A Loaf Of Hot Cross Buns !

Hot Cross Bun Loaf
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Hot Cross  Buns –  every  year  we make these in  Feb and March.  This  spice  filled,  dry fruit   laden  bread  and  its  contemporary  versions  are  relished  by everyone in our  kitchen.  I make at least one  batch of  the  traditional  buns  and  then a  few  with  my own spin on it .   This  year it is a  whole  wheat  version  formed into a  loaf.   The  idea  was  to  make   something  that can be  sliced and  toasted in a  standard  toaster !

Hot Cross Bun Loaf

I think every bread  baker  should  make  this popular  English classic  at  least once.   Make it  the  traditional way   and  then  make  it  your  own, I say !

Spring  is  the  time when life  seems  to return  to nature from  self imposed  exile! No wonder  the  bone  chilling  cold  and  the  first shoots of  tender leaves  inspired   folklore  and  holidays – religious and  otherwise.   I think I  have  mentioned  already that this  year it  all seems a  bit  out of  step.  Just last  week it  felt  like spring  is  already here. In case  you are  wondering it is  FEB  and  we  are  in   the  northern hemisphere!

So last week  it  was bird songs and  tender leaves on the rosebushes  and  the last couple days –  well it is an entirely different  scene. Bone  chilling  cold  and  ice in the backyard.  Still a  few  birds , but  they are  strangely silent – just like in  winter. My inner Dr.Seuss  whispers “I  don’t like  it – don’t like it  at all” !

Anyway the hot  cross  buns are  in the oven ( Just  like  life  searching  for  something  familiar, a  friendly face ,  in  the  uncertain  times!).   Truth be told  I don’t  need an excuse to make  these.  But if  I needed one –  a  mood booster  seems  as  good  as  any !

So  this  years  spin on the  classic  has 50 % whole   wheat  and   50%  unbleached  flour. Use the  flours with the highest  protein content  that you can find. Next year may be  I should   try  another one  incorporating  more  whole  grains !   But  for this  year  50% is  good  enough ;-).

The  dough is a little  wet  but not  too wet.
When it is  formed it  sags a  little  but not  too much.
Ask me  why – and I tell  you why !
Can this nonsense and be on your way —
Yes sir, yes sir – what ever you say sir !
Hot Cross loaf Dough Stages

Here is a  few  shots of  the  dough  as  it  gets  transformed. The  above  stages are  pretty much the same  whether  you  do it  by hand  or  by machine.  Here is a  little  bit  of  explanation left to right , top to bottom in that order !

  1. Add the  flour, spices , salt  and  zest  to the   activated  yeast  mix. Mix  till  crumbly.
  2. Add  the  eggs  and  milk  – if  by hand  add  the  milk in batches.  Knead until  everything  comes  together  and  you begin to  see  gluten strands  forming.  Look for  the  sticky threads  as  you stretch the  dough.
  3. Add the  softened  butter  and  sugar.   In the  machine  it  gets messy – almost  as  if  you are  destroying all the work done  so  far.  As  the  butter  gets kneaded  into the  dough it visibly changes   almost  acquiring a  glossy sheen.
  4. Slowly but  surely the  butter  gets   absorbed  completely.  Be  patient with the mess. This  takes  about 3  minutes in  the  machine  and  roughly 3 to 5   minutes  by hand.
  5. The  dough  becomes smooth, looks  uniform   forms a smooth  mass.  Since this  has  high  whole  wheat  flour  the  results of  windowpane  tests  will not  be  encouraging. The dough film will tear.  Stick a a tiny amount  of  dough  between  two fingers, and  spread the fingers apart gently stretching  the   dough . As long as  you  can  see  fairly strong good  gluten  strands  when the  fingers are  about  1 cm apart we are  good  to go.
  6. Form into a  smooth  ball and   set aside  to   double.

Once  the   dough is  doubled it  is time  to add  the   fruits .  Knead it  in  and   shape Shaping the loaf

In the pictures  above  you can  see  that  the  dough has   puffed  up – almost  like a balloon.  Sights  like  these are  what  makes a  bread baker  happy !  Dump all the  dry fruits on top and  knead  for a  minute  to  distribute it evenly.  Divide into  12  equal parts (referring  to the  recipe  below ⇓).  Form   each into  rolls. Place  6  buns  on each loaf  pan  and  let rise  till doubled.  Just  before  baking  make  a  flour  cross  on top.

To the  Cross –   flour  cross  to be exact.  I like a thick mix  of water and  flour with a  pinch of  sugar.    How  thick you   want  the   crosses  or even if  you want  it, is  entirely up to you.  But if  you make  it thick  definitely add a  pinch of  sugar.
The  crosses  are  piped on just  before  the  bread  goes into the  oven.

Hot Cross Bun Loaf

Once  the  bread is   about  half  way into  baking, it is time  to make the glaze.   I used  orange  juice  and  honey,  as  it  was   the  perfect  way to use  up the  orange  that  I got the  zest from.  Use  about 1/4 C of  orange  juice  and  2 Tbsp of   honey.  Mix  and  heat   till it  is  reduced  to a  thick  syrup.

