Hot Cross Buns

April 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Posted in sweet things, sweet yeast breads | 6 Comments
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hot cross buns

Every year I think about making Hot Cross Buns for Easter (or Good Friday, I guess), but I never get to it.  Well, finally, this is my year!  And let me tell you that eating one of these sweet, spiced buns freshly homemade is a real treat.  I made these with currants and candied orange peel, although you could use raisins or craisins or whatever dried fruit and zest you choose. If you are British or Australian, you may not like what I’ve done on top here.  A “traditional” English hot cross bun has a cross made not of icing (like mine), but of a flour and water paste that is baked on.  But what can I say– I’m American and I like my icing!!

You’ll see that this recipe begins with preparing a sponge starter.  It is really easy…there’s nothing to it but a little added resting time.  The sponge lets the yeast get some extra fermentation, which is better for flavor and makes for nice soft buns. The rest of the dough is a snap to put together in a stand mixer.  These aren’t so complicated to make, even if, like me, you don’t do a whole lot of bread baking at home…the hardest part is waiting for them to cool completely.  You bet I devoured this guy with a little salty butter  just as soon as he was cool enough to “cross”!

hot cross buns

Hot Cross Buns– makes 12
adapted (quite a bit) from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman

Steph’s Note:  There’s no real need to soak your currants or orange peel unless they are very dry.  If that’s the case, I’d put them in a small bowl with a couple teaspoons of orange juice or Grand Mariner and microwave for ten seconds (cool before using).

for the sponge
38 g AP flour
190 g milk, about 85°F
9 g sugar
7.4 g (2 1/4 t) instant yeast

for the final dough
340 g AP flour
60 g butter, softened
57 g sugar
1 egg
3 g salt
2 g ground allspice
2 g ground cinnamon
110 g dried currants
40 g candied orange peel, finely chopped

for the icing (amounts are approximate)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
4 teaspoons milk

-For the sponge, combine the milk and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk in the flour and sugar. The mixture will be very loose. Cover and let rest until it is about 3 times its original volume,  30-40 minutes.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix final dough flour and softened butter until the butter is evenly distributed through the flour.

-Add egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Continue to mix until combined. The mixture will be quite dry at this point.

-Switch to the mixer’s dough hook. Add the sponge and mix on low speed. Mix until well combined, about 3 minutes.

-Up the mixer to medium speed, and mix about 8 minutes.  You can occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed. The dough will start to leave the sides and come together around the dough hook, and the gluten should have reached a medium level of development.

-Add the currants and orange peel and mix on low speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.

-Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, covered container. Ferment in a warm place for one hour, giving it a fold (kind of like a letter) after 30 minutes.

-Turn the dough onto an unfloured counter and divide it into 12 pieces (about 70-75 g each).

-Form each piece into a ball. To tighten the ball, place it on the counter with your cupped hand loosely around it, and move your hand in a tight circle several times.

-Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a 1/4 sheet tray…they did not touch when I arranged them on the tray, but as they proofed, they expanded to gently touch.)

-Cover and proof in a warm place for about an hour.

-Preheat the oven to 400°F . Bake the buns on the parchment-lined sheet at 400°F until the tops are browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until browned all over, about another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

-When the buns are completely cool, whisk together the icing ingredients.  You can add extra confectioners’ sugar or milk as needed to make a thick, but pipeable paste.  Put it in a piping bag with a medium-small round tip and pipe it in a cross over the buns.  They are best when eaten fresh (although I did freeze a few for the weekend).

TWD Rewind: Raisin Swirl Bread

January 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 5 Comments
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raisin swirl bread

Bread is definitely my favorite food group.  I’m not sure why, then, I skipped Raisin Swirl Bread when Susan picked it for TWD over the summer.  Maybe I was away…maybe it was too hot out for bread baking…I can’t remember.  Anyway, now is prefect bread baking weather, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Also, I wanted to brush up on my yeast skills before we get going on the white loaves from Baking with Julia in a couple of weeks.

This is just a straight-forward dough technique (no sponge or starter) with a couple of proofs.  I used my mixer for it, so I didn’t even break a sweat.  Scented with a little orange zest and of course a cinnamon-raisin swirl, it smelled really good baking.  I was so proud of myself for waiting until the bread had cooled completely before cutting into it.  I was even more proud of its perfect texture and beautifully hypnotic swirl.  There was a time when I would have skipped the raisins altogether and this would just have been a cinnamon swirl bread, but raisins and I have gradually made peace over the last couple of years.  We’re good now…I’m glad I gave them a second chance.

This makes fabulous toast (with a little salty butter, of course)!  I could probably have downed the whole loaf that way, but I tried it out as French toast, too.  Good stuff.  Really, I can’t wait to make this again.  For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Food Baby, as it was Susan’s pick from back in June.

P.S.:  If you don’t already have it, don’t forget to enter my Baking with Julia BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Golden Brioche Loaves

August 23, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 10 Comments
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golden brioche loaf
When I first saw that we’d be making Golden Brioche Loaves this week, I thought, “Haven’t we made this one already?”  Well, yes and no.  We’ve made brioche on a few occasions, but always for an end result other than a simple loaf.  Jules pointed out that last week, King Arthur wrote a post on brioche made in a 9″x4″ pullman pan.  Go figure, I have that same pan at home!  Doing a little back-of-the-envelope math, I geusstimated that 2/3 of Dorie’s full recipe would make enough dough to fill one 9″x4″ pullman to the lid.  I had to add about 10-15 minutes to Dorie’s baking time, but I had a gorgeous (and golden) square-cornered loaf.

I bet some people find brioche to be intimidating, but to me it’s one of the easier yeast breads to make.  The dough is soft and supple, and comes together easily by machine.  Also, great brioche bakes up nicely in a home oven, unlike, say, a great baguette, whose perfectly shattering crust seems to elude me at home.  And the dough freezes well, so you can have fresh brioche buns in a snap.

This recipe really does produce a delightful loaf.  I can’t lie, though…the fact that I made a single loaf of bread that contains two entire sticks of butter is somewhat horrifying to me!  Nevertheless, I enjoyed a fat slice with homemade apricot jam (made identically to this plum jam), and, you guessed it, more butter (I have a weakness for fancy French salted butters on my toast and bread).

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan or read Tea and Scones, as it was Margie’s pick this week.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

P.S.:  I got a new camera…what do you think?

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brioche Plum Tart

July 14, 2009 at 1:35 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 37 Comments

brioche plum tart

I’ve been itching to make a tart with the gorgeous summer fruits that are popping up at the Greenmarket.  Thanks to TWD and Denise of Chez Us, I got the push I needed this week…albeit in a slightly different direction.  Rather than a pastry dough, the tart shell here is made from brioche.  It’s pressed into a ring and topped with jam, fruit and nuts.  Juice from the jam and fruit seeps into the brioche while it bakes.  The end result is a really classy tart that temporarily turned my teensy-weensy Manhattan kitchen into a European bakery!  By the way, this particular brioche recipe is the easiest I’ve ever made.  The butter is melted, and all the ingredients are basically chucked into a bowl at once and mixed.  (I’m thinking cinnamon rolls may need to start making more frequent appearances at my breakfast table!)

Although Dorie intends this tart to be a breakfast or tea-time treat, due to my work schedule this week, we enjoyed ours for dessert.  As you can see from the picture, I made a couple of indiviual tarts so I wouldn’t have soggy leftovers.  One night I used some little purple plums, hardly bigger than golf balls.  They softened up quickly in the oven, which is good because the brioche browned awfully fast!  The next night, I pressed out a couple more shells and used sweet cherries instead.  With a little vanilla whipped cream, both were good, but I think I liked the cherry tarts better…next time, I should give it a go with apricots and a bit of my homemade jam!

The recipe, of course, is in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and is also on Chez Us.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll and Denise’s post over at Chez Us!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Kugelhopf (or Kugel-loaf??)

November 11, 2008 at 2:59 am | Posted in groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 47 Comments


Yolanda, The All-Purpose Girl, chose Kugelhopf for TWD this week.  Kugelhopf is made from a yeast dough, and I don’t have my KitchenAid– ack!  In the absence of a dough hook, I knew I’d have to make a wooden spoon do the trick…something I was not looking forward to, trust me.  Turns out, it was pretty easily do-able by hand, especially since I made half a recipe.  Barely even broke a sweat.  The kitchen in this place is pretty warm, so the dough rose nicley without me having to stress too much about what was (or wasn’t) going on inside the bowl.

