Hot Cross Buns – by Any Other Name
I drove up north last Saturday to spend the Easter weekend with my brother, his wife and family. When I was lying in bed that night, my thoughts drifted to earlier Easters when we were children. We’d wake up on Sunday morning and dash into mom and dad’s bedroom. I believe it was the only time during the year when we were invited to sit on the end of the bed while they were still snuggled under the covers. Three Easter baskets, covered in bright cellophane with pastel ribbons on top, were lined up in a row on their dresser. Store-bought candy, at Easter, was a special event. Our usual treats came from mom’s oven, the garden or the orchard. As tempting as those baskets were, we weren’t allowed to tear into them until we had earned the privilege. Days before we had all gathered around the kitchen table to dip hard boiled eggs into bowls of vinegar and food coloring. Then the night before Easter, the Easter bunny would come and hide them all. He was very good at it. We couldn’t have our baskets of goodies until all the eggs were found. As my brothers became too old for Easter bunnies and baskets, the job of finding the eggs fell to me alone. I grew to despise the hunt. Somehow in the middle of supervising the Easter egg hunt, getting three children ready for church and preparing a large dinner, mom found the time to make hot cross buns every year. In the dark at my brother’s, I decided to try my hand at making a batch. When I returned home, I found a recipe in my old Good Housekeeping cookbook. It’s been used often over the years and is held together with a sturdy rubber band. The recipe called for candied citron and currants. I didn’t have either one in the pantry and since it’s a half-hour drive to the grocery store, I substituted finely diced orange peel, dried cranberries and chopped pecans. The rest of the recipe I followed to the letter and the hot cross buns turned out delicious. As I ate one, warm from the oven, freshly drizzled with a powdered-sugar glaze, I thought of my mom, the despicable hunt for eggs and our baskets full of memories.
HOT CROSS BUNS
5 ½ to 6 cups flour 2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 packages active dry yeast 1 cup milk
½ cup butter 1 eggs
2 tablespoons diced orange peel ¾ cup dried cranberries
½ c chopped pecans 1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 c confectioners’ sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla
DIRECTIONS: In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups flour, sugar, salt nutmeg and yeast. In a sauce pan, heat ½ cup of water, milk and butter to 120 to 130 degrees. Not hotter or it will kill the yeast. Using a mixer on low speed, pour liquid into dry ingredients. Beat in egg. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in orange peel, cranberries and pecans with a spoon. Add 2 ¾ cup of flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Turn dough so top of ball is greased. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours. I turned on the oven to warm, then turned it off and let the dough rise in there. Turn dough ball out onto floured surface again and punch the dough down. Cut dough into 16 to 18 pieces. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Shape dough into balls and place in pan. It is okay if they touch. With a pair of scissors, cut a deep cross into each ball. Let rise again for 1 ½ hours. Brush tops of buns with egg white. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick for done-ness, but don’t overcook. Cool buns slightly in pan. Meanwhile, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl, to form a glaze. Carefully add more water if necessary. Fill each cross in the buns with icing.