Hot Cross Buns

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Happy Easter, guys!

My weekend = working, studying, training for my first half marathon, and doing some wedding planning stuff for my brother. It’s pretty low key/casual, which is good, since everything I know about weddings come from Pinterest.

He mentioned wanting hipster wedding favours for the guests (I’m not sure if he was serious), but why the heck not. I’m imagining things with mason jars and succulents and Chemex coffee maker vases. (Kidding). Earnest ice cream pints with little wooden spoons would be really cute, right?

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What I won’t so readily admit is that much of my excitement behind their wedding lies in the minute detail that I will be making their wedding cake. I’ve started a board on Pinterest for ideas. It’s official. Apparently, my sister-in-law likes green tea, but in general doesn’t have a sweet tooth. And I know that my brother wants something with apple-cinnamon, which is very fall-appropriate, but I haven’t quite figured out how to make that combination work aesthetically. Cinnamon-apple (reddish brown) plus green matcha green? Maybe if I make it look like a tree……………. (uhm).

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I’m also not entirely sure how to do an accurate trial run without making the entire cake, because I want to test the stability of the cake and how long the layers can last without drying out, which is an important factor to consider since it’s going to be naked. I also want to do a huge floral arrangement as decoration on the cake, and my quick Google search shows people seemingly arranging flowers on cakes willy-nilly (well, they do use those plastic picks), but the petals are still touching the cake surface, which I’m concerned about. Another method is that they do a huge blob of frosting, and stick flowers into the blob, and then remove the blob later. I might do that just because blob sounds funny.

Or, I’d just line the top with parchment paper, which the flowers would rest against, wrap the stems in tape, stick them into flower picks for good measure, then jab them into the cake.

My cousin got married last month, and I asked her rather excitedly what her wedding cake would look like (before asking about her dress), and she told me that the cake would be fake, with only the top layer being real. To which I responded with horror, and she asked me what she was supposed to do with such a huge cake. I told her how some couples freeze the top layer and eat it for their first year anniversary, to which she stared back at me in horror.

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These hot cross buns are from non other than Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery Cookbook. I’ve made his maracons before with success, because the Italian method is actually a lot more forgiving.

He uses a brioche dough, with dried currants and cranberries (how fancy) and uses a cinnamon-cardamom icing sugar for the crosses (also very fancy). The dried fruits are folded into the dough, then allowed to ferment overnight, and are baked fresh the next morning.

Besides my KitchenAid mixer breaking down on me (sob) after I subjected it to mixing my dough for thirty minutes, which resulted in me having to hand knead in the butter (new appreciation for bread makers in the past), this recipe is definitely doable.

Although now, by the time that I’ve posted it, no one may want to eat hot cross buns until next Easter.

Although really, why should there be a rule about when you are able to eat hot cross buns?

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: 12 buns
  • Time: 45 minutes active time, plus 3 hours or overnight rise
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

From Bouchon Bakery, or also here.
YOU’LL NEED

For the brioche dough 

  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (372 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/8 teaspoons (8 grams) instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (44 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons (186 grams) eggs
  • 1/4 cup (63 grams) whole milk
  • 5.8 ounces (167 grams) unsalted butter cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup (122 grams) dried currants
  • 1/2 cup (61 grams) dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) vanilla paste

For the egg wash

  • 1 egg, beaten

For the icing

  • 2 1/4 cups (258 grams) powdered sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon (1 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 3/8 teaspoon (1 grams) ground cardamom
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (40 grams) whole milk

METHOD

For the dough: 

To mix the dough, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Continue to mix on low speed for 30 minutes. (At this point there will be some dough sticking to the sides of the bowl.) Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Continue to mix for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the currants and cranberries in a medium bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Let sit for 5 minutes to plump the fruit, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Dry the bowl, return the fruit to it, and toss with the vanilla paste. Set aside.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Run a bowl scraper around the sides and down to the bottom of the bowl of brioche dough to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, adding flour only as needed to keep it from sticking.

With your hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape. Pour the currant-cranberry mixture onto the dough and knead it into the dough (which will be sticky) to distribute it evenly. Pat the dough into a rectangle again.

Stretch the left side of the dough out and fold it over two-thirds of the dough, then stretch and fold it from the right side to the opposite side, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the bottom and then the top. Turn the dough over, lift it up with a bench scraper, and place it seam side down in the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let the dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Repeat the stretching and folding process, then return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover, and let sit for another 45 minutes.

Spray the quarter sheet pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.

Use the bowl scraper to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (78 grams each). Cup your fingers around a portion of dough and, using the palm of your hand, roll it against the work surface to form a ball. Continue to roll until the dough is completely smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough. (When you become proficient at rolling with one hand, you can use both hands and roll 2 portions at a time.) Set the balls on the prepared pan in 3 rows of 4. Brush the tops with egg wash.

Cover the pan with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and let proof for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the balls have risen and are touching. Alternatively, you can let the dough proof overnight, then bring them back to room temperature the next morning, and give it 45 more minutes to rise.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (convection) or 350°F (standard).

Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash again. Bake for 17 to 22 minutes in a convection oven, 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until the tops are a rich golden brown and, when tested with a toothpick, the centers are baked through. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely. (If freezing, do not ice the buns at this point.)

For the icing: 

Sift the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to distribute the spices evenly. With the mixer running, slowly add the milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, increase the speed to low, and mix for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until smooth.

Transfer the icing to the pastry bag. Cut off 1/4 inch of the tip. Starting at the left side of the top corner bun, pipe a continuous strip of icing across the center of the first row of 3 buns. Repeat with the remaining 3 rows. Then repeat in the opposite direction, across the 3 rows of 4 buns, working in the opposite direction, to create a cross of frosting on each bun. Serve the whole pan, or cut into individual buns.

The buns are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored, before icing, wrapped tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap or in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week (see note on defrosting frozen baked brioche pastries).

* Note on freezing unbaked brioche pastries: Unbaked brioche pastries can be frozen after they are formed, but before they are proofed, wrapped in a few layers of plastic wrap, for up to 1 week. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and proof the dough as directed, keeping in mind that the proofing may take up to 5 hours.

* Note on defrosting frozen baked brioche pastries: Defrost, still in the plastic wrap or in the container, in the refrigerator. Leaving the pastries wrapped or in the container means any condensation will form on the outside, not on the pastries. Place on a sheet pan and refresh in a 325°F oven (standard) for about 5 minutes.

Notes

  • I wrote down the recipe here as it is written, because why mess with greatness.
  • However, I did change the recipe by using 1 cup of dried cranberries, and cutting down the icing recipe by half and whisking the ingredients together by hand, because I didn’t want tons of extra icing.
  • Also, I found my buns to not rise as much as I’d like them to after I did the overnight thing, even though I set them out afterwards for six hours… (maybe my kitchen is cold?), so I’d try to make them straight through next time.

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