We had a lot of traditions growing up. My dad was raised Catholic and said that on Good Friday he and his siblings went to their rooms for 3 hours to think about Christ and his cruxifiction. Then that night they got hot cross buns. When he married my mom, they only kept one of those traditions. Perhaps this is because it was easier to think about Christ when your kids weren't whining and moaning and pitching a fit in their rooms for three hours (not that we as children ever would have done such a thing). At any rate, I love making these every year, and did so even in college (it was some of the very little cooking I did in college, and I like to think my rolls have come a long way since then). And you know, they always remind me what day it is (does anybody else find it easy to forget?), and what that day represents. So I guess my parents succeeded in helping me remember Christ on Good Friday after all.
Hot Cross Buns
Prep time: 20 minutes (plus you've got about 2 hours of rise time to figure in)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $1.70 plus frosting which will add an extra $.15 or so, unless you've got a bunch already in your fridge like I do.
(milk: .15, yeast: .15, butter: .30, sugar: .10, eggs: .20, flour: .80)
I start with my sister's roll recipe (it's copied below).
When you've got the dough formed into balls, I cut a cross into the dough. You don't have to; you can just paint it on with frosting at the end, but I like the frosting to have a gulley to seep into, yes I do.
Bake them for about 15 minutes.
You could stop right there and they'd still be amazing, but we always add a bit of frosting in the crosses. You could pipe this frosting in if you wanted it to, like, look good, but I was in a super hurry so I just used a knife and my finger to blob it on. No one complained.
You can use whatever your favorite frosting is. I had several to choose from hanging out in the fridge and picked orange cream cheese frosting (yes, it was totally awesome). If you're at a loss for what frosting to use, have a look here. For the orange cream cheese, add 2 Tbsp orange juice and 1 tsp zest to my Best Ever Cream Cheese Frosting.
1 C warm water
1 C milk, warmed (not hot)
2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 C butter
2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
7-8 C flour
Add yeast to water and milk. Let it sit there if you've got five minutes. If you'll get distracted by leaving a thing for five minutes, then just throw the butter, salt, sugar, and eggs in before you forget what on earth you were doing in the first place. Mix it all together. Mix in 4 C flour. Add 2 more cups. Begin kneading with hands when it gets too tough to stir. Of course, if you're a member of the 21st century and have a Kitchenaid, you can use that too with the dough hook. I myself haven't quite made it to the 21st century and that's okay with me because (weird mental disorder alert) I kind of like kneading. It relaxes me. I like how the dough smells. I like how it feels.
So if you, like me, will be doing things manually, here is #1 best tip for rolls. The dough should be pillowy--like a mother's bosom. We don't want any tight teenage breasts, nor do we want a stretched and sagging grandma shelf. If a three-year-old would just love to lay her head on your dough, it's perfect. (Warning: If you have a real life 3-year-old available, do not invite her to lay her head upon your dough to test it out. You'll get hair in your dough. And possibly boogers. Which is what mother's bosoms also get covered in when they have three-year-olds. Not that we mind because three-year-olds are cute.) I've digressed, haven't I? Anyway, so keep adding flour in 1/4 C increments or so and knead it for about 8 minutes until it is nice and pillowy and perhaps the teeniest little bit tacky, but not sticky. Then put it in a bowl and cover it and keep it in a warm place. (Everyone always says put it in an oiled bowl. I have never, not even once in my life done this. I always just throw it back in the bowl I mixed it in. It is always always fine. Who are these people with their oiled bowls and what is the purpose of oiling the bowl?)
Tip #2: If it's cold in your house, stick the bowl with the dough in the oven. Turn the oven on for 1 minute. Then turn the oven off and leave the dough in the warmed oven. (Do not leave the room to go do something in that one minute. You will never remember your dough. It will cook right there in your bowl with a dish towel over it and perhaps your house will burn down. This is not worth what you were going to do in that one minute.)
Let it rise for one hour or until doubled. Then punch it down and shape it into rolls. Put the rolls on a greased baking sheet. Cover them and let them rise again--this time for about 20 minutes.
Bake at 375 for about 10-13 minutes. I like my rolls just a bit on the dough-y end. I always break them open to determine if they're just right and not way too doughy still. It's not the perfect technique, but it works.
You can make the rolls ahead of time and freeze them. You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it (covered in plastic wrap) for about 24 hours. You can even make them to the rolled roll point and then freeze them and then take them out, let them dethaw and rise, then bake them. The possibilities are limitless. As it seems is my ability to write many many words even when I am so so tired and have said I will not tonight write many many words.
P.S. If you're Jewish or Muslim or someone else who is not interested in remembering Christ on Good Friday, you should make these rolls anyway. Because they are awesome. You can stretch them out (like a Playdough snake) and shape them into bunnies..
...and then use the frosting to paint a little bunny face.
(This bunny looks like she's up waaaay too late.)
(Or...while we're talking bread, have a look at these cinnamon rolls. They're no-rise and I love the visual effect of the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa.)