Updated: Sep 1, 2020
From "The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love—Recipes from the Big Easy . . . and Beyond" by Brian Theis, 2020 Click here for more info on my new cookbook!
The Good Friday custom. "Get them while they're hot, eat them by the ton. One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns."
Hot Cross Buns
Makes 18 buns
1/2 cup sugar, plus a pinch, divided
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 large egg yolk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons whole milk
In small, not clear, bowl, combine a pinch of sugar and 1/3 cup very warm water. (Very warm water is the temperature you'd feel comfortable taking a shower in if you hold your finger under the tap to test, 103°F to 105°F.) Add the yeast to the sugar water, stir to dissolve completely. Cover bowl with dark cloth or plate and set aside till foamy, 7 minutes. Heat milk in medium pot over medium high heat till bubbles form around edge, about 2 minutes. In large bowl, combine warm milk, yeast mixture, sugar, butter, whole eggs, vanilla extract, whisk together thoroughly.
In another bowl, whisk flour, cardamom, and nutmeg together. With wooden spoon, gradually add flour mixture to large bowl, stirring into wet ingredients till dough begins to form. Add orange zest, knead in bowl to combine. Turn soft and sticky dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead till elastic and still sticky, least 8 minutes. Lastly, add and knead the currants into dough.
Generously butter the inside of a large bowl, add dough, turn to coat with butter. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then a dark towel, and place in a warm spot to rise. Dough should double in size in about 1 1/2 hours.
Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter. Lightly butter your hands. Form 18 balls 2 inches in size and place next to each other in dish. Whisk together the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water, brush tops of buns. Cover with a towel and let rise in warm place till doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 375°F. Bake for 20 minutes till golden brown. Cool buns in pan for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in large bowl combine confectioners' sugar, orange extract, and milk, using large spoon to stir well. The icing should be thick but pipe-able.
Using a pastry bag with tip, or plastic storage bag with tiny corner cut off, pipe a cross shape on top of buns. When icing has hardened, about 10 minutes, cut buns apart gently with a bread knife, and serve.