This Easter I decided to try my hand at baking hot cross buns, mostly because I noticed that this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini called for two ingredients I already had fermenting in my refrigerator, bread starter and creme fraiche. I combined these into a wet dough that greeted me in the morning with happy bubbles.
Traditional hot cross buns call for currents, which I knew my daughter wouldn't like (she diligently picks out all the raisons from her stollen slices), but I noticed this BBC Good Food recipe included diced apples and cinnamon, which are always a hit in our household, so I folded some into the dough in the morning.
Instead of icing, to give the buns a little sweetness I glazed them with apricot jam. We sampled one to determine that they tasted as nice as they smelled, and are saving the rest for Easter breakfast.
Hot Cross Buns
(adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, makes one dozen)
for the dough
120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) ripe 100% starter
340 grams (12 ounces) all-purpose flour [if you don't use a starter, use 400 grams (14 ounces)]
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast [if you don't use a starter, use 2 teaspoons]
175 ml (3/4 cup) milk, at room temperature [if you don't use a starter, use 225 ml (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)], plus a little for brushing
125 grams (1/2 cup) crème fraîche (or equal parts sour cream and heavy cream)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
for the apple filling
1/2 apple, cored and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
For the crosses:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons apricot jam
Day one: Prepare the dough for overnight fermentation.
In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, starter if using, yeast, milk, crème fraîche, and honey to form a shaggy mass, making sure all of the flour is incorporated. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Mix in the salt. Fold the dough for 4 minutes -- or set the stand mixer on low speed -- until the dough starts to get a little smoother.
3. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough, cover the bowl with a plate, and place in the fridge for 12 to 18 hours.
Day two: Divide and shape the buns for the second ferment, decorate, bake, and glaze.
4. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plate, and let rest for 30 minutes; it should have risen moderately, not quite doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
5. Core and dice the apple into small pieces and toss with the cinnamon and ground ginger.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface -- the dough will be fairly sticky, but if you work quickly while it is still cold from the fridge, you will be fine. Flatten it out, dump on the spiced apples, and fold the dough over itself. Fold it several more times until the apple pieces are incorporated. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 90 grams or 3 1/6 ounces each), and shape each piece into a squarish bun (the dough is a bit sticky, just do your best) and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space between them: you do want them to touch as they rise and bake.
7. Cover with a clean, floured towel and let rest for 2 1/2 hours, until they've risen to about 1.5 times their original size.
8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the buns lightly with milk (this will foster browning).
9. Prepare the flour paste for the crosses: in a small bowl, place the flour and water and whisk with a spoon until smooth; it should have a consistency a bit like face cream, spreadable but not too thick. Spoon this mixture into a small paper cone (a cornet) assembled from parchment paper as demonstrated here. Snip the tip of the cone to form a 3-mm (1/10-inch) opening and pipe the flour paste over the buns to form a cross.
10. Insert the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.
11. To prepare the glaze, heat the apricot jam carefully in the microwave, and add a tablespoon of water if it seems to thick. You can strain it if you like, or just avoid transferring apricot bits on your brush. Brush the buns with the glaze while they're still warm. Once cooled, hot cross buns should be split in two horizontally and toasted.