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.

Rosca de Reyes

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I never celebrated Three Kings Day (or Epiphany) until my boyfriend introduced me to the holiday in 2006. Lots of countries celebrate by taking part in different traditions. In Mexico, before bed, little ones leave shoes filled with hay for the camels of the wise men, and in the morning they have been given small presents. I don’t know if this is how F celebrated when he was a little one in Mexico, but these days, we just eat Rosca de Reyes, which is a delicious ring of rich, sweet bread, flavored with orange blossom and topped with colored sugar and candied fruit.

The secret ingredient to the Rosca de Reyes is of course a tiny baby Jesus. Whoever finds the little plastic baby has been specially blessed, but must now throw a party for everyone in February. It’s a fun game to play while you’re dipping this awesome dessert bread into hot chocolate. I don’t have a recipe for the Rosca, but I can tell you how to make excellent Mexican hot chocolate. We like to buy a loaf of warm bread and dip it into the chocolate when it’s cold.

Fill up a sauce pan with about 16oz of whole milk and start it simmering. Drop in a half block of Mexican chocolate, like Ibarra or Nestle Abuelita. Stir until the chocolate is melted into the milk and let it simmer until it gets nice and foamy over the top of the sauce pan. Put the liquid into a blender and blend to make sure everything is incorporated.

(Since you have to dirty up the blender anyway, you may as well make 4 times that amount :] )