Actually good hot cross buns
April 11, 2020 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I am done being disappointed by hot cross buns. Clearly the potential is there. Where is my actually good hot cross bun recipe?
posted by HotToddy to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have hot cross buns in the oven as we speak. The general collective knowledge on this is twice the spice you think is sensible and that most recipes suggest. Mixed peel if you can find it, zest if you can’t.

What specifically do you find disappointing?
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 5:38 PM on April 11, 2020

Response by poster: Oh, of course I should have said! I'm disappointed in the bun itself, not the flavorings. They always seem to have a cakey texture, and to be too dry.
posted by HotToddy at 5:45 PM on April 11, 2020

This is the one I'm using this year: Women's Weekly Hot Cross Buns

First batch I made to the recipe, and it made two 20cm square cake pans of hot cross buns, 9 buns per pan with a lovely rise and deliciously fluffy texture. Very similar to nice store bought ones - I was quite impressed. That said, it needed waaaaay more spice and fruit.

My second batch I used twice as much spice (and added nutmeg and ginger), plus I steeped orange peel, cardamom pods, cloves and a cinnamon stick in the milk. I doubled the fruit and added a bunch of chocolate chips. I'm not sure whether it was the chocolate (it melted during proofing) or the refrigeration overnight, but they didn't rise as much. End result was a slightly denser and not as fluffy but much better spicing.

Next time I'll bake the day I make the dough and leave out the chocolate. If I get my act together I'll steep the spices overnight in the milk too.
posted by eloeth-starr at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Hamelman's Hot Cross Bun recipe is great.
posted by smoke at 6:34 PM on April 11, 2020

Do you have a bread recipe you like? The secret is to make the bread recipe you like, but put in a whack of spices, dried fruit, sugar, eggs, and milk (if they are not already there.) You want a really soft bun that is still bready. Honey will also help with a soft texture. Hot cross buns are just dinner rolls that are fancy and sweet.

So, in my case it's yeast or starter + 4ish cups of flour, half wheat/half white, plus 2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, a splurt of honey approx. 4 tablespoons, 1 teaspoon each of allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves, cardamom if you've got it, plus dried fruit that you like. This year it was a tub of candied orange peel I had left over from Christmas and half a box of currants, in previous years it's been raisins, dates, and prunes. It's better if you soak your dried fruit in orange juice or whisky overnight to plump them up, but you don't have to.

Knead all of it , with extra flour, until it feels like an earlobe and let it rise in a greased bowl until it's 1.5x or larger, then shape and rise again in a greased pan, then slash the tops and bake around 375F until they are done, usually like 20 minutes. Let them cook and then ice the tops with frosting, in my case confectioner's sugar + lemon juice in a paste, or buttercream if you're fancy. You can experiment with adding oil to make it more tender-- Edward Espe Brown's Tassjara Bread Book is a good resource for figuring out what add-ins do what to bread.

(I apologize for not measuring when I bake)
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:22 PM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

I like Nigella Lawson's hot cross bun recipe. She uses cardamom, which is not usual but delicious. Also, the recipe at the link is missing salt -- add 1 tsp with the flour.
posted by apparently at 7:30 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I agree with blnkfrnk, as I do the same with any bread that calls for sweet yeast dough. Mine is a brioche dough that I add some orange zest to. But, as a baker, I will troubleshoot your specific issue:

>They always seem to have a cakey texture, and to be too dry.

These two features are an indication of a common mistake in baking yeast-raised breads: you add too much flour, and when you add too much flour, the dough seems to come together faster, so you do not knead it enough. Fluffy dough needs A LOT of gluten development, especially when enriched with butter/milk/eggs! So it: 1) rises and becomes fluffy as the structure now is strong enough to not be weighed down by the richness of the fat you added, and 2) it has that addictive stringy/fluffy quality that Japanese milk bread has. Do not use so much flour, knead the dough till it passes the windowpane test.

This is the closest recipe to mine by Dorie Greenspan. I find that I always knead the dough for more time than most recipes ask for.

Good luck!
posted by SkinsOfCoconut at 8:00 PM on April 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

We wanted a hot cross bun whose texture and pull-apartiness is akin to cinnamon rolls. That meant an overnight dough. The recipe by Alexandra Cooks works great — but I added so much more spice than the recipe. One heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg. Two heaping teaspoons of dried Meyer lemon rind. Enjoy!
posted by lemon_icing at 8:29 PM on April 11, 2020

These sourdough ones turned out really great, if that's your kink
posted by coriolisdave at 11:33 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cook's Country, from the reliable Cook's Illustrated people, has a hot cross bun recipe.
(That page isn't paywalled for me; let me know if it is for you.)
posted by jocelmeow at 7:30 AM on April 12, 2020

At two places where I baked professionally, we just used our brioche recipe or our challah recipe and then added the spices, raisins, etc. to it. Start with a good bread, like blnkfrnk said.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:34 AM on April 13, 2020

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