Every year around Easter time, hot cross buns seem like one of those things you have to eat. Same thing with candy corn around Halloween, conversation hearts on Valentine’s Day, those neon green Shamrock Shakes around St. Patrick’s Day, etc. etc. To be honest, hot cross buns either seemed like a sickly sweet, fruitcake of a bun or cardboard-like and dry, neither of which I truly enjoyed but ate anyway just because it was Easter. Well, friends, my outlook on hot cross buns has been forever changed after making these.
You know the saying, “If you don’t like something, change it?” Well I decided to apply this to hot cross buns and make them better. Better than better, in fact. Fantastic. A simple Google search brought up a hot cross buns recipe from Food Network, but I wanted to put my own twist on them. I decided to use apricots, cranberries, and golden raisins instead of the typical currents to mix things up a bit. Digging through our spice cabinet, I found cardamom which I figured would pair nicely with the dried fruit.
After mixing up the dough, letting it rise twice, piping the cross on top, popping them in the oven, and finally finishing them with an apricot-cardamom glaze, I’d say these are certainly worth the long, but fun (I promise!) process. The slightly sweet, soft rolls are dotted with little gems of dried fruit, and are subtly scented with cardamom and cinnamon. Fruitcake or cardboard-like rolls be gone! These hot cross buns are perfect for Easter or any time of the year. Serve them with a pat of butter and jam and you have the perfect Lenten treat.
Cardamom Hot Cross Buns
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing bowl and pan
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped apricots
Milk, for glazing
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
For the glaze:
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Combine the milk and water in a small saucepan and heat until about 100 F, but no warmer than 110 F. Remove from heat and sprinkle the yeast evenly over the top of it, along with a pinch of flour and sugar. Set aside without stirring, until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Whisk the melted butter, egg yolk, and vanilla into the yeast mixture.
Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a thick, shaggy, slightly sticky dough forms. Stir in the cranberries, raisins, and apricots. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Lightly butter the inside of a large bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (I divided the dough into quarters and then divided each quarter into thirds, using a bench scraper to cut). Tuck the edges of the dough under to make round rolls and place them seam side down in the buttered pan, leaving a little space in between each bun. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour to an hour and a half.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.
After the rolls are done rising, remove the towel and with a butter knife, score a cross-shape in the top of each bun. Brush each bun with a little milk.
For the cross mixture, mix together the 1/2 cup flour and water in a small bowl until a thick paste forms. Transfer a pastry bag with a small, plain tip, or a ziplock bag with the tip of one of the corners snipped off. Pipe the flour paste into the cross-shaped cuts on the top of each bun.
Bake the buns until golden brown, about 25 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 190 F when inserted into the middle of a bun.
After removing the buns from the oven, in a small bowl mix the apricot preserves and cardamom with just enough boiling water to make it a syrupy consistency. Brush this mixture over the top of each bun.
Buns are best served warm with a pat of butter and jam, if desired.
Makes: 12 buns
*Recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchen