I used to think hot cross buns were super gross.
Maybe it was the raisins or that weird floury cross atop those strangely sweet burger-ish buns, or perhaps it can all be boiled down to the fact that my mom loves them and would force them upon me and my brother every Easter. Whatever it was, I am happy to say that, with the help of these little babies, I am a true convert!
I've ditched classic raisins in favour of their golden cousins, funny little currants, chopped dried apricots, and slightly sour dried crans and scrapped the floury-paste cross altogether.
Yes, the ingredient list may look long but these little lovelies are a cinch to throw together! If you're more of a traditionalist, feel free to scrap my melange of dried fruit in favour of classic raisins but definitely don't skimp on the spices and orange zest! They take these sweet little guys to the next level!
Simple Classic Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 buns
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup finely diced dried apricots*
¼ cup chopped dried cranberries*
¼ cup dried currants*
¼ cup golden raisins*
1 ¼ cup whole milk, warmed
2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
4–4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold milk
For the icing
1 cup + 3 tablespoons icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the apple juice and dried fruit. Pop the bowl into the microwave and heat for about 30 seconds or until warm. Set the fruit aside to cool to room temperature.
In a glass measuring cup, stir together the warmed milk and instant yeast and allow it to sit aside and get a little foamy. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Add in the orange zest, eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla and strain the cooled juice from the dried fruit on in as well. Set the fruit aside to incorporate later.
If using a stand mixer, knead the mixture using the hook attachment until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5–7 minutes, adding the remaining ½ cup of flour if needed. If using a bowl, stir until a shaggy dough forms then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and elastic, about 7–9 minutes, adding more flour as needed.
When the dough has reached a lovely consistency, knead in the fruit and form the dough into a ball. Pop the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic and a clean kitchen towel, and allow it to rise for 1 hour in a warm place or until doubled in bulk.
Punch the dough down and divide it into 15 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight-skinned ball and arrange them in three rows of five on your prepared baking sheet (note: the buns should be placed about 1-inch apart). Lightly drape the buns with plastic and a kitchen towel again and allow them to rise for another hour or until they have puffed up and are just touching. While the buns are rising, preheat your oven to 375F.
Uncover the buns and lightly brush each with cold milk. This will help make your buns become a lovely golden brown. Pop the buns in the oven for 18–22 minutes or until golden brown and lovely. Remove them from the oven and transfer the buns to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, whip up the icing by mixing together the icing sugar, milk, and vanilla. Transfer this into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip or a zip top bag with the corner cut out and pipe a cross on top of each cooled bun.
*Feel free to use whatever mixture of dried fruit you’d like! Just make sure it adds up to 1 cup of fruit.