This week, my parents provided us with free babysitting and a free car rental. (Both of our cars are leaving dark, worrisome stains on the driveway.) In exchange for their help, I baked them a batch of hot cross buns. It seems like a pretty small payment for all of their help, but perhaps it will make a few of their mornings a little tastier.
When my siblings and I were children, my mother would occasionally purchase hot cross buns from the local bakery during Lent. I loved the sugary crosses drizzled over sweet dough, but found the citron and candied fruit a little odd.
In making my own hot cross buns, I replaced the citron with dried cranberries and fresh orange zest, but you could also use raisins and dried apricots. Walnuts and hazelnuts would also be a welcome addition.
This recipe has been slightly altered from the hot cross bun recipe in1984 version of Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Browen Godfrey. Many bread books have only one or two whole wheat bread recipes, but the writers of this one used strictly whole wheat and other whole grains to produce a wide range of basic sandwich breads and a great selection of special occasion treats. I love the whole grain focus of this book, because I avoid serving white flour and sugar for anything but the occasional dessert. This book allows me to make a variety of healthy and scrumptious baked goods.
I also appreciate the book’s step-by-step baking guide at the beginning of the book, helping first time bakers achieve a high-rising loaf and trouble shooting any problems them might encounter working with yeast. Even experienced bakers can learn a little more about the science of dough and specifically about working with whole wheat.
These hot cross buns were wonderfully sweet and warmly spiced. I loved how the tart cranberries and orange zest were set off by the spices.
While this recipe may look involved, it not terribly challenge. The bread dough is kneaded in the Kitchen Aid, and the glaze and frosting only need to be stirred.
Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns makes 13 buns
Ingredients for Buns
- 1 cup of dried cranberries
- 1 T fresh orange zest
- 1 t active dry yeast
- 1/4 c warm water (at 115 degrees F)
- 3 cups finely ground whole wheat (or 450 g)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 1/5 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup cold buttermilk (or very thick keifer)
- more water as needed (I used 1/2 cup more)
- 2 tablespoons warm butter
- 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves and cardamon
Ingredients for Honey Glaze
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon milk or cream
Mix the dough
- Briefly (5 minutes or less) cover the dried cranberries in boiling water. Drain and set aside.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water and let it proof. Stir flour and salt in a Kitchen Aid bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg. In a larger bowl, mix the honey, hot water and buttermilk. Then add the beaten egg, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons for brushing the buns.
- Add liquids and yeast mixture to the flour and mix on medium-low speed using the dough hook attachment. Add water (I used a little more than a 1/2 cup) to make the dough soft. When the dough becomes stretchy and elastic (usually after 6-8 minutes), add the butter in small chunks. On the lowest setting, knead cranberries and orange zest into the dough.
- Shape dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Find a warm place in your kitchen and let it rise, covered, for the next hour and a half. It should double in size.
- Punch down the dough and let it rise for 45 minutes.
- Mix together the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon. Sprinkle half of the mixture over two greased cookie sheets.
- Shape dough into rolls by pinching off a golf-ball sized portion. Place the buns on the cookie sheets and sprinkle the top with the remaining spices. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375. Mix a teaspoon of water into the reserved egg and brush the top of the rolls with this glaze. Let the buns rest for a few minutes then put in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking period.
- Make the glaze by microwaving the butter, cinnamon and honey together for 30 seconds until hot and melted.
- Once buns are baked, brush with honey glaze and cool on a wire rack.
- Make the frosting by stirring together the milk and sugar. When the buns are completely cool, drizzle or pipe the frosting in the shape of a cross.