April 4, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

This year my friend Gracie decided she was going to give up bread for Lent.  It sounded interesting enough so I thought I would join her.  Truth be told I knew it was going to be a sacrifice but I guess that's the whole point, right?

For the most part it wasn't as hard as I would have thought EXCEPT in the morning.  I had no problems eating a hamburger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun - I just pretended I was on the Atkins diet.  But in the morning there's nothing more I love than a dark, toasted English muffin dripping with butter.   Oh it was painful I tell you.  

With Easter only one day away I'll soon be able to indulge once again in my beloved gluten.   In preparation I made these glorious hot cross buns using a recipe from Bouchon Bakery.   Their version uses a rich, butter and egg laden brioche dough for the buns, the ultimate indulgence.   I pray that I can hold off until tomorrow to taste these gems.   A few Our Fathers and Hail Marys may be in my future...lol!

Happy Easter to all!

Hot Cross Buns

2 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (372 grams) all-purpose flour
2 3/8 teaspoons (8 grams) instant yeast
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (44 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
1/2 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons (186 grams) eggs
1/4 cup (63 grams) whole milk
5.8 ounces (167 grams) unsalted butter cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
3/4 cup (122 grams) dried currants (I used raisins instead)
1/2 cup (61 grams) dried cranberries (I used raisins instead)
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) vanilla paste

1 large egg, beaten (for egg wash)

TIP: For the best results I recommend weighing the ingredients!

To mix the dough, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Continue to mix on low speed for 30 minutes. (At this point there will be some dough sticking to the sides of the bowl.) Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Continue to mix for 10 minutes.
Combine the currants and cranberries in a medium bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Let sit for 5 minutes to plump the fruit, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. Dry the bowl, return the fruit to it, and toss with the vanilla paste. Set aside.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Run a bowl scraper around the sides and down to the bottom of the bowl of brioche dough to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, adding flour only as needed to keep it from sticking.

With your hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape. Pour the currant-cranberry mixture onto the dough and knead it into the dough (which will be sticky) to distribute it evenly. Pat the dough into a rectangle again.

Stretch the left side of the dough out and fold it over two-thirds of the dough, then stretch and fold it from the right side to the opposite side, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the bottom and then the top. Turn the dough over, lift it up with a bench scraper, and place it seam side down in the prepared bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let the dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Repeat the stretching and folding process, then return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover, and let sit for another 45 minutes.

Spray the quarter sheet pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.

Use the bowl scraper to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 12 equal portions (78 grams each). Cup your fingers around a portion of dough and, using the palm of your hand, roll it against the work surface to form a ball. Continue to roll until the dough is completely smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough. (When you become proficient at rolling with one hand, you can use both hands and roll 2 portions at a time.) Set the balls on the prepared pan in 3 rows of 4. Brush the tops with egg wash.

Cover the pan with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and let proof for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the balls have risen and are touching.

Preheat the oven to 325 F (convection) or 350 F (standard).

Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash again. Bake for 17 to 22 minutes in a convection oven, 25 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until the tops are a rich golden brown and, when tested with a toothpick, the centers are baked through. Set the pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely. (If freezing, do not ice the buns at this point.)

For The Icing
2 1/4 cups (258 grams) powdered sugar
3/8 teaspoon (1 grams) ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon (1 grams) ground cardamom
2 1/2 tablespoons (40 grams) whole milk

NOTE: I didn't omitted the cinnamon and cardamom and replaced with one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.

Sift the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to distribute the spices evenly. With the mixer running, slowly add the milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, increase the speed to low, and mix for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until smooth.

Transfer the icing to the pastry bag. Cut off 1/4 inch of the tip. Starting at the left side of the top corner bun, pipe a continuous strip of icing across the center of the first row of 3 buns. Repeat with the remaining 3 rows. Then repeat in the opposite direction, across the 3 rows of 4 buns, working in the opposite direction, to create a cross of frosting on each bun. Serve the whole pan, or cut into individual buns.

The buns are best the day they are baked, but they can be stored, before icing, wrapped tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap or in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week (see note on defrosting frozen baked brioche pastries).

* Note on freezing unbaked brioche pastries: Unbaked brioche pastries can be frozen after they are formed, but before they are proofed, wrapped in a few layers of plastic wrap, for up to 1 week. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and proof the dough as directed, keeping in mind that the proofing may take up to 5 hours.

* Note on defrosting frozen baked brioche pastries: Defrost, still in the plastic wrap or in the container, in the refrigerator. Leaving the pastries wrapped or in the container means any condensation will form on the outside, not on the pastries. Place on a sheet pan and refresh in a 325°F oven (standard) for about 5 minutes.


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