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One a penny, two a cross buns

This is the time of the year when you can find all sorts of seasonal/holiday treats in your local grocery store or bakery (if you have one). My seasonal guilty pleasure are hot cross buns. I have not had them in years but my brain certainly remembers the taste and so..I picked up a package along with the rest of the grocerias. When I got home, I settled myself down with a cup of tea and one of these shiny buns with the sugar cross on the top.

Tasted … just…like…paper towels. For a second, I was wondering if it was me, somehow. I have had a nasty cold for a while, so I tried out one of them on the DH. Ditto. So, I checked the ingredients.

No eggs. No milk. No butter. No wonder….

So, I was determined to find a recipe filled with good things to see if it would reproduce the flavor that was in my brain. There are many recipes out there, but I was determined to find one with eggs, milk and butter in it and the best one I could find was Emeril Lagasse one. Now, I have to admit that I did not have all the ingredients that he called for. I never have the full complement of spices that Emeril calls for. In this, he wants cinnamon (check), cloves (nyet), allspice (double nyet), nutmeg (got that) and orange zest (ditto). Now, to me, cloves and allspice is a ‘bridge too far’ if you know what I mean – those are spices with nuclear punch. So, I just used cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest and I have to say that the flavor is very nice indeed. I also, because I’m annoying like this, added a cup of fruit cake mix and a half cup of dried currants instead of the raisins. If you are NOT a fruit cake mix person (which means you are probably also not a mince pie person for some reason), then just go with the raisins. The whole point of hot cross buns is that this is an eggy soft dough. This is not a dough that is going to yield you something with a crunchy top or anything like that – the eggs, milk and butter mitigate against you. This is more brioche or Sally Lunn than it is bread; and if you want a more bready/crunchy dough sort of thing, then just take your favorite sweet roll recipe, add an egg and off you go.

With this recipe, you will not get that. The end-texture is pretty dense.

My version, of Emeril Lagasse’s version is as follows:
First thing: take out a half a stick of butter and soften it up. Second – you will need three large eggs for this — two for the dough and one for brushing on before they get baked so that you get that shiny brown surface. You will also need a baking sheet and a pastry brush.

Take 1 cup of milk and warm it up (1 min. in the microwave). Put a teaspoon of honey into the milk and stir that around. Put in 1 Tblsp. of dried yeast and stir that around. Let that sit in a warm spot until it is bubbly.

In a mixing bowl, put in 4 cups of all-purpose flour and whatever spices you are using. One at a time, put in two large eggs and mix around (this should have sort of a mealy appearance; not much is happening yet). Put in the softened butter and mix that around and add the milk/yeast mix. You should end up with a really soft but not sticky dough. If it looks too ‘floppy’ add a little bit of dough until it is soft but not floppy.

Add your raisins, dried fruit, etc. and mix around for a couple of minutes. Put a little flour on the counter and throw the dough on that and knead it a teensy bit (don’t knead this a lot – that will toughen the protein in the flour and you don’t want that). Put into a greased bowl with some sort of a cover in a warm spot for as long as it takes for it to double in size. Mine did take 1.5 hours.

When it’s all raised, take it out and put it on a floured board or counter and knead a little bit. Divide the dough in half. Take each half and divide into six equal piece (so that you have 12 rolls). Put each piece onto a greased baking sheet.

Take your third egg and beat that up in a bowl with a little bit of milk — a couple of tablespoons should do it. Use your pastry brush and brush the egg wash on the balls of dough. Now, I did something that I thought was tremendously clever of me at the time but now wish I had not: I took kitchen sheers and cut the tops of the balls of dough into quarters, like … so. And if I had been using a standard bready sort of roll mix, it probably would have worked. But because this is dense and heavy and frankly does not raise a whole lot the second time around, the rolls just…spread, which is sort of a bummer. I’d discourage anyone from dong that.

Take your baking pan of rolls and put it in a warm spot while you are pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees F. It’s just for 30 min. and in that time, the rolls will not raise much. Emeril’s recipe calls for you to brush the tops of the rolls a second time before you bake them. I’m not sure you need to do that; I didn’t do it.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven — mine took 18 minutes. I’d set the oven for 15 minutes and then check. Take out, remove from the pan and put on a rack to completely cool.


In Emeril’s recipe, he has directions for doing the standard powdered sugar glaze cross across the top. If you want to do that, go for it.

Another standard, and probably very old school thing to do is to save some of the dough, roll it out into little worms and make the criss-cross across the top with pieces of dough.

I’d also like to think that a neat thing to do would be to do this with marzipan, which you can find in stores in tubes in the refrigerated section, OR, for the more adventurous (who also have almond flour/meal at home), here are directions for making your own marzipan (which you can use not only to decorate hot cross buns, but also to slice into little slices off a roll and dip in chocolate, or if you are truly creative and adventurous you can also use food dyes and turn little chunks into molded fruits and vegetables to decorate cakes, cookies or tarts).

Home-made marzipan: Marzipan
What marzipan is, actually, is a paste/dough made out of finely ground nuts and fine sugar, which is held together with, in this case, egg whites.
You will need:
Ground almonds/almond flour/almond meal
Confectioner’s sugar
Two egg whites
A little bit of flavoring — almond or vanilla extract, lemon juice and so on.

For directions on how to make molded fruits, here’s a video:

Bon appetito!

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One Comment

  1. Shannon D. says:

    Ooh sounds delicious! My grandmother used to make them but though I wrote down some of her recipes, I do not have this one. Thing you for posting!

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