Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter! How was your Easter Mass this morning? This year Travis and I decided not to go- last year I was working, and our experience on Okinawa is that services on the big holidays- really just Christmas and Easter- are absolutely insanely packed. Why, hello sardines, nice to smell you. Having to get there an hour early for parking and an actual seat in the pews takes some of the divine magic out of the service for me. My nuns from college would probably slap my wrists with a ruler if they knew I skip the major holiday masses- sorry, Sister. Having been forced to work many holidays over the past few years, I have come to learn that sometimes a walk outside on a beautiful day can bring as much revelation as a well written homily. And I'm ok with that. God did make the world, after all, and why not honor the resurrection by being outside on a beautiful day like today! 

I decided not to slave in the kitchen ALL day and just do make an Easter dinner. Travis and I tried to beat the post-church crowd at our favorite O-club brunch (for which I had to make reservations 3 weeks in advance, I should have known) but alas, it was still as packed as the sanctuary would have been. We should have just had cereal and gone on a walk on the beach. I know for next year!

After a rushed brunch, we enjoyed the cool weather and sunshine for a while outside. The winter in Okinawa was very very mild, so we were dreading the early heat that was sure to come afterwards. Instead, it's been a slow, gradual warming, and has been quite pleasant. I opened all the patio doors and windows during my kitchen time this afternoon.

I will say that Easter is not traditionally my favorite holiday food-wise. I'm not a huge fan of ham, but turkey and stuffing for Easter feels like a Thanksgiving copy-cat. Honestly I've never even made a ham, but thought that this year I would give it a shot, since Travis loves it. Not wanting to be wasteful and buy a whole ham, I bought a quarter ham. It was not until I defrosted it and opened it up for baking that I realized.... it's already fully cooked!

Say whaaaaaat????

I found this very odd, but whatever, I'll roll with it. I was disappointed at first, but my spirits picked up when I realized I could still make my own glaze, which ended up being phenomenal. I promise to post it soon. Do not let me forget!

A recipe I have been wanting to try forever was hot cross buns. Do you remember the nursery rhyme from pre-school? They are traditionally served on Good Friday, however I was working that day and the two previous, so doing a yeast dough that required a couple risings was just not going to happen after 3 days of working 13 hour shifts.

It was definitely worth the invested time, however. Look how pretty! I based the recipe I used off of mostly one, but a few others I read mentioned to brush the baked buns with warmed honey for a shiny look. I did this to a couple, but found it too difficult to evenly spread the honey as it cooled quickly and just made the buns really sticky. The icing was plenty of pretty in my opinion.

Hot Cross Buns

Slightly adapted from The Joy of Baking
*recipe states it should make 12 buns... I got 10, but did not precisely weigh each dough ball.

For the Buns:
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 1/2 - 4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup currants

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon milk

In a small saucepan, or in the microwave, heat the milk until lukewarm. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy. Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter and egg and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on medium low speed, with the dough hook, gradually add the raisins and currants and continue to knead the dough until it is silky smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary, depending on the humidity level that day.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap  and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours).
When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with a nonstick cooking spray, and place lightly over the buns. Place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).
Preheat oven to 400ยบ. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash, and with kitchen shears, cut a 'cross' in the top of each bun. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Glaze: Combine the confectioners sugar and milk and mix until smooth. Place the glaze in a ziptop bag, cut the corner to make a piping bag, then pipe a cross into the cut cross on each bun.

They will keep for about a week in an airtight container.

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