Kugelhopf is traditionally baked in a special turban-shaped tube pan.  I actually looked in several shops for a kugelhopf pan that would hold a half recipe, but I couldn’t find the right size…everything was too big.  I decided that the half-sized loaf pan I already own would make a fine substitute.  


Dorie says that kugelhopf is “part bread, part cake.”  That may be true, but I definitely think that bread is the dominant gene here.  Soft, sweet bread, with a beautiful golden sugary crust.  I used dried cherries instead of raisins in mine.  A little pat of butter, a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and yum-yum.

The recipe, of course, is in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  You can also find it here and in Yolanda’s post.  Check out the TWD Blogroll to see what the rest of the group had to say!

Daring Bakers in June: Danish Braid

June 29, 2008 at 5:48 am | Posted in breakfast things, daring bakers, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads | 70 Comments

danish braid 

This month, the Daring Bakers tried our hands at making a laminated dough.  Hosts Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? chose a recipe for a Danish braid from Sherry Yard’s book The Secrets of BakingWhile I can’t say that I ever feel the urge to have a Danish, I do appreciate tasty homemade breakfast treats, so I was looking forward to this challenge.

Like its sisters, puff pastry and croissant, a Danish is made from a butter-laminated, or layered, dough.  This means a block of butter is encased in dough and repeatedly rolled and folded to create layers.  Danish dough is sweet and contains a bit of yeast to help it rise (it also makes it a bit more bready than puff or croissant).  While this type of dough may initially seem intimidating, it’s not hard to make in small quantities, and Danish dough is a good introduction to the laminating process.

danish braid

The dough is flavored with cardamom, vanilla and orange.  While the cardamom and vanilla were must-have flavors for me, I found the orange to be a bit too pronouned.  If I made it again, I’d probably leave out the zest and use only the orange juice.  We were allowed to choose our own filling, and I made mine with a center of sweetened quark cheese and cherries. It was great, but I was worried about having a runny filling so I was a little skimpy with the cherries. I wish I’d been a bit more liberal with them.  Just about all sweet breakfast pastries should have an icing sugar glaze in my opinion, so I was liberal with that!

danish braid

The full recipe provided by Kelly and Ben made two braids.  I didn’t need that much, so I halved it to make just one.  It was beautiful, and big enough for six quite healthy portions.  And braiding dough is way easier than braiding hair, let me tell you.  If I’d thought about it enough, maybe I would have made a smaller braid and saved aside some dough for other fun shapes like pinwheels…another time.

If you’d like to test your laminating and braiding skills, you can find the recipe in Kelly’s post or Ben’s post.   And no need to worry if, even after you look at the zillions of braids on the DB Blogroll, you still feel nervous about trying it yourself.   Kelly and Ben also pointed out a great video clip from Julia Child’s Baking with Julia series on PBS.  This clip demos a different recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas, but the technique is very similar.  

 DB whisk

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

May 27, 2008 at 4:47 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 52 Comments

pecan honey sticky buns

Oh yeah–pecans and brioche laquered in brown sugar and honey goo.  Does it get any better than that?  I think not.

Madam Chow of Madam Chow’s Kitchen chose Dorie’s Pecan Honey Sticky Buns for this week’s TWD, but I actually made these awhile ago (luckily I had the forethought to take a few pictures).  These sticky buns share the same brioche base as the Brioche Raisin Snails the group made back in March.  I had a little extra dough from those snails and I turned it into these sticky buns the following week.

I only made two buns, but they were probably double the size of Dorie’s.  I don’t always think that bigger is better, but with sticky buns, I sure do!  Since I was so drastically scaling down the recipe, I just eyeballed the ingredients for both the filling and the glaze.  I added some chopped toasted pecans to the cinnamony-sweet swirl inside the buns as well.

pecan honey sticky buns

With a big cup of black coffee, these are a delicious (if not quite nutritious) breakfast!  You can find the recipe here on Madam Chow’s Kitchen or in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Brioche Raisin Snails

March 18, 2008 at 2:48 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 32 Comments

brioche snails

Ah yes, it’s that day of the week again, and Peabody has chosen Dorie’s Brioche Raisin Snails as the recipe for this round of TWD.  I imagine this would be an ideal breakfast treat, but R & I moved faster than a speeding snail and ate them for dessert just a few hours after I made them. 

