April 08, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Spring has spring around our house, and even though it is still pretty darn cold at 5am when I rise, the sun soon spreads across the street to enlighten our neighbor's amazing green victorian and the pretty garden that surrounds it. It is one of my many pleasures that I enjoy in the few quiet moments (it seems) before Lucia awakens and the house becomes swathed in the sound of cartoons and eight year old hubub. Lucia and I spent the last week together,going to the TCHO chocolate factory for a tour and tasting, traveling down the coast to Harley Goat Farms to meet the goats, which by the way, are very much like dogs, rubbing against us and staring into our eyes dreamily as we scratch behind their ears. Pretty darn sweet little beings. Bonus that their milk makes one of my very favorite cheeses! This one The Monet, made with edible flowers also from the farm, Lucia and the other kids on the tour actually got to make.....super cool and yummy!
This year with our regular attendance at Church Without Walls, I have been more reflective in the history of the season, and was inspired to mark the week in a traditional way. Easter Sunday, we go to a big joined service with another local church and then continue the celebration with a potluck brunch afterward, egg hunt et all. So, not only did I make Hot Cross Buns for our little family to enjoy this Easter morning, but 40 more to share at brunch. Hot Cross Buns, it seems, first appeared in pre-Christian times when the Saxons baked them to honor the goddess Eostre (the root of Easter), marking the cross to symbolize the quarters of the moon. In later times, when Christianity was in full bloom, Hot Cross Buns are eaten hot or toasted with the cross standing to symbolize the crucifixion of Christ. According to Elisabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the making and consuming of the buns to be a dangerous hold over of the Catholic belief, baking the dough with holy communion water. The government in England tried to ban the making and sale of the buns, but they had become so popular that Elisabeth I instead made a law to allow production and sale of Hot Cross Buns, only at the Christmas and Easter holiday. This was my first time making Hot Cross Buns, and as I always do, I researched recipes and history to the enth degree. First it was Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, but though I love most of her writings, this one, using dry milk, did not seem right. Then I looked at Elise's recipe on her lovely site, Simply Recipes and this was closer to what I envisioned....but I did adapt the recipe pretty substantially to my own taste. In the end, I wrote a hybrid from numerous versions, and I am pretty happy with the result. I hope that you will be too. Citrus Hot Cross Buns 4 cups all-purpose flour 2 packages active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons each) 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/8 tsp ginger zest of one tangerine 3/4 cup milk 1/4 cup Straus butter, melted, 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, finely granulated 3 eggs 1/3 cup dried apricots 1/3 cup dried cranberries 1 slightly beaten egg white 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar zest of one tangerine Juice of three tangerines In a mixer bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt, and heat to 120° F. Add to dry ingredients along with eggs, and beat at low speed until combined. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, then add dried fruit and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise 1 hour, or til doubled.
Punch dough down; divide into 18 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball; place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise till double (30-45 minutes).
Brush rolls with egg white, then bake in a preheated 375° oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack. Combine the confectioners sugar, tangerine zest and tangerine juice. Put into a ziplock bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner. Pipe a cross onto each roll, making sure each roll is COMPLETELY cool or the icing will run. Let the icing harden.
Makes 18 rolls