I have been eyeballing hot cross bun recipes for years. Every Easter I’d briefly consider baking them before settling on a “simpler” and “less time consuming” Easter bread. This year, seeing as time was not an issue, I was determined to give these a try, and I’m glad I did. They turned out to be a lot easier to make then I initially thought they would be, and I set an additional challenge for myself by using my wild yeast leaven in them instead of commercial yeast.
As seen with the English muffins that I baked a couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly bridging into baking enriched, shaped doughs that have been leavened with wild yeast. From what I’ve experienced so far, the key to these doughs seems to be extremely long rise times. Which make sense, as both enriched doughs and wild yeast leavened doughs take longer to rise then regular doughs. By enriched doughs, I’m referring to doughs with a higher fat content in them. Enriched doughs often have ingredients such as eggs, milk, and butter in them. These heavier, fattier ingredients slow the rise of the yeast and can result in a dough that is softer, stickier, and harder to work with. A higher sugar content is also characteristic of enriched doughs, giving the yeast that additional boost to override some of the heavier fats. When given tender, loving care and a sufficient rise time, enriched doughs can result in velvety rich, cloud-like, melt-in-your-mouth breads.
My Hot Cross Buns didn’t turn out as pretty and uniform as I would have wanted them to, but with some practice and a slight reduction in the amount of fruit incorporated, I think that they will get there. They did turn out wonderfully light, beautifully flavored, moist, and have a delightfully springy texture. I will definitely be making these again. This recipe was adapted from the hot cross bun recipe found in Hensperger’s The Bread Bible.
Recipe makes ~ 19 x 100g buns.
Day 1: make Leaven
- 1 tbsp Wild Yeast Starter
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 1 tbsp Honey
- Combine the above ingredients.
- Place in a covered container, and let it rise overnight at room temperature.
Note: If you have some commercial yeast on hand and don’t want to go through the process of developing a wild yeast starter, you can add a packet of dry active yeast or 2 1/4 tsp of dry active yeast in the place of the sourdough starter. Instead of letting the leaven develop over night, just set the dry active yeast sponge aside for about 10 minutes until it’s developed a nice layer of bubbles, then proceed do make the dough as instructed. Make sure that the water you use in your yeast sponge is warm, this will help activate your dry active yeast, but isn’t necessary for developing a leaven.
Day 2: make Dough
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Milk
- 8 tbsp (1 stick or 1/2 cup) Butter (melted)
- zest from 1 Lemon
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg
- 3 Eggs
- 1 tsp Salt
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups Bread Flour
- 1 tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
- 3/4 cup dried Currents
- 1/2 cup chopped dried Apricots
- Combine the leaven, egg, milk, lemon zest, nutmeg, vanilla, and butter.
- Gradually add in the flour, salt, and wheat gluten.
- Add in the dried fruit.
- Knead the dough until smooth and springy, this can be a bit challenging with the sweet enriched dough that’s very sticky. You can do this by machine or by hand. I started out with the machine and then switched to kneading the dough with my hands for the last few minutes of kneading.
- Place the dough in a greased container and cover.
- I usually let me dough rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator. The wild yeast takes a lot longer to rise then it’s commercial equivalent, and as you are going to have to let it rise again, for several hours, once it’s been shaped, I find it simpler to just let it go overnight. Less to worry about. If you don’t want to wait overnight, place it in a warm, draft free spot and wait for it to rise and double in size. If you chose to do it this way, warming your milk and ensuring that your egg is room temperature before use, will speed the process along slightly.
Day 3: Shape, Bake, and Glaze
- Divid your dough into 19 (~100g) pieces.
- Use the palm of your hand to shape the dough pieces into buns. Pinch in any visible dry fruit. This can be a little challenging with this delicate and sticky dough. I reduced the amount of fruit that I used in my original recipe for this reason, but it is well worth the effort of doing so, to avoid unpleasantly tough, burnt chunks of fruit.
- Place the shaped bun on parchment lined or greased baking sheets and cover them lightly with plastic wrap.
- Let the buns rise until doubled. This can take as long as 5-6 hours with the enriched dough leavened by wild yeast, so plan accordingly. I gave my rolls about 5 hours.
- Half way through the rising process, score the top of each bun with a small cross.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (~191 C).
- Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes. The enriched dough will brown quickly, so keep a watch on them.
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
- While the buns are baking, make a simple syrup out of the ingredients above by combining them together in a small sauce pan and bring them to a boil. Make sure that all of the sugar is dissolved.
- Right after you remove the buns from the oven, brush each bun in a generous amount of the simple syrup. You must do this while the buns and syrup are still hot to avoid sogginess. This will give your buns a lovely glimmering shine.
- 1 cup Powdered Sugar
- Juice from 1 – 2 Lemons
- Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice into a thick glaze.
- Place the glaze into a piping bag.
- Once the buns have cooled enough to not melt the lemon glaze, pipe a cross over each bun following the lines of the cross you scored onto the tops of each bun before baking.