To me, hot cross buns are as synonymous with Good Friday as scrambling around town to buy Easter egg dye and synthetic blue grass. There’s so much legend and lore behind hot cross buns, which date back to the old country. Some bakers believed that hanging a hot cross bun in the kitchen ensured that all bread made in the coming year would rise successfully. And friends who gift one another with hot cross buns each spring are said to remain friends for life. As for me? I just love carrying on my mom’s tradition of making these globs of carby goodness at Easter time and sharing them with those I love.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 package (21/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
41/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp. (heaping) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (scant) baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Spices: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1 egg white
Splash of milk
1 egg white
Splash of milk
Combine milk, canola oil, and ½ cup sugar in saucepan. Stir and heat until very warm but not boiling. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool about 30 minutes until still warm but not hot.
Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture. Add 4 cups flour and stir to combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover with towel; set aside for 1 hour.
Add remaining ½ cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to mixture. Stir until combined to form dough ball. Combine remaining ¼ cup sugar with cinnamon and other spices, if using.
Lightly flour work surface. Press dough to slightly flatten. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar-cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle with about one third of raisins. Fold dough over on itself; flatten again to incorporate additions.
Repeat the sugar-raisin process, and fold over dough again. Repeat a third time until all raisins are used. (Some sugar-cinnamon mixture will be left over.)
Pinch off golf ball–size piece of dough. With floured hands, quickly roll it into a ball, then turn edges under slightly. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Repeat with remainder of dough. Cover buns and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
Mix egg white with splash of milk. Brush some glaze onto each bun. Bake buns for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove buns from pan and allow to cool on cooling rack.
Mix egg white with enough powdered sugar to make very thick icing. Add milk as needed for desired consistency. Transfer icing to small self-sealing plastic bag and snip off one corner. When buns are completely cool, make icing cross on each.