Don’t worry, I have no such medical analogy or educational tidbit on febrile gluteal folds to share with this special Sourdough Surprises edition post on hot crossed buns, though, I was tempted. I am keeping my off-color humor in check as we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord, how’s that? In fact, the cross on these sweet rolls is a beautiful Lenten tradition, even if the interpretation of the cross over the years has been confounded with strange and delicious superstition. For example, it is said that hot cross buns made on Good Friday never spoil. Or, if one were to hang these buns in the kitchen, they bear the power to ensure that all breads baked on their watch shall rise. So it seems that hot cross buns are vying to be the patron saint, or perhaps icon, of all bread?
Bread is a glorious totem for resurrection—but then again, so is sourdough. Risen, indeed, but really, always rising.
Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook
4 cups white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 cup sourdough starter
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 heaping teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
2 teaspoons fine salt
3 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 medium free-range egg
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose white flour
7 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ginger (or other) jam
1 tablespoon water
If you have a stand mixer, combine the flours, water, milk, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl and fit the dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough.
Add the dried fruit, orange zest, and spices and knead on low speed until silky and smooth. (You can do this by hand, but it will be sticky to handle.) Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Deflate the risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and dust with flour. Place on a floured board, cover with plastic wrap or linen, and let proof for about 30 minutes, until roughly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. To make the crosses, whisk together the flour and water until smooth, then transfer to a pastry bag and snip off the end to make a fine hole (or use a plastic food bag with a corner snipped off, as I do). Transfer the risen buns to a baking sheet and pipe a cross on top of each one, then bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the ginger jam (this stuff is SO good, total impulse buy at the health food store, and SO worth it) with the water in a pan. Brush over the buns to glaze as you take them from the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm, cold, or toasted.
One a penny? I could probably sell these for 10 bucks a piece. Marvelous. These are the Easter eggs of the banqueting table—an absolute find.
As an aside, I love it when the weather cooperates with the imagery of resurrection Sunday. Early this morning, the clouds over Rochester were darkened like the church after the candles have been snuffed out—and slowly, as I have been sitting here with my coffee, watching and waiting, the clouds are literally breaking with light.
Arise, fair Sun.