Did I ever tell you that I grew up in an inter-faith home? My father is Christian and my mother is Hindu. When I was younger, my father wasn't so much of a church-going person, even though he was a believer in God, so I was never exposed to his religious customs as much as I was of my mom's. Dad went to church once in a while and moreso on holidays such as Easter and Christmas. My mother didn't want my brother and I to grow up without religion in our lives so she made us go to temple with her consistently- we did, and eventually we adapted Hinduism as our faith. Nonetheless, we still supported my father and went to church with him and also celebrated Christian holidays. For me, it was interesting to learn about a his religion and the different ways people accept God into their lives. Some may disagree or turn their noses up at this open-minded way of life, but it worked for our family and that's all that really mattered. My parents tried their best to not let their differences in their religious beliefs get in the way of their marriage and have been married for thirty-one years now. I know I've said nothing about the relation to hot cross buns so far, but keep reading, it comes full circle.
I remember on Good Friday, we would go to church and would come back home with paper bags containing hot cross buns. Family and friends that we knew from church would give them to us after service was over. My favorite part was the top of the bun, it always had more flavor it seemed, with or without icing. That was always my setback with hot cross buns-lack of flavor. I'm not sure if it was intended to taste plain so that a condiment could accompany it, but I always found myself toasting it and rubbing a little jam or jelly in there to enjoy it fully.
I don't normally make hot cross buns for that reason (and also because it was always given to us), but this year I decided to test out a few family recipes and add some additions of my own; apricots, cherries, and apricot jam. I loved the combination of fruits and the flavor of the dough, I added some orange and lemon zest in there too and ended up with some nice citrus-y notes. The amount of cherries and apricots added is up to you, I think even a handful of currants or dried blueberries would be delicious as well. I like to think of this dough as a blank slate where any nuts or dried fruit can be added, give it a try and leave me a comment below.
I did not find it necessary to write about the history of these buns since there is already so much information out there- check out some basic info here.
You'll need about 1/2 cup each of dried cherries and apricots. Add as little or as much as you like. Add any other dried fruits if you want.
Start with the milk. Make sure milk is not too hot, otherwise it will kill the yeast.
While the yeast is blooming, in a separate bowl, combine all the spices, salt, and zest of one lemon and orange. I added 1 tsp of all-spice to this batch and for me it was too strong, I reduced the amount to 1/2 tsp in the second batch which turned out fine for me. If you love the all-spice flavor, then add one whole teaspoon.
Mix in all the spices, sift it if you want. Add butter and shortening and combine until flour mixture is crumbly. Add the yeast/milk mixture and eggs, mix to make a sticky dough.
Give the apricots a coarse chop. You can leave the cherries whole or chop them up if you want.
Add dried fruits to the dough, with your hands, combine so they are spread throughout the dough. Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead until dough becomes smooth and elastic, this should happen pretty quickly, within a few minutes of kneading. Place dough into a deep oiled bowl. Allow to double in size uncovered, about 1 hour or more.
When dough has doubled in size, punch down and knead for a few minutes. Pinch off lemon-sized pieces and place in an oiled 9x13 baking pan uncovered. Allow to double in size, about 25 minutes.
After dough balls have doubled in size, bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until tops are browned.
Grab some apricot jam, heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Brush on top of buns while they are still hot.
Let buns cool down before piping icing, if you do it while they are still hot, the icing will melt and your cross will not be a cross, it might look like a splatter of icing. You can use store bought icing (not frosting) if you don't want to make it.
Hot Cross Buns
Yield: 12 cross buns
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp salt
- zest of one orange
- zest of one lemon
- 3 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 2 tbsp softened butter
- 1 1/4 cup milk, warmed
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp active dry yeast
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
- 1/2 tsp mixed essence (optional)
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 dried cherries, chopped or whole
- 1/4 cup apricot jam for glaze
- oil for greasing bowl and pan
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3-4 tsp milk
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- You can use store-bought icing as well
- In a bowl, combine sugar and milk, heat in microwave until lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and allow yeast to bloom for 8-10 minutes.
- Place flour in a deep mixing bowl. Add spices, lemon and orange zest, and salt. Mix together. Add softened butter and shortening, combine until crumbly.
- Add milk/yeast mixture to flour mixture, combine to make a sticky dough. Add vanilla to beaten egg and pour egg into dough, mix well until egg can no longer be seen. Add dried fruits and mix in well.
- Place sticky dough on a floured surface, using the heel of your palm, knead until dough becomes smooth by bringing the edge of dough into its center. Place dough in a deep oiled bowl and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
- After dough has risen, break off lemon-sized pieces. Make the dough ball round by tucking it under itself so the top becomes round and smooth.
- Place dough balls into an oiled 9x13 baking dish, allow to double in size uncovered, about 30 minutes.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until tops are brown.
- Heat apricot jam in microwave, brush buns immediately after removing from oven.
- After buns have cooled slightly, put powdered sugar in a bowl, stir in a little milk at a time until desired consistency is reached, add almond extract. Pour mixture into a zip-lock bag or pastry bag and pipe the crosses onto the buns.
- Place dough in a warm location with a bowl of steaming water. I placed mine in the microwave with a bowl of boiling water. The steam helps to keep the air moist, which helps the yeast develop and bloom in the dough.
- Making the dough balls round is not necessary, you can just break off the pieces and place them into the 9x13 pan, but if you'd like to have a round shape, take a look at this video at the 2:15 minute mark to see how to tuck the dough into itself to get the smooth top.