An orange butter sugar glaze and icing. Mulberries, cranberries, sultanas, raisins and in place of citrus peel, sugar frosted tangerines. Hot Cross Buns are cute looking and for a long time that was as much as interested me. I had eaten them since I was little and they were never good. We bought them around Good Friday and if we forgot to buy them that year, no one fretted. The only fun bit about those store bought buns was being able to peel off the flour-paste ‘X’ on it. The nasty bit was the citrus peel. They tasted so artificial I picked every one of them out before I would eat the bun.

For nostalgia sake, I am including the recipe and instructions on how to make flour-paste ‘X’ but I much prefer the much tastier Orange Butter Icing. Make yourself some coffee. Get yourself a hot cross bun. Slice it in half and wedge a slab of butter.  Don’t count your calories. Put bun to lips and enjoy.

Hot Cross Buns

Prep: ~45 minutes
Cook: ~10 – 12 minutes
Inactive: Mixed dried fruits can be soaked overnight.
First rise ~2 hours
Second rise ~45 – 60 minutes
Last rise 25 – 30 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Makes: ~ 15 buns
Oven Temperature: 380F (190C) Oven rack adjusted to middle shelf
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Keeps tightly covered and refrigerated up to 3 days 

Ingredients

1 cup = 250ml=8.45 US fl oz

Dried Fruits
~1/2 – 1 cup (4.93oz)(140g) your choice of mixed dried fruits*
5 Tablespoons Sugar Frosted Tangerines** OR 4 Tablespoons mixed citrus peel**
~1/8 – 1/4 cup orange juice OR rum/brandy
Dry ingredients
4 cups (17.91oz)(508g) bread flour
1 Tablespoon vital wheat gluten***
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cloves (optional) OR substitute cinnamon and cloves with 1/2 teaspoon of ready-mixed spice powder (optional)*
2 and 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup (4.05oz)(115g) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients
2 Tablespoons (1oz)( 28.34g) unsalted butter
~ 1 and 1/2 cups (375 ml) milk
1 egg (1/4 cup)
Other
Butter for buttering hands when shaping dough
Flour for tossing drained dried fruits
Orange Butter Sugar Glaze
4 Tablespoons (2 oz)(56.6g) unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons orange juice (that has been strained of pulp)
4 Tablespoons (2 oz)(56.6g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon citric acid**
 ‘Flour-water paste cross’
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons (3oz) (75g) bread flour
1/2 cup water
Pinch of salt
OR
‘Orange Butter Icing cross’
5 Tablespoons Orange Butter Sugar Glaze (recipe above)
16 Tablespoons icing sugar
1/8 teaspoon citric acid**
* The more fruits you use, the more challenging it would be to work it into the dough. Hot Cross Buns featured has flame raisins, mulberries, cranberries and Sugar Frosted Tangerine. Other options to try: soursop, ginger, sugared coconut strips (I used this in my post, A Chocolate Hazelnut Ball In A Banana Coconut Cupcake) or some Sugar-Frosted Candied Winter Melon which I used in my Ginger Tea -read about it by clicking on link. (Update: I have also used the melon in Sweet Potato Buns With A Sweet & Savoury Filling).
*
* I prefer to use Sugar Frosted Tangerine (image below) as I do not like citron peels. I buy the tangerines from Traditional Chinese Medicine shops. It comes in the shape of a flattened tangerine. One piece would give you about 5 Tablespoons of diced tangerine peel. Lovely eaten as candy. Great in a pot of tea: use in combination with tea leaves, chrysanthemum, goji berries, red dates, ginseng etc. to brew a special blend of tea. 
*** This recipe will work without vital wheat gluten. It will taste the same but you might not get the same rise and softness. It is derived from the wheat berry and added to a dough to help bake a loaf with more volume. Purchase at better stocked supermarkets. I use Bob’s Red Mill that comes in 1 lb 6 oz (623g). Keep refrigerated. I use it often in my wholemeal loaves to bake light wholemeal loaves.  Take a look at my recipe,  Moroccan Inspired Wholemeal Round Loaves. For the same reason, I add it into, Braided Stollen With Three Logs Of Marzipan -a sweet loaf studded with fruits and threaded with marzipan. 
* Do not add too much cinnamon, cloves or ready-mix spice as it can inhibit bread rise. 
** Find out more about this natural ingredient and other ways to use it by scrolling down to the section,’Tips’.  

Sugar Frosted Dried Tangerine

Method

Dried Fruits
1. Mixed Dried Fruits (not the Sugar Frosted Tangerine or Mixed Citrus Peel): Pour the orange juice/rum/brandy over dried fruits. Cover and soak overnight. Alternatively, microwave 30 seconds on high. Stir. Microwave another 30 seconds. Stir to mix, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
2. Sugar Frosted Tangerine: Cut into wedges. This makes it easier to slice off the peel. Then, remove seeds and hard pith. Cut into smaller pieces. Refer to image above.

