Hot Cross Buns

I made a couple batches of these sweet rolls that are a cross between yeast-y dinner rolls and sweet breakfast buns. When I shared a picture with my mom, she asked what they were.  I didn’t grow up eating hot cross buns, but when I told my mom the name, she was transported to her childhood—not for the buns themselves, but because of a nursery rhyme.  “Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! … If you have no daughters, give them to your sons” is now playing on repeat in my head.

But even more fun than the Hot Cross Buns! song is making these warm, barely sweet delightful rolls. I saw these popping up on Instagram last year around Easter, so I started do my research on them. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent.  They aren’t super sweet, but they aren’t savory either. They’re a wonderful blend of barely sweet and barely savory. Plus, a paste of equal parts flour and water is piped on them after they’ve risen, but before they’re baked, to give them their iconic look featuring a cross.  After baking them, I brushed some honey butter on top to give them a nice glaze. 

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This recipe cheats a little and uses both yeast and baking powder.  I did make a batch of these using just yeast, but yeast + baking powder works just fine too. In fact, I found the rolls with baking powder to have a slightly better texture.  I hope you feel inspired to make these for Easter. I think this will be a new tradition for me!

Hot Cross Buns

1 and ¼ cup (10 ounces) whole milk, at room temp.
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 package)
4 ½ cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
2 (10 grams) teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons (~5 grams) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temp. 
zest from one small orange
1 cup raisins
1 apple, peeled and finely diced

For the Paste

2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (85 ml)  water

For the Honey Butter Glaze

3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey

1.    Line a 9 x 13” pan with parchment paper or a silplat. Add the room temperature milk to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk in the yeast to dissolve. Sift in the flour and baking powder.  Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, softened butter, 2 eggs + yolk, and zest from one orange.  Stir to combine.

2.    Using the dough hook, knead for 7 minutes on medium-low speed (level 3 for KitchenAid).  Add the raisins and diced apple and knead and additional two minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic and the raisins and apple are evenly dispersed.

3.    Lightly butter a large glass bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with either a dish cloth or plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for about an hour.  It will become puffy, but it’s ok if it doesn’t double in size.

4.    Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 parts.  Using floured hands, form each part into a ball.  Due to the raisins and apple, the ball won’t be completely smooth, but that’s ok. Add each ball to the lined baking sheet, spacing all 12 evenly apart. Cover the baking (plastic wrap ok) and allow to rise a second time until they’re touching and look bloated and puffy.  

5.    Preheat oven to 375F. Make the flour paste by whisking together equal parts flour and water. Whisk well so the batter is not lumpy.  Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain, small to medium tip. (The batter will be runny.)  Pipe a cross on each bun. Transfer the buns to the oven.

6.    Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden-brown. While baking, prepare the honey butter by stirring the melted butter with honey in a small bowl.  Once the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the honey butter.

7.     Carefully lift up the parchment paper or silplat and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.  Allow to cool completely (or enjoy warm, if you’re like me and you can’t wait!)

Chocolate-Orange Tart

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Happy New Year everyone!  First of all, thank you so much for all of the support everyone has shown me--it has meant so much to me. Each comment, like and share was a little spark of light that I needed in that moment.  2017 was a roller coaster--full of sharp turns, exhilarating highs and unexpected drops that made my stomach flip for sure, but I'm so excited for everything that this new year has in store!  I know that in life--and baking--it doesn't matter what happens, I've gotta keep my head in the game to reach the desired outcome. So, I'm putting my new motto use: Lemons to Lemon Curd! Actually, in this case--orange and chocolate... well, you get the idea!

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I love this tart. I love how elegant and slender it is. And I especially love how easy it is to make.  This is a great recipe for experienced and beginner bakers alike. No matter if you're a novice or not, this tart has a sophisticated, nuanced flavor thanks to the orange zest and orange liqueur. And the silky chocolate filling is just divine and accented by flaky sea salt.  

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When I want to spend more time cozying up to the fireplace than to the oven, I take
a few shortcuts with my baking. The crust is a festive blend of crushed gingersnaps
and butter. Crushed oreos would also work just fine. Get fancy with the toppings. I added flaky sea salt--just a sprinkling on top. Raspberries are also a perfect match with anything chocolate or tart. A little dusting of cocoa powder will never steer you wrong, and this tart is no exception. Or, get real fancy and add some candied orange peel. Whatever you do, just have fun with it!  

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Chocolate-Orange Tart
Serves 10

Crust
1 ½ cups finely crushed gingersnaps
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling
2 cups heavy whipping cream
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (I like Cointreau)
zest of one orange

To make crust: Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse the cookies until
pulverized and completely fine and broken down. Add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are wet and sand-like. Remove from the food processor and press the crumbs evenly into a 14 x 4-inch rectangular tart pan, ideally with a removable bottom. (The crust should be even and not too thick.  It’s ok if you have leftover crumbs.) Bake at 350F for 9 minutes. Set aside to cool on a wire rack. Reserve any leftover crumbs.

To make filling: Place ½ cup of the cream in a microwaveable bowl with the 12 ounces of chocolate.  Microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second
intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth when stirred. Set aside to cool to room
temperature.  Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, whip the remaining 1 and ½ cups heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cooled chocolate-cream, orange liqueur and orange zest until just combined. (Make sure the chocolate-cream mixture is room temperature. If the mixture is still warm, it will melt the cream.) Spread the mixture evenly in the tart pan (any leftovers can be spooned into glasses and topped with the leftover gingersnap crumbs). Refrigerate overnight to allow the filling to set. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When ready to serve, remove from the pan and top with sea salt, orange peel, cocoa powder, or raspberries. 

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