Just in Time for Easter: Whole-Wheat Hot Cross Buns
In Australia (where I grew up) hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Although they sneak their way into bakeries and supermarkets well before, Good Friday is the day to indulge in their delights. The irresistible smell of yeasted dough spiked with orange, currants and sweet spices takes me back to my childhood, the weeks that surround Easter and the change of seasons.
I think perhaps the best thing about these buns is that you can’t get them year-round; so the ritual of eating them warm from the oven with a cup of tea is much anticipated. Here I’ve swapped out refined white flour and sugar for whole-grain flour and coconut sugar.
Although this recipe turns out buns that are heartier than the fluffy white ones you’ll usually see this time of year, it delivers satisfying fruited and spiced buns with a rich, nutty background of whole-wheat flavor. Once the buns are baking, boil the kettle and get the butter ready, as nothing beats eating them as soon as they emerge from the oven.
Whole-Wheat Hot Cross Buns
Feel free to swap out the dried fruit and spices here; you can also add a little lemon zest if you like. I recommend finding a very warm spot to place the dough to rise otherwise it can take quite a few hours to double in size.
Makes 12 buns
For the buns
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup currants
2/3 cup milk (regular whole milk or soymilk)
2 tablespoons honey
One 7-gram package active dry yeast
3 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more to serve
1 egg, beaten
Zest of 1 large orange
Oil for bowl and pan
For the cross
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
For the glaze
1/4 cup apricot jam
Cover raisins and currants with boiling water, and set aside to soak.
Warm milk over medium-high heat until almost simmering, then remove from heat and stir in honey. Pour into a non-metal bowl or jar, allow to cool to lukewarm, add yeast and stir (with a non-metal spoon or spatula). Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until foaming.
Sift flour and spices into a large bowl. You will be left with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of wheat husks — discard them. Add sugar and salt, and stir to combine. Drain raisins and currants, and add them to the flour mixture. Add butter, orange zest, egg and yeast-milk mixture, and stir with a spatula until combined.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible. Add a drizzle of oil to a medium bowl, add dough, turn to coat, cover with cling film and place in a warm spot until doubled in size — this can take up to 3 hours.
Lightly oil an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and line with parchment paper. Remove cling film (save it), divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place them in baking dish (they should be almost touching), cover with cling film and set aside in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until risen.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the cross: Add flour to a small bowl and slowly add water to form a smooth paste. Transfer to a pastry bag or small zip-top bag with the corner sniped. Pipe flour and water paste over the center of each bun, first horizontally then vertically. Move slowly so that the paste hugs the curves of each bun. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped.
Make the glaze: Warm apricot jam in a small pot until bubbling, remove from heat and press through a strainer. Brush tops of warm buns with jam and enjoy warm with butter.