling two cups of water in the microwave in an oven proof bowl or glass loaf pan. Turn the oven off once it gets to 200. Once the dough has rested the thirty minutes outside of the fridge, place the dough buns in the prepped oven. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
When the buns are almost done rising, make the cross piping dough. In a small bowl combine the water, flour and orange blossom water and mix until it forms a dough that is pipe-able with a piping bag. If it is too thick, add a little more water, or if it is too thin add a little more flour. Put the piping dough in a gallon sized Zip-loc bag and snip off a corner. Remove the buns from the oven after they are done rising. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pipe the dough to make the crosses on the buns. I piped one long strip across all the buns in the same row. Then crossed them all in rows as well. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. When they are almost done baking, make the glaze with the water, sugar and orange blossom water and stir together in a small bowl until smooth. Brush over the baked rolls with a basting brush. I prefer silicone ones so you don’t lose any brush hairs in the glaze. Serve warm alongside a big slab of butter to smother over it with. Enjoy!