Wet ingredients
1. Warm up the milk but do not boil.
2. Add the butter so that it can melt in the residual heat.
3. Beat in the egg. The milk should not be so hot that it scrambles the egg.
4. Set aside for it to cool and become lukewarm.

Dry ingredients
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

Using a mixer
1. Use a standing mixer. A handheld one is not powerful enough. Use your hands instead. Instructions below.
2. Pour dry ingredients into mixer bowl and then the wet ingredients.
3. Start mixer at low speed to prevent the flour from flying out of bowl and all over the kitchen counter. Work it up slowly to medium high speed.
4. After ~5 minutes, if the mixture seems dry and does not seem to be coming together to form a dough, with the machine running, add 1 Tablespoon water and let the machine go at it for 1 minute. Work in more water the same way if required. Err on the side of a more moist dough. Keep in mind that the final dough will be a sticky dough and the sides of the bowl will not be cleaned of dough. If the dough is too wet, do not add flour unless it is impossibly sticky. Adding too much flour = dry buns. So hold off the flour as much as you can. Notice the dough is sticky and tacky.

5. This is the stage I carry out the ‘window pane test’ to test for sufficient gluten development. Remove a ball of dough and stretch it. If you can stretch it out easily into a membrane without it tearing too quickly, the dough is ready.
6. Butter hands and a bench scrapper. Scrape off dough from bowl and gather dough into a ball. Tuck loose ends under. It would look quite smooth. Before returning dough to mixer bowl, oil/butter the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
7. This dough is very rich and will take a longer time to rise to almost double its size. It took 2 hours on a hot and humid day.

Working dough by hand
1. Place dry ingredients on a flat working surface or in a very large bowl. Stir to mix well.Create a well in the centre of dry ingredients.
2. Pour the wet ingredients in it and work it in slowly into the dry ingredients.
3. To start kneading, you have to work with pushing the dough out with the palm of your hand and pulling it back with your fingers.
4. At any point, if the dough is too dry or wet to work, you can add 1 Tablespoon of water or flour and work it in completely before adding more water or flour. Err on the side of a moist and not a dry dough.This is a very wet and sticky dough so your kneading surface would not be entirely cleaned of dough at any point. Use a buttered/oiled dough scraper to help you clean the kneading surface as you work. You might want to butter/oil your kneading surface if the dough gets too sticky. I would try to hold off the flour otherwise you might end up with very dry hot cross buns.
5. You will know you are doing well when you find yourself working with a smooth elastic ball. Carry out the ‘window pane’ test in Step 5 above.
6. Shape into a round ball, tuck loose ends under the dough. Do not be tempted to add more flour, instead butter/oil your hands if it gets too sticky.
7. Oil/butter your bowl which should be large enough to allow the dough to almost double in size. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until almost double in size.
8. This dough is very rich and will take a longer time to rise to almost double its size. It took 2 hours on a hot and humid day.

After the FIRST RISE – time to add in fruits
1. The dough would have risen to almost 2X its volume.
2. Before you work with the risen dough, with a paper kitchen towel, quickly wipe off excess liquid from the dried fruits and then toss them in 1 to 2 Tablespoons of flour to coat. Set aside.
3. Sugar Frosted Tangerines or the mixed citrus peel should be within reach. Have some butter nearby to butter your hands.
4. With the machine running on low-medium, add the dried fruits and the tangerines or citrus peel in three intervals. Work fast and do not over knead as the fruits will likely get smashed up. I usually stop the machine in between intervals and use my buttered hands to help turn the dough over to help distribute evenly. Then turn the machine back on to further mix evenly into dough. It should take no longer than 5 minutes. The final mixing is better done with your buttered hands. If you take too long to mix and over work or over knead, the liquid from the pre-soaked dried fruits will start to seep out, making the dough stickier and more difficult to work with.
5. Whether you use the machine or your hands to mix in the ingredients, work lightly, quickly and with buttered hands. If it should get impossible to work with the dough, rest the dough for 10 minutes and return to work on it.
6. Reshape into a ball and tuck loose ends under. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for the second time ~ 45 to 60 minutes.

After the SECOND RISE – time to shape into balls
1. Remove dough on to work surface and punch air out of dough. Do not over knead.
2. Divide dough evenly into 15 balls. I use my scissors to cut so that I can make a clean cut and not over stretch the dough by pulling balls off from the main dough. I actually weigh the whole piece of dough to ensure that I have evenly sized buns. They look much prettier.
3. Shape each dough into a ball. Pull loosed ends under and you will get a relatively smooth surface.
4. Next, cup the fleshy side of your palm around the circumference of a dough ball. Rest the heel of your fleshy palms on the work surface. Finger tips should be resting on work surface. It will appear like you are cocooning the dough ball.
5. Start moving the dough ball clockwise whilst palms and fingers are kept on the work surface. It’s like you are tracing the letter ‘O’. This method should get the dough ball smooth and round.
6. If you do find it difficult to shape the dough, let the dough balls rest 10 minutes covered under a tea towel and then go back to them.
7. Prepare a baking tray with silicon pads, baking paper or simply oil bottom of trays.

