Friday, January 23, 2009

Hot Cross Buns (Page 617)


  • Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+

When I was in fourth grade, and had just started playing the violin, my "strings" class would play the Hot Cross Buns song over and over and over again. Our teacher would sometimes sing along as we played: "Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns." That was the extent of my knowledge about these mythical Hot Cross Buns. So when I noticed, years ago, that there was a recipe for them in The Book, I was intrigued. But when I saw it required making a yeast risen dough, and a pastry dough, I was a little put off. Eventually this recipe appeared on my list generated by the random number generator. Yet, I still couldn't motivate to make them. So the recipe had been sitting on the list since May 20, 2007. These past few weeks I have been trying to cook more from said list, and slowly the 20 items on the list are becoming more and more undesirable to make. In comparison, the Hot Cross Buns started sounding like a piece of cake. So, a couple weeks ago, I finally made them! I put off this recipe for quite some time, but never because I thought it would be bad -- in fact, though, this recipe was quite disappointing.

I started by proofing yeast in warm milk and sugar. Then I sifted together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and more sugar. I added butter, carefully incorporating it with my fingers. Then I added some egg and the yeast mixture, then currants, golden raisins, orange zest, and lemon zest. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, then let it rise. In the meantime, I made a batch of pate brisee (aka pie crust) and put it in the fridge. After the dough had risen I formed it into balls, and let the balls rise again. Once they had doubled in size I brushed them with a mixture of egg and sugar. Then I rolled out the pastry dough, cut it into very thin strips, and used the strips to form a cross on each bun. I baked the buns until they were golden.

I have three complaints about this recipe:
1. Flavor
2. Texture
3. General Absurdity

Let's start with flavor. I was skeptical when I saw that this recipe called for one and a half teaspoons of allspice. Allspice is powerful stuff. You rarely see it appear in a recipe in a quantity greater than 1/4 teaspoon. One and half teaspoons? That's craziness. And indeed, these buns were like little allspice bombs in your mouth. I didn't like that.

A much bigger problem though was the texture. When I read "bun" I expected something fluffy and tender. These buns had a very dense texture. I think the dough was too dry perhaps, and it didn't rise well at all. The buns had hardly any oven-rise to them, and they came out as dense as a bagel -- definitely not the right texture for a sweet bun.

And finally, general absurdity. Pie crust on top of a bun? Keep in mind that my buns tasted like allspice bagels (which you will note is not a popular bagel flavor). So this recipe made allspice bagels with pie crust on top. Did the pie crust hurt anything? Well, no, not really. But it was so absurd! And it didn't contribute positively to the buns so it was extra work for no real reward.

I have faith that hot cross buns can be delicious. There are some delicious looking pictures online. But this recipe did not produce delicious results.

Here is the recipe.


Emilee said...

I just want to state for the record that hot cross buns are delicious, but nothing I've ever eaten called "hot cross buns" was anything like this description. So either everyone's been lying to me or ... you do the math.


PS. If you come to California for Easter (puhleeeeeeze) I promise to (ask my mom to) make hot cross buns.

Magdalen said...

Oh, I'm so bummed by this. I love hot cross buns, and will buy them even though I'm one of President Obama's non-believers and often forget when Easter is nigh. (Although I do enjoy Russell Stover's `Shmallow Bunnies . . .)

To be fair, though, I think of hot cross buns as sweet dough studded with dried fruit (the day-glow-colors kind) and topped with a thick cross of white frosting. What you're describing is not what my mouth is tasting. How disappointing.

Teena said...

Em -- I believe you that they can be delicious. I found some pictures online that look way more delicious than mine. But I followed the recipe exactly and this is what I ended up with!

Magdalen -- What you describe indeed does sound better than what I made! Perhaps I will give hot cross buns another try, with a different recipe!

Anonymous said...

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional English food and thus traditional English recipes are the best ones to follow. Try Delia Smith's recipe at,1419,RC.html
It's great BUT I like more fruit in my buns so I increased the amount. Also, don't use her recipe for the crosses on top. Get 50 g of plain flour and 25g of butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips till it looks like breadcrumbs then add just enough water to bind it. Roll out very thinly and cut into strips to lay onto the buns to make the crosses.

Anonymous said...

I use this recipe [ ] with some modifications due to personal taste.

I don't have a bread machine or a mixer. I don't measure spices, also omitting cloves and adding ginger. My most recent time making them they were slightly dry - I used 3c and it was still too much. I also leave out the raisins and citron, just cause I don't like em.

Next year I will try a bit more sugar, maybe brown instead of white, since I'm omitting raisins.

Teena said...

Thanks for the suggestions!

Anonymous said...

Sorry these weren't a success for you. I notice you mention use of allspice. I believe the delia recipe uses what we brits call and buy as 'mixed spice'.
It is very different. Mixed spice is, as the name suggests, a mixture of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc. so it is not at all hot. It is readily available in the UK but I'm not sure about in other countries.
Also, the pastry on the top should be REALLY thin - it is only to represent the cross. Many people, including me, simply use a flour/water paste applied from a piping bag.