Sacrilegious Hot Cross Buns

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Now, I have no idea how strong of a religious connection hot cross buns actually have, but I rather like the thought that the act of baking these without godly love in my heart will condemn me straight to Hell (as if my life up until this point hasn’t done the job already).  I have never eaten nor actually seen a hot cross bun, so I can offer no guarantee that these actually taste like they are supposed to.  I just thought that they look pretty in pictures, and it’s kind of close to Easter or whatever, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I used chocolate chips instead of the traditional currants, but you can replace it with anything.

Hot Cross Buns (makes about 18 buns I think, but I ate a bunch before I counted so I don’t really know)

500 g AP flour –100%
9 g salt –1.8%
5 g active dry yeast (I ran out of yeast; you might want to increase to 10 grams for a quicker rise) –1%
220 g warm milk –44%
75 g sugar–15%
40 g oil–8%
75 g lightly beaten eggs–15%
big pinch of cinnamon
however many chocolate chips as you can comfortably cram in the dough

Flour paste for crosses:

dash of flour
splash of water

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1.  Combine flour, salt, and cinnamon in one bowl and whisk together eggs and sugar in another.  You will probably use 2 eggs; you can set aside whatever you have left over for the eggwash.  (You might want to hold off on the cinnamon until you get to the kneading process, because apparently it tends to kill off yeast, but my yeast seemed fine.)

2.  Dump the yeast in the bowl of warm milk to proof for 5 or 10 minutes, until foamy.  Mine did not present any indication of being alive, but I think the lack of foaminess was from the very small proportion of yeast to liquid.

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3.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture and yeasty milk.  Mix with a spoon until lazy and/or tired.

4.  Transfer the dough to the stand mixer and add the oil.  Mix on low for about 8 minutes.  The dough will form a puddle in the bottom of the bowl and be very sticky.  This is to be expected.

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5.  Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for a few turns, adding flour to your hands as you go, until you feel like you can work with the dough relatively easily.

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6.  Roll out the dough into a rough rectangle with a pin or with your hands.  Pour the chocolate chips in the middle.  Fold the dough over and knead for several minutes, gently, until the chocolate chips are well incorporated.

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7.  Ball the dough back up and place in an oiled bowl to rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.  Because the amount of yeast I used was so low, it took a long time to rise and never got very high.

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8.  Now it’s time to shape the dough.  I believe that the pleasant, pull-aparty grain of my buns was a direct result of my shaping method.  I pressed the dough out into a rectangle, then folded it over a few times, then flattened it back out, then rolled it up like a jelly roll.  Then, for each bun, I pulled off however much dough I needed and rolled it with my fingers until it formed a long tube.  I then rolled up that tube (there’s a lot of rolling involved) and formed it into a bun shape by gently stretching apart the top and folding it under itself.  The buns were not pretty or uniform, but they did have great textural variety on the inside.

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9.  Line the buns in a sprayed or oiled pan and let rise until roughly twice its volume.  It took 2-3 hours for me (I’m not exactly sure because I fell asleep during this time).  Brush with the egg wash.  Make a paste out of the flour and water; it should have the consistency of pancake batter.  Put it in a plastic bag and cut out a small piece of the corner.  Use this to pipe crosses onto all of the buns.

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10.  Bake at 325 degrees for 7 minutes and 350 degrees for about 13 minutes.  Keep your eye on the buns; once they are golden brown on the top they should be done.

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Conclusion

Yeah, I can live with that.  Sure, they could be prettier, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts.  And what is on the inside?  Something soft, stretchy, mildly sweet, and enhanced with chocolate chips and blasphemy.  It lost a lot of its fluffy charm the next day, but I’ve come to accept this degradation as a fact of baking.  The bread also didn’t seem sweet enough to me, especially after losing its newly-baked freshness, but considering I have never encountered a recipe with a higher sugar percentage than 15% I’ll chalk that up to my overly demanding taste buds.  Overall, I’ll call this neither a win nor a loss–there were no boundaries broken, but it marks yet another stable entry in my growing arsenal of baking attempts.

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