It's Holy Friday and I am in my mother's kitchen in Italy, baking some traditional sweet buns, hot cross buns, usually prepared for Holy Friday in England, that I have never done before. Why would I do it, would you ask? Because I like challenges, I like baking, also trying new recipes, and mostly because I wanted to get enveloped into the festive spirit of Easter.
Tomorrow we are leaving for the countryside, where we are going to spend Easter. And these sweet buns are going to be part of our large Sunday breakfast (that's why I reeeaaally hope they turn out good).
Last year I was with my husband in Canada, this year I am enjoying my parents (but in a couple weeks I'll go back to him). Being in Rome for Easter is different. You don't have the same feeling across the ocean. Here you smell tradition, spirituality, the true essence of the celebration. Together with the scents of many sweet and savory baked goods and chocolate eggs that are typical of the period.
These hot cross buns are significant for Easter but can be enjoyed anywhere, any time of the year. They may contain dried fruit like sultanas and spices, or in a more modern version candied fruit, or chocolate chips, but they're excellent also plain. My first thought was to make them with chocolate chips, since you all know my passion for chocolate, mmm.... but at a second thought of choice was to make them more traditional with raisins and add the flavour of vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest (my favourites).
Did I already tell you how much I love kneading the dough by hand? It's so silky and velvety, like the feeling of your hands after a paraffin wax treatment...oh, getting a little off track here...
The smell is delicious now, I can't imagine how it will be when they're in the oven.
After 1 hour, the dough is double the size, punch it down and make 8 little buns and let them sit (and rise) for an additional ½ hour.
I did a simple cross with the knife, as you know I like simple things and not too many glazes, but you can also make a pastry cross on the buns.
They smell good, my cute little rustic sweet buns: scents of cinnamon as top notes, raisins as heart notes, then more subtle, lemon and vanilla as base notes. It's about a 4 on the fragrance Richter scale.
I can't wait to try one.
Happy Easter to you all! Buona Pasqua a tutti!
- 1 ½ teaspoon of dried yeast or 1 cube (25g) fresh yeast
- 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 200 g flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 25 g sugar
- 50 g butter
- 1 teasponn cinnamon
- lemon zest
- 25 g sultanas or candied fruit or chocolate chips (optional)
- 1 beaten egg
For the icing
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and add a teaspoon of sugar.
- In a bowl mix together the flour, salt and sugar.
- Add the butter and work it a bit with your fingertips together with the flour.
- Add the cinnamon, lemon zest, optional sultanas, candied fruit, or chocolate chips and mix well.
- Add the yeast previously dissolved in water and the egg and mix well.
- Knead the dough with your hands and then let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- After the hour, punch the dough down and work it again for a few minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Divide it into 8 parts that you will shape into balls.
- Lay the buns on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover and let rest in a warm place for additional 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 220°C.
- Before baking, carve a cross on the surface with a knife.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.
- For the frosting: combine milk, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Once ready, brush the warm glaze on the buns when they’re just out of the oven.
If you want to make a pastry cross on the buns, instead of just a simple cut with the knife, mix some flour, sugar and water into a smooth thick paste that you will pipe on the buns to form a cross before you put them in the oven.
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I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.