Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hot Cross Buns

As my husband and I work together to establish our own family traditions, we've been trying to focus on those that have real meaning to our faith and values.

For example, we've eliminated just about everything at Christmas related to Santa Claus, so that we can focus on the real meaning of the holiday, which is Jesus' birth.

And for the time of the year when we celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection, we've been eliminating the Easter Bunny from our home. It's not that Santa or the Bunny are bad; they just seem to distract from what is real and important in our lives.

So for Resurrection Sunday, I thought a lot this year about what to bake and how to decorate, and I decided that our family's Hot Cross Bun recipe is meaningful to me. Not only does it remind me of my maternal grandmother and her Danish heritage, but it also makes me think of Jesus' death on the cross because of the cross cut into the dough before it's baked and then embellished with frosting afterward.

I experimented with my mother's recipe this year, because I wanted to use some of my Herman sourdough starter as a base. So I combined two recipes, one from my mom's collection and one from one of sourdough cookbook to come up with what I think turned out to be the best Hot Cross Buns I've ever made. They are moist and sweet and have just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg in the dough, along with a nice distribution of currants. I served them as part of our dinner on Sunday when we had family and friends joining us.

1 tsp. dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water (115-120 degrees Fahrenheit)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups sourdough starter
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2/3 cup currants
2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
(Note: You will also need additional butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract for finishing.)

Add yeast and sugar to warm water to activate the yeast. Measure sourdough starter into mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except for the flour, and mix to combine. Add the flour a small portion at a time until you have a stiff dough. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. Dough will be soft.

Place dough into greased bowl and cover with a warm, moist cotton (not terrycloth) towel. Set in a warm place and let rise for two hours until doubled in size. (Note: Because we keep our thermostat low, I had to let it rise for more than two hours so that it would be doubled in size.)

Punch down the dough and shape it into 1-1/2-inch balls. Dip top of dough balls into more melted butter and place on greased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Cut deep cross in each bun with scissors. Bake at 400 degree Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Then pour glaze (made with powdered sugar and a little milk and vanilla extract) into crosses and serve.

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