Somebody mentioned hot cross buns just before Easter and I couldn't get them out of my mind. Why didn't I think of this sooner? Oh, well, never mind - I decided to make some anyway.
I used this recipe but changed it up a bit since I didn't have golden raisins in the house. I used regular dark raisins, and they were fine, but another time I'd just add additional currants and omit the raisins. They seem more traditional, anyway, and they are plenty sweet. There were so many fruits in the dough that they kept popping out like fleas as I was kneading. Keep stuffing them back in - it was the right amount in the finished buns.
The recipe calls for finely grated lemon and orange zest - since I didn't have oranges in the house, I subbed in tangerine zest for the orange. When I make these again, I will not use finely grated zests - I think they'd be improved a little by having a thread or two of zest in each bun. I might even mince the zest rather than use the zester; a tiny cube of pure zest would be fun to encounter, a tart little prize among the raisins.
I also vetoed the cross made of pastry that this recipe recommends - I like the contrast and the sweetness of the cross of icing, so I used my first M-I-L's recipe for butter icing with vanilla flavoring and it was just right, adding a touch of sweetness to the spice-flavored buns without overwhelming them.
Mine got a little too brown - if your oven runs hot like mine does, I'd knock a full 5-15 minutes off the baking time. I checked these with 10 minutes to go and they were already darker than I'd like.
Even slightly over baked, they have a wonderful, light crumb flavored with a mingle of spices and orange and lemon peel that melds nicely with the raisins. The shiny tops and drier bottoms add an interesting texture contrast. Slathered with butter, they are downright sinful; left plain, they still sing with flavor. For special occasions, I'd happily make them again.
The recipe made a batch of 24 buns, far too many for just the two of us, so My Beloved and I wrapped up the rest and delivered them on Easter eve to three of our neighbors, reserving some extras for our Easter dinner hostess to heat and serve the next morning. Given the superstition that sharing the buns brings good luck, I expect to have a very lucky year.
Labels: Hot cross buns