Can I just say, first, before anything else? Guys. This weather. I know it’s supposed to get chilly again this week, but this Sunday’s weather was in-cred-ible. I’m unabashedly one of those people whose moods are starkly affected by the weather outside, and this weekend was just sublime. It finally feels like spring! And just in time for Easter.
This year’s Easter will be a bit of a special one for the Bowls — I’ll be going through adult Confirmation this Sunday. Bowl #2′s family is Catholic, and I won’t lie that pleasing his adorable mother may have played a role in why I initially explored RCIA. But in many ways (the more substantive of which I won’t get into here) this felt meant to be. Though I grew up Methodist, my father’s side has been Catholic for generations. I have distant memories of my great-grandmother (yep, this one!) sending me rosaries all the way from Shanghai, and holding the fragrant, carved beads in my hands as a small child. I know that, though they aren’t around for it, my great-grandparents are thrilled.
So, even though I know I’m joining a club that loves its traditions, I thought I’d share these not-quite-traditional hot cross buns for Good Friday, as a nod to my heritage. These are more or less standard, down to flour-paste crosses on top, but with a small Asian tweak — tangzhong. Baking these char siu pork buns a few weeks back was my first introduction to tangzhong, a gluey, roux-like paste used in a ton of Asian baked goods, things like soft, fluffy Hokkaido bread, to give the bread a pillowy, close crumb and a longer shelf life. It’s a little bit more work, but I find the texture totally addictive, and very much worth it.
Happy Monday, and happy early Easter!
- for the tangzhong:
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp flour
- 1/4 cup water
- for the dough:
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cup flour (plus 1-2 tbsp more if it gets sticky)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- pinch salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/16 tsp (small pinch) cloves
- 1 tbsp Greek yogurt (optional; alternatively, sub 1/3 cup buttermilk for the milk and omit the yogurt)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
- about 1/3 cup raisins, more if you like
- for the egg wash:
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp milk or water
- for the “crosses”: (alternatively, use your favorite pipable glaze for added sweetness)
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp water (I used coconut milk for a little extra something something)
- In a small saucepan, combine the tangzhong ingredients (1 tbsp plus 1 tsp flour and 1/4 cup water) and whisk until no lumps remain. Turn the heat on to medium-low and stir the tangzhong continuously until lines remain in the mixture when stirred -- it should take just a minute or two. When lines form, immediately remove from heat and set aside. It will thicken upon standing (and if you don't remove from heat, it will overly thicken very quickly after that point).
- Bring 1/3 cup milk to lukewarm (but not hot) by either heating in a saucepan or microwaving for 15-25 seconds. Technically it should be 110 degrees, but I just try to get it comfortable to the touch and just above room temperature. Sprinkle the yeast over top the milk and let sit for about 5 minutes. (In my experience, that’s really all you need.) The milk and yeast should foam.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the tangzhong, milk mixture, Greek yogurt, and beaten egg to the mixture, and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, until it becomes elastic. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over it to make kneading easier. (Or check out Richard Bertinet's magical kneading method that I just discovered last week and am obsessed with.)
- Add the butter to the dough in two additions, kneading after each addition. Only add the second tablespoon after the first is fully incorporated into the dough. It will be quite messy and squishy at first, but just keep kneading and it should come together into a dreamily silky dough. Continue to knead vigorously for 4-5 more minutes.
- Finally, flatten the dough into a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper, and sprinkle a handful of raisins evenly across the dough. Fold it in on itself (any way you like, really -- I just folded it in half) and flatten again, then sprinkle another handful of raisins across. Repeat until all the raisins have been added. Knead a few more times for good measure, then place back into its bowl and cover with plastic wrap or damp towels, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until well-doubled.
- Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal portions. Bring the edges of each portions down towards the bottom of the bun to form a neat ball, then place on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet about 3 inches apart from the next ball of dough. Let rise again, 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the egg white and milk for the egg wash. For the cross paste, mix together the flour and water (or milk, if you feel like it) til it forms a thick paste. You may need to add a teaspoon or two more liquid to get it to a pipable consistency. Fill a piping bag or a Ziploc with the paste. When the buns are done with their second rise, brush the tops with the egg wash, then pipe crosses over them. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until golden.