We had family over for dinner last night. We have a few friends who go way back and a few more who know they don’t have to take their boots off to come inside (long story, maybe a future blog entry), and sometimes family members drop in from out of state. This couple were attending an orientation at the college their son will be attending next year, so they’re going to be a fixture for at least four years. We’ll be on good enough terms that I can feed them weird food, which is what family means in this house.
Last night we started with homemade dulse crackers and Cabot cheese. I never admit to making the crackers unless someone asks me for a brand name. This group ate the whole batch, but where I got them never came up. I love experimenting with cracker recipes. Next we had vegetarian chili with extra vegetables. I add a sweet potato, carrots, red onions and a pound of spinach to the regular spices and three varieties of beans. It doesn’t bear much resemblance to the best chili I’ve ever eaten (working for the cook at the jail in San Bernadino), but that was nowhere near vegetarian. Then we had hot cross buns!
This is adapted Martha’s recipe or, as we say around here, “Mawther”. Some homemade hot cross buns are too doughy, some are too cakey, these are perfect. The recipe makes 24 buns which, if you’re going to go to all this trouble, there should be more than six. Everyone loved these, and tonight I had one split in half with strawberries. Yum.
Hot Cross Buns
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl and baking sheet
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons plus one pinch salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose, flour plus more for dusting
- 1 1/3 cups currants
- 1 large egg white
- About 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- Generously butter a large bowl. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, heat 1 cup milk until it is warm to the touch.
- Pour warm milk into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook (actually, I used my food processor). With mixer on low, add yeast, granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and beaten eggs.
- With mixer on low, add flour, 1 cup at a time, until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms around the dough hook, about 3 minutes. Continue kneading, scraping down hook and sides of bowl as necessary until smooth, about 4 minutes longer. Add currants, and knead until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Knead by hand to evenly distribute currants, about 1 minute.
- Shape dough into a ball, and place in the buttered bowl; turn ball to coat with butter, and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour 20 minutes. For a richer flavor, let dough rise in a refrigerator overnight. (I highly recommend rising it overnight. My house is fairly cold, so I just left it out on the counter)
- Generously butter an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet, or use a Silpat. Turn dough out onto work surface, and knead briefly to redistribute the yeast. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 ounces each. Shape pieces into tight balls, and place on baking sheet, spaced 1/2 inch apart. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until touching and doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees, with rack positioned in center. To make egg wash, whisk together egg white, 1 tablespoon water, and pinch of salt in a small bowl; brush tops of buns with egg wash. Using very sharp scissors or a buttered slicing knife, slice a cross into the top of each bun. Transfer pan to oven, and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.
- Make frosting: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon milk, an egg white*, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice. Add more sugar if the frosting is too thin. Put the frosting in a stout plastic bag and clip one corner to pipe crosses on the buns.
*Use commercial pasteurized egg whites if you’re not sure about your eggs – this egg white remains uncooked.