Thursday, May 27, 2010

Traditional English Hot Cross Buns

Since hot cross buns are a favorite on mine, this seemed a great place to start the challenge.

When compared to what I usually think of as a hot cross bun, Hamelman’s recipe is a little unusual. First, rather than using the traditional fondant that piped onto the buns after baking, Hamelman uses a crossing paste that is added before baking so that it becomes an integral part of the bun. Second, after the buns are cooked, they are brushed with sugar syrup. This gives the buns a glossy appearance and extends their shelf life.

For my first pass at the buns, I followed the recipe fairly closely with only minor deviations. I did make my own candied lemon and orange peels—I used both. Having made the peels, I had a surfeit of flavored sugar syrup that I used rather than Hamelman’s.

For the candied peel, I used the recipe in Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen. She actually provides two variations, one in which the candied peel is kept in the syrup and another where the peel is removed from syrup and rolled in sugar. I made both. Eating the peel out-of-hand, I preferred the peel rolled in sugar. (You need to drain the peel carefully to get an even coating of sugar.) The peel in syrup seemed a little mushy—perhaps I could have shortened the cooking time. That said either was much better than any commercially prepared peel I’ve ever used. On the other hand, the homemade peel has a relatively short shelf life. Daley gave a shelf life of a couple of weeks, but I found they last a bit longer.
However both eventually molded.

I divided the dough for the buns making one batch with the sugared peel and another with the syrupy peel. I substituted chopped dried cherries for the currants in one batch. These produced very nice buns. The integrated crossing paste gave a very interesting appearance but really didn’t add much to the taste. I did not like the stickiness added from the syrup. As noted, the homemade candied peel was a great addition. Either worked well, but I actually preferred the peel in syrup in the buns. For my tastes, I really preferred the cherries to the currants.

For my second go at hot cross buns, I used Hamelman recipe but went back to a more common (perhaps less traditional) approach. I eliminated the crossing paste. Instead I piped on a lemon-flavored fondant after baking the buns; I eliminate the glaze using an egg wash in its place; I replaced the currants with 3 oz of chopped dried cherries (mixed sweet and sour) and 1 oz of dried cranberries; and I baked the buns in a pan so they would rise into each other giving a crust on top and bottom but softer sides. I lowered the temperature to 415 since I was using a darker pan and cooked the buns a bit longer. These rather plebeian changes gave a bun that more closely resembled what I typically think of as a hot cross bun, but also a product that I actually prefer.

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