Apricot or peach preserves are another good option. Just warm these until it becomes runny.

Once the  bread is  done  and out  on the cooling  rack  brush the  warm  glaze on top. Let it  cool  completely before slicing.
The  recipe  here  makes 2  large (about 2lb) loaves.  Use  one   and slice  and  freeze  the  second one  for  later !

Here is  the   recipe  for  Hot Cross  Bun  Loaf …

Hot Cross Bun Loaf
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 45 mins
 
A whole wheat loaf version of the Easter classic - hot cross buns.
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 2 Lb Loaves
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 450 g Unbleached Flour 4C (See Notes)
  • 450 g Whole Wheat Flour 4C
  • 440 g Milk 1 3/4 C + 2 Tsp Divided use
  • 70 g Sugar 5 1/2Tbsp
  • 110 g Butter 1/2 C or 1 Stick
  • 4 Eggs Large
  • 2 Tbsp Orange Zest
  • 14 g Active Dry Yeast 2 pkts or 1 1/2Tbsp
  • 15 g Salt 2 3/4 Tsp
Dried Fruits
  • 300 g Raisins About 2 C (See Notes )
Spice Mix (See Notes)
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp All Spice
  • 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Tsp Cardamom
For Cross
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 1/2 Tsp Sugar
For Glaze
  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
Instructions
Activate the yeast
  1. Warm 1/2C milk (120g) to about 110°F or just warm to touch. Stir in 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside for 5 minutes for it to bloom.
Make the Dough - Using Stand Mixer
  1. Fit the stand mixer with the kneading hook. Pour the activated yeast into the bowl followed by flour , spices, zest and salt. Set the machine to the lowest setting and mix for 30 seconds t o 1 minute till everything is mixed well the and the mix looks crumbly.
  2. Turn off the mixer. Beat the eggs and add to the bowl along with the remaining milk. Start on low and knead for one minute, scrape the sides and knead for 2 to 3 minutes until all the flour is absorbed into one wet mass. Turn off the machine and add the softened butter and sugar. Knead for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. During the first minute the butter gets splattered all over the inside, creating what looks like a sloppy mess. It slowly gets absorbed in and you end with a soft shiny dough.
Make the Dough - By hand
  1. In a large mixing bowl mix the flours , spices , salt and the orange zest. Make a well in the center and add the activated yeast along with the beaten eggs and half the remaining milk . Use a wooden spoon to slowly mix the flour into the wet mix adding as much of the remaining milk as necessary. When almost all the flour is mixed in cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or wet towel set aside for 10 minutes. Uncover and knead the dough for 5 minutes until it forms into one large uniform mass. Add the sugar and softened butter. Continue kneading making sure to include the butter and sugar. The dough becomes visibly soft and very pliable - about 5 to 10 minutes. Form into a ball.
First rise
  1. Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough ball in it . Turn to coat all sides of the ball with oil. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or moist kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to double - about 1 hour.
Shape and second rise
  1. Add the dried fruits to the risen dough and knead it in . It takes about 1 minute of kneading by hand to distribute the fruits evenly. You can do this on a lightly floured work surface or in the bowl itself if it large enough.
  2. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Divide each into 6 equal portions. Form each portion into smooth balls, trying not to have the dry fruit sticking out on top. Lightly grease two 9" X 5" loaf tins and arrange 6 balls on each loaf tin. Cover with a plastic wrap or moist kitchen towel and set aside to rise - 20 to 30 minutes.
Bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C).
  2. If making the cross , mix the ingredients for the cross into a thick paste. Pour the paste into a plastic bag (icing bag) and snip the bottom to create a 5 mm circular opening. Pipe the crosses on top of the loaf just before placing the bread in the oven.
  3. Place the pans in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for 20 minutes. Check the bread and if the tops are already browning cover with a foil and rotate the pans if necessary . Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the bread is done.
  4. When cooked through the internal temperature should register at 190°F . Another way to check is to tap on the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow when cooked through.
Glaze
  1. While the bread is half way through baking , squeeze the orange and reserve 1/4 C of the juice. Take it in a small sauce pan and add 2 Tbsp of honey to it. Warm the mix stirring often till it comes to a boil. Let it simmer until it reaches sticky syrupy consistency . Turn off the heat and keep warm .
  2. Take the bread out of the oven. Let it cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Brush the glaze over the bread while it is still warm.
Storing
  1. Let it cool completely before slicing. The bread can be frozen up to 3 months. Slice and portion , wrap each portion and place in freezer bags and freeze. When needed remove from the freezer and toast before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • Use All Purpose flour with high protein content or bread flour.
  • I prefer unbleached and un-bromated flour, preferably organic.
  • The traditional  favorite  for  dry fruits are  currants but use cranberries, blue berries, currants , raisins  or a  mix  of  these.
  • Of the  given  spices use a   combination  that  you  prefer. Mix the spices to make up 2 tsp for this recipe, keeping nutmeg and cloves to 1/4 tsp or less.

 

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Whole Wheat Hot Cross Bun Loaf

Like to try the traditional version ?
Hot Cross Buns
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Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

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