As noted on Wikipedia, a hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South Africa, India, and Canada.
English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow moldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes – a piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.
Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time, so some say they should only be cooked one at a time. Because there is a cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten.
If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
Regardless of their supposed mystical virtues, they are delicious and this recipe from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery is simply the best I’ve ever found for these treats.
I hope you enjoy them, Citizens – and if you are celebrating the holiday, may your Good Friday be filled with gladness!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Brioche dough ingredients:
263 grams /1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons
263 grams /1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 grams / 1 ¾ teaspoons instant yeast
31 grams / 2 tablespoons + 1 ¾ teaspoons granulated sugar
6 grams / 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
132 grams / ½ cup + 1 ½ teaspoons eggs
44 grams / 2 tablespoons + 2 ¼ teaspoons whole milk
118 grams / 4.1 ounces unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
Place the flour and yeast in the bowl
Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.
Add all of the remaining dough ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Continue to mix on low speed for 30 minutes.
After about 30 minutes, there will be some dough sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl. You will know the dough is ready if it is smooth and elastic-like.
Add the butter a few pieces at a time with mixer on low, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Continue to mix for about 10 minutes.
TIP: If some chunks of butter remain whole in the dough, try and push them into the dough, first turning the mixer off before you reach your hand in. The butter will give the dough a glossy sheen.
122 grams / ¾ cup dried currants
61 grams / ½ cup dried cranberries
3 grams / ½ teaspoon vanilla paste
Combine the currants and cranberries in a medium bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Let sit for 5 minutes to plump the fruit, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Dry the bowl, return the fruit to it, and toss with the vanilla paste.
Run a bowl scraper around the sides and down to the bottom of the bowl of brioche dough to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, adding flour only as needed to keep it from sticking.
With your hands, gently pat the dough into a circular shape. Pour some of the currant-cranberry mixture onto the dough and knead it into the dough (which will be sticky) to distribute it evenly.
Stretch the left side of the dough out and fold it over two-thirds of the dough, add more fruit, then stretch and fold it from the right side to the opposite side, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the bottom and then the top to evenly incorporate the fruit.
Turn the dough over, lift it up with a bench scraper, and place it seam side down in a large bowl sprayed with non-stick spray or a couple drops of vegetable oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let the dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl, press down to release some of the air, then return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover, and let sit for another 45 minutes.
Use the bowl scraper to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (78 grams each).
Spray a quarter sheet pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.
Cup your fingers around a portion of dough and, using the palm of your hand, press it down a bit to flatten slightly. Then, fold each side in to the middle, like you’re sealing an envelope. There are about 4-5 sides of each portion.
Roll it against the work surface to form a ball. Continue to roll until the dough is completely smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place each ball on the sheet pan. Brush the tops with egg wash (well-whipped eggs). Cover with plastic wrap and move to a warm spot to proof for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (convection) or 350°F (standard).
Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash again. Bake for 17 to 22 minutes in a convection oven, 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until the tops are a rich golden brown and, when tested with a toothpick, the centers are baked through. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely.
258 grams / 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
258 grams / 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1 gram / 3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 gram / 3/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
40 grams / 2 ½ tablespoons whole milk
Sift the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to distribute the spices evenly. With the mixer running, slowly add the milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, increase the speed to low, and mix for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until smooth.
Transfer the icing to the pastry bag. Cut off 1/4 inch of the tip.
Starting at the left side of the top corner bun, pipe a continuous strip of icing across the center of the first row of 3 buns. Repeat with the remaining 3 rows. Then repeat in the opposite direction, across the 3 rows of 4 buns, working in the opposite direction, to create a cross of frosting on each bun.
Serve the whole pan, or cut into individual buns.
The buns are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored, before icing, wrapped tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap or in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week.