Should you bake individual buns or a Pull-apart loaf?
1. A Pull-apart loaf is more forgiving visually as the dough balls do not have to be perfectly shaped into rounds as no one would be able to tell that not all the buns are symmetrical.  On the other hand, you might find it difficult to form symmetrical rounds of dough balls as this dough is so rich and filled with a lot of fruit. It is a challenge to handle. Then again your choice might be limited to how large an oven you have or the size of baking trays that you have in your homes! So work with what you have.
2. To bake individual buns, place each ball of dough about 2″ (5cm) apart on baking tray. For a Pull-part loaf, a slightly less than 3/4″ (2 cm) gap should be sufficient.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and let them go through the final rise. It should almost double in size. It could take anywhere between 25 – 30 minutes.
4. As soon as you finish shaping the buns, turn on the oven to 380F (190C), oven rack adjusted to middle shelf. Move on to making the Orange Butter Glaze and Flour-water Paste.

This loaf will have the Orange Icing piped onto them.

Making ORANGE BUTTER GLAZE
1. Whether you are baking the buns to have a ‘Flour-water Paste Cross’ or ‘Orange Butter Icing Cross’, the buns will need a brushing of the Orange Butter Sugar Glaze. The recipe for the glaze makes enough to also make ORANGE BUTTER ICING CROSS.
2. While the dough is going through the final rise, dissolve the butter, add orange juice (should be strained of pulp and seeds), sugar and citric acid. Stir to dissolve. If you like it more tart, add more citric acid. Set aside.

Option 1: Making ‘Flour-water Paste Cross’
1. Whilst dough is going through the final rise, place the flour and salt into a bowl and slowly work in the water until you get a thicker than glue/gum consistency. The paste should not be runny but settle quite firmly when piped in place. Test by filling it into a piping bag and pipe a line. Adjust water and flour accordingly until you get the right consistency. Set aside.

Option 2: Making ‘Orange Butter Icing Cross’
1. Whilst dough is going through the final rise, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the 5 Tablespoons Orange Butter Sugar Glaze (that you had prepared earlier) and citric acid. Add more citric acid if you like it more tart. My icing looks a little golden as I had used golden icing sugar.


2. The icing should be fairly thick and not runny (image above). Test by filling it into a piping bag and pipe a line. Adjust to the right consistency by adding either icing sugar or more Orange Butter Sugar Glaze. Set aside.

Before Baking
1. When ready to bake.
2. If baking to have a ‘Flour-water Paste Cross’: Pipe a cross onto each bun and bake immediately according to instructions below.
3. If baking to have ‘Orange Butter Icing Cross’: Bake as is and following baking instructions below.

Baking

1. Bake at 380F (190C), middle shelf and bake for ~10 – 12 minutes.
2. Should it start to turn too brown, cover with an aluminium foil to avoid burning the tops and continue baking.
3. For a loaf (pull-part loaf), it will take ~12 minutes of total baking time. However check at ~8 minutes.
4. Individual buns will take ~10 minutes. Check at ~8 minutes.
5. Bread is cooked when, upon tapping the base of the bread, it sounds hollow. If you have a thermometer, the internal temperature of the buns should register 190F to 200F (88C – 93C) but closer to 200F (93C), ~194F (90C).
6. Transfer baked buns still in its baking pan/dish, onto cooling rack.

Brushing on the Orange Butter Sugar Glaze
1. Whether you are baking the buns to have a ‘Flour-water Paste Cross’ or ‘Orange Butter Icing Cross’, the buns will need a brushing of the Orange Butter Sugar Glaze.
2. While buns are still warm and in its baking pan/dish, with a pastry brush, brush the Orange Butter Sugar Glaze over the entire surface. Cool completely.


Piping the ‘Orange Butter Icing Cross’
1. When buns have completely cooled. Pipe crosses on top of them.

Tips

What is citric acid?
This is a naturally occurring fruit acid. It is sold in the form of tiny crystals and adds a tartness to food. It is also used as a preservative and you will often see it labelled as an ingredient in drinks, jams, canned food, etcetera. In a pinch, you could use it in place of lemons to sour up a sauce or dressing. You should find this in the baking aisles of supermarkets.

Recipes where I had used citric acid

(1) Crisp Lemon Cookies. Tart and sweet at the same time!

(2) Mirror Jelly Cake. I never tire of looking at this egg free cake


(3) Iced Lemon Tea With Oomph. This is definitely a thirst quencher!

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I like the look of Eastern European Easter breads. They always look so festive! So I am going to post a recipe for one of their many festive looking Easter breads. The braided ones always look pretty and those with vibrantly dyed eggs embedded within the braids look even prettier. These Easter breads are always sweet, soft and almost cake like in texture because of the amount of eggs and dairy that goes into them. Look out for my next post to find out what I will be baking next!

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