Actually this recipe is a few recipes in one, beginning with brioche dough.  It’s not hard to make (especially if you have a stand mixer to do the dirty-work for you), but requires a some time and patience, as it needs to spend a night in the fridge before it’s ready to shape.  I strayed from Dorie’s advice in her opener for Golden Brioche Loaves (which is the base for the snails) and did half a recipe…it came out just fine.  Once the brioche dough has had its beauty sleep, it’s rolled out and smeared with pastry cream (I don’t think I’ve ever baked pastry cream before!) and rum-flamed raisins.  I said last time that I am not a raisin fan, so here I used dried cherries in lieu, as I knew they’d be nice with the rum.  Then it gets rolled up and sliced into rounds– hence the whole “snail” thing.

brioche snails 

Like I said, we ate these the day they were made, and they were really nice…soft and slightly boozy.  Of course I glazed them, which Dorie says is optional (but in my books is mandatory).  I only turned a portion of my dough into snails…I froze the rest as Pecan Honey Sticky Buns for another time.  Yum!

You can find the recipe on Peabody’s site (her version includes a few yummy-looking modifications to the original) or in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  And head over to the Tuesdays with Dorie space to see all the other snails crawling around the blogosphere.

P.S.: I’ll be on vacation by the time you see this.  I’m not sure about the internet situation, as I’ll be a tourist in lands unknown to me…so if I can’t comment on your posts for a few weeks, please forgive me!

Daring Bakers in September: Cinnamon and Sticky Buns

September 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm | Posted in breakfast things, daring bakers, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads | 56 Comments

cinnamon buns

What smells better than bread, cinnamon and sugar baking in the oven?  Not a whole lot, really.  And that’s why I was so pumped to see that Daring Baker Marce, aka Pip in the City, chose cinnamon/sticky buns for the September DB challenge!   She went with a recipe, which you can see here, from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The recipe gives instructions for making a cinnamon-swirled dough that can be customized into either basic cinnamon buns with a white fondant glaze or sticky buns with a caramel/nut topping.

sticky buns

We could pick either variation (cinnamon or sticky), but why make one when you can make both?  I thought they would be a great weekend breakfast, but I didn’t want to wake up at 4:00 AM on Saturday to start the long dough making and proofing process.  The recipe says that unbaked, formed buns can be retarded for up to two days in the refrigerator, and since I’ve successfully employed this method with other types of bread dough, I thought I’d make this my plan of attack.

On Friday evening, I made the dough (using mostly AP flour combined with about 1/2 cup of bread flour) and gave it it’s first rise.  The dough really a cinch to make, and once risen, was beautifully silky smooth and easy to roll up with cinnamon sugar and form into large buns.  Half of my rolls were put, just as they were, into a baking dish for cinnamon buns.  The other half were put into a separate dish slathered with a sugar, butter and pecan mixture that would bake up into a gooey sticky bun topping.  (In other words, I prepared the recipe through Step 4 of the instructions.)  Then they both when into the refrigerator for a good night’s rest.

On Saturday morning I pulled out the cinnamon buns to come to room temperature and proof for a couple hours before baking.  On Sunday morning I did the same thing with the unbaked sticky buns.  I admit that I did get up early both days to do this!

cinnamon buns-- insides

The baked and slightly cooled cinnamon buns got a healthy drizzle of powdered sugar and milk glaze, flavored with a vanilla.  The warm sticky buns were turned out to reveal a buttery caramel topping.  Both variations were great with a cup of coffee, but which were better?  I’d say the sticky buns.  The cinnamon rolls were a bit dry inside, but with the sticky buns, the topping oozed into the dough, eliminating any dryness problem there.

sticky buns-- insides

I don’t make this kind of thing often (my real buns don’t need this kind of breakfast every week), but when I do, I normally make a sort of hybrid variation of the two…I make a cinnamon swirl using brown sugar instead of granulated and add chopped nuts to it.  The brown sugar makes the cinnamon buns bake up caramely and gooey on the inside.  Then the baked buns are frosted with a heaping amount of glaze.  I’d like to retry Reinhart’s dough recipe using that filling.

Thanks for a great challenge Marce, and if you want to see some more hot buns, be sure to visit the ever-expanding Daring Bakers’ Blogroll!

DB whisk

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