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Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a staple at my house during Easter. My Mum is a big fan of them, however it wasn't until I became an adult that I got a liking for them. I was one of those children that used to turn my nose up at anything with raisins in it. I'd eat the raisins by themselves, but if they were in a muffin, I wouldn't touch it. How times have changed! Now I can't get enough of cinnamon raisin bread and hot cross buns. 

Traditionally, hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday and mark the end of Lent. The different parts of a hot cross bun have a certain meaning, with the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside (like cinnamon) representing the spices used to embalm him at his burial. 

Back home in New Zealand, a chocolate version of the hot cross bun has become popular. I wanted to keep it traditional this time though, so I made an original version. To step your buns up a notch, you can soak the raisins overnight in half a cup of rum. This will ensure they're extra  juicy and filled to the brim with flavor. Enjoy as part of your breakfast, in the afternoon with a coffee, or in the evening with a cup of tea. Slather on some butter and you have yourself the perfect spiced snack. Happy Easter everyone! 

Yield: 12 buns

*Recipe adapted from AfricanBites.com

Ingredients:

For the buns:

1 package active dry yeast (2 & 1/4 tsp)
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
3 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice

Optional: 1/2 cup rum for soaking the raisins (done the night before & refrigerated)

Flour paste:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup water, maybe more

Sugar Glaze:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons boiling hot water

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the yeast and lukewarm water. Cover with a cloth and allow yeast to activate and become bubbly, about 5 minutes. 
  2. In a microwave-safe medium bowl, combine the butter, milk, sugar and salt and heat on high in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each until the butter is completely melted.
  3. Let mixture cool for several minutes. Once it's cooled off a bit, add the egg and whisk to combine. 
  4. Add this mixture to the yeast and stir to combine. Add the flour and spices. Mix until the dough starts to come together, either with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or by hand. Continue mixing dough until it doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl. Add more flour if needed.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand, for 6 minutes. Add the raisins a handful at a time and continue to knead for another 2 minutes. It needs to be elastic and stretchy, but not break.
  6. Roll the dough into a ball, making sure there are no cracks on top, and place in a greased bowl in a warm place. I covered my bowl with a clean dish cloth and put it near the heater. Allow to rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.  
  7. Once risen, punch the air out and divide the dough into 12 equal parts and shape into balls. Place in a greased 11 x 13 inch pan or 12 inch skillet. 
  8. Make the flour paste: Mix the flour and water together, one tablespoon at a time, to make a paste for the cross. You want to add just enough water to make a thick paste. Spoon paste into a piping bag and pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses. Let buns rise for another 15-20 minutes. At this point, you can refrigerate the buns for up to 24 hours if baking the next day. 
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). Bake for 25-28 minutes until golden brown on top. While the buns are baking, make the sugar glaze: Combine boiling hot water with sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Once the buns are out of the oven, brush them with the sugar glaze. Pop back in the oven for another 2 minutes. This will ensure they are shiny & crispy on top. Buns are best when served warm. Reheat in the microwave for 20 seconds. 
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