27 March, 2013

One A Penny, Two a Penny....

One of the biggest challenges I face these days is finding traditional recipes for old fashioned foods that I've loved for decades.  Irish soda bread, babka, schnitzel (German style)....the list is quite long.  For quite a few of these things I can defer to family but there are times when even their recipes will turn out to have been something that has evolved rather than remained authentic to its roots.

For hot cross buns...if you waste your time Googling that, you are going to find a ton of recipes that may or may not be traditional English hot cross buns.  One of the FIRST ways you can tell it is crapola in a pan is when you see what the "cross" piping material is made out of.  If it is sugary instead of something made out of flour, you my friend have just found a modernized recipe of poo.  It is amazing to me just how many recipes you'll find these days that USED to be slightly healthy (even though they were considered "treats" by people like my great grandmother) and are now heavily laden with sugar and all sorts of fillers that weren't there when the recipe was conceived.  Boo...  But that is part of my passion...keepin' it real, keepin' it as healthy as possible and keepin' it dairy free (if I can) in the kitchen.  

SO!  Hot Cross Buns....the history of these beauts are kinda mixed and so are the superstitions behind sharing them and making them.  It would seem that, for Christians, they are traditionally baked and served between Lent and Good Friday but....if you dig deeper there are some that say this wasn't a Christian tradition to begin with.  It was introduced by the Saxons to honor the Goddess Eostre and symbolized the 4 quarters of the moon.  It is widely believed that the name of the holiday "Easter" was even evolved from Eostre's name.  Seems legit, but because I didn't live back then, it is hard to say what the truth really is.  But, what I CAN give you is a recipe for hot cross buns that will knock your socks off!!

Something I didn't know until I made these was how DENSE traditional hot cross buns are.  Store bought, commercialized buns give you a light & airy texture and usually feature the icing crosses over the top.  This recipe yields 1 dozen VERY flavorful, but dense hot cross buns.  You've been warned!  I tried THREE different recipes and they all turned out fairly dense.  The recipe below gave me the lightest buns.

Hot Cross Buns
1/2 c. + 1 T. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. rapid rise/quick rise yeast (1 packet)
1/4 c. warm water
3 1/2 c flour
2 tsp. mixed spice
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
3/4 c. warm soy milk
1/4 vegan buttery spread, melted
1 egg + 1 yolk, beaten
1/2 c. currants OR raisins
1/4 c. chopped mixed peel (candied orange and lemon)
oil for greasing

Shortcrust Pastry
3/4 c. flour
1 3/4 oz. oil
4 1/4 oz. water  

2 T. sugar
2 T. water
4 T. of Lyle's Golden Syrup 

The very first thing you should do is proof your yeast.  After trying this recipe THREE times, I wasn't sure what was causing the dense, heavy buns.  So, put the 1/4 c. of warm water, 1 T. of sugar and 1 packet of yeast in a bowl, stir it up and let it sit for 10 minutes.  When it bubbles and froths...you have some live yeast.  Yay!

Next, sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in the remaining sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and make a well in the middle. Mix the milk and egg together well, then slowly, little bits at a time, add in the melted butter while stirring.  Add to mixing bowl along with the currants and mixed peel. Mix to a soft dough.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, then shape into a round.  Put into an oiled large bowl, cover with oiled cling film, and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1 1⁄2 hours or until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough with your fists, then turn on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape into round rolls. (The way I ensure even sized rolls is to cut the dough ball in half, then each half in half once more.  Then each of the quarters gets cut into three equal slices.  It ends up looking like I sliced up a pie, but you just work the dough into balls and VOILA!)

Lightly grease or oil a 9 x 13 baking pan and arrange the buns in the pan.  (I also lined the bottom only with parchment paper, just ot be safe.  I've never made these before....)

Then cover with a kitchen towel and put in a draft free place to rise...OR, do what I do...  Heat your oven to 200 F then TURN IT OFF and let your dough rise in the oven with the door shut. 

Leave to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.  (Mine actually took 3 hours to "double" in size.  THREE HOURS!!)

Mix together the shortcut pastry ingredients and pipe them over the top centers of each bun.  Use a ziploc with the corner snipped off if you don't have a pastry bag with a tip.  Don't worry about using a shaped tip, the pastry is SO gooey that it won't hold the tip shape anyhow.

 Hot Cross Buns with Currants, crossed & ready to bake

Hot Cross Buns with Raisins, crossed & ready to bake
Bake the buns in a preheated oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack, brush with the glaze or syrup, and serve warm or cold.

Hot Cross Buns with Raisins, baked & glazed

Hot Cross Buns with Currants, baked & glazed

As I stated earlier, these are some DENSE buns.  But the flavor really is remarkable.  The Sprout looked at them, smelled them and said "French Toast bread??"  Might as well be!  You taste everything in there; the lemon peel, the orange peel, the cinnamon, the nutmeg....I found myself partial to the buns that had the currants.  The bitter with the sweet really rounded things out nicely.

These aren't the prettiest buns at the party but, I don't think they were meant to be.  They ARE, however, a wonderfully sweet and moist addition to your Easter celebration!  Try them out this year for your holiday feast and let me know what you think!  I wish you all a blessed and joyful Easter celebration!   

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