Hot Cross Buns, even if you don’t like hot cross buns.

We sell hot cross buns at work, and nobody likes them. When I made these, I brought them into work the next day because I wanted to point out to my coworkers that hot cross buns could taste good. Many were skeptical. Everyone liked them. I made them again the next day, and they were even better. Here’s how I did it.

"These remind me of clarinet practice." -my sister (these were attempt 01. The second batch I made was gorgeous, and looked just like Gesine's)

This recipe belongs to Gesine. She posted it on her blog, along with some pretty awesome trivia about hotcrossbunlore. Apparently, if you make them on Good Friday, there are a ton of delightful benefits to having done so. I’ll admit that when I read about them, I thought that must be some sort of cosmic consolation prize for having just made the driest, spiciest, most-stale-tasting mini breads ever. Hot cross buns always seemed to me a cinnamon roll, without filling and with not enough icing. What it lacked in tender, delicious bread stuffs, it made up for in tasting strongly of spices and fruit. Yay.

This nutmeg is fresh-to-death

I was wrong, though. And if you yourself have been the victim of a terrible hot cross bun, there’s still hope that you could love one, someday. Maybe tomorrow if you have some time to bake these!

Since I fancy myself an apprentice of sorts when it come to Gesine, I made these, on Good Friday, after a grueling day of working for a  grocery store when people are out shopping for a holiday meal. I found that the instructions left a bit of room for interpretation, and I learned some things after the first attempt at making them.

Freshly ground cloves contribute a good amount of spice, without inducing frown-y faces.

When I have seen hot cross buns in the past, they’ve looked a lot like dinner rolls, and they’ve tasted like dinner rolls infused with festive flavors. Just…soul-less. But Gesine’s recipe works very much like a brioche. Her instructions call for combining everything in stages into a stand mixer, and then you “mix with the dough hook until just combined.” I can’t work with instructions like this. I mess things up, really badly, when I’m not sure what to do.WHAT SPEED??? These details are important to me.

Bloomin'

I thought I needed to mix slowly, and prevent too much gluten from developing. After a long time of mixing and not achieving the right look, I turned the mixer way up, but it was just sort of too late. As a result of mixing too slowly, I spent a lot more time on these than I needed to. On top of that, and way more importantly, the dough remained pretty sticky, and scoring a little cross into each bun was painfully difficult and frustrating. The buns were delicious, but sort of flat and underwhelming in the looks department.

mixin'

The second time I made these, I had it figured out. I mixed everything together on a fairly high speed, and when I added the butter, I took it right up to about 8 on my Kitchenaid. That’s how I’d do it if it was brioche. It quickly pulled away from the bowl (in about 6-10 minutes) and while it wasn’t firm, I had a very easy time bouling it into tight individual pieces. Scoring the crosses was very easy, also. I’ll totally make these again, very soon. They were the best right out of the oven Saturday night, but everyone really enjoyed them on Easter as well.
I saved one to keep in my kitchen and prevent fires.

Oh, ps. I left out the cranberries. I love fruit-less bread.

brioche à tête

This is the best bread to make when you want something kind of impressive, that isn’t too difficult to make. You can make the brioche à tête like this formula makes, or you can simply bake your brioche in a loaf pan (great for french toast!). Enjoy!

for the Brioche
1.75 oz milk
.25 oz yeast (instant)
2.25 oz pastry flour (or cake flour)
12 oz bread flour
.25 oz salt
1.5 oz sugar
7.75 oz whole eggs
7 oz butter, softened


for the french wash

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream

Create a French sponge by combining milk and yeast, and sprinkling pastry flour over the mixture to cover everything (do not mix in pastry flour!!). Set aside for about twenty minutes, until the flour on top cracks.

Combine sugar, salt, eggs, bread flour and sponge. Using a stand mixer, mix with the dough hook on low speed for a minute or two. When everything comes together, increase speed and wait for the dough to wrap itself around the dough hook. It will make a slapping sound as the dough hits the bowl. Mix for 5-10 minutes. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl as needed. Slowly add the butter and beat for about five more minute. It should start slapping again! (It’s called baker’s music and when you have a great mixer, it’s beautiful)

Roll the super sticky dough into a ball and put it in a large oiled mixing bowl. Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size. You can do this by setting it out at room temperature, or by putting it in the laundry room when the dryer is on, or by setting the bowl in a ray of sunshine that’s falling on the kitchen table. Or you can fake your own proofer by putting your oven the lowest setting (probably around 130[f]) and then turning it off once it’s heated. Using heat to proof the dough will cut the time it takes in half, but it won’t affect the final product so do whatever is easiest.

Punch the air out of the dough (don’t go nuts with this, just get the bubbles out) and shape into an equal amount of 1oz pieces and 2oz pieces. Roll everything into little balls and pop them on top of one another in a fluted pan, like this one .

Preheat your oven to 350(f) and let your brioches proof until they’re almost doubled in size. Brush them with your french wash and bake them until the internal temperature is about 195. Just watching them for browning won’t do it because the french wash will make them very dark, pretty quickly.