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Thursday, April 21, 2011

One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns


Hot cross buns are a family tradition for us in Lent and especially during Holy Week. Thick with a basic powdered sugar icing, these are great for breakfast but go well at any other time of day as well.

NOTE: As my family knows, I rarely measure my yeast breads but the following recipe was tested with carefully measured amounts.

Yeast doughs may take a few trials for you to feel comfortable making them, but they are also very, very forgiving and flexible!



Hot Cross Buns

1 3/4 c water
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 c oil
1/4 to 1/2 c sugar
2/3 c dry milk powder
1/2 c quick oats (NOT instant--this is the stuff that comes in the traditional round cardboard boxes)
1 to 1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t nutmeg (optional)
2 eggs
1 c raisins
1 package instant dry yeast (or about 2 t yeast from a larger package)
flour--preferably at least half bread flour, but all purpose flour will be fine as well (up to 3 cups whole wheat flour may be used if desired--if this option is chosen, the rest of the flour should be bread flour for best resiliency in the dough)

Warm the water until just comfortable to the touch--in a much larger bowl than you probably expect to need--this stuff really grows!

Stir in the salt, oil, sugar, dry milk powder, oatmeal and spices. Beat in the eggs and 2 cups of flour. Stir in the raisins and yeast along with enough additional flour (1 to 2 cups) to make a thick batter. If using whole wheat flour, add that now. Beat well with a wood spoon--the batter should start to get a rather smooth, silky consistency.

Set the batter in a warm location and allow to rise until bubbly and light--maybe an hour or so. Stir down and add more flour, a cup or so at a time, beating after each addition, until the dough is still soft but begins to "clean the bowl," that is, it clings together more than it sticks to the bowl.

At this point, you can either form the dough into rolls or you can punch it down and let it rise again. Truth be told, my dough often gets punched down many times, until I am ready to make the rolls. As I said, yeast doughs are flexible and forgiving, so you can--to a degree--make them conform to your schedule!

When you are ready to form the buns, oil two baking sheets. Then, with your well-oiled hands, pull off amounts of dough about the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller, and shape into round buns. You will probably need a little extra flour as you work, to keep the dough workable. Place on the pans with plenty of room for the dough to grow. Cover the pans lightly and let rise about an hour, until the buns have doubled in size.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 13 to 15 minutes. For a soft, glossy crust, brush buns with butter as soon as removed from the oven--note the difference in appearance:


For maximum freshness of your presentation, store the buns well-covered and decorate with the frosting crosses just before serving. Depending on the size of your buns, this will make about 2 dozen hot cross buns.

Powdered Sugar Frosting

2 to 4 T softened butter
2 pounds powdered sugar
1 t pure vanilla
milk

Stir a cup or two of the powdered sugar into the butter and add the vanilla and a tablespoon or so of milk. Beat this mixture until smooth. Then gradually add the sugar and milk alternately, beating after each. Be very careful not to add more than a teaspoon or so of milk each time, as the mixture will thin very quickly. Store covered in the refrigerator for a week or more.

Cream cheese can be substituted for all or part of the butter in this recipe. This can be used for cookies, cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, etc., with almond flavoring added to or replacing the vanilla and lemon or orange juice substituted for part of the milk.

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