My favorite part of Ostara is being able to justify spending three hours making hot cross buns. Yes, they’re time-consuming but, folks, they are worth it. These flavorful little buns are going to knock your socks off. Plus, not only are they utterly delicious, but the little cross on top represents the balance of day and night at the vernal equinox.
My recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com and the Joy of Cooking:
two 1/4-ounce packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup raisins
Zest of one lemon, finely grated
Zest of half an orange, finely grated
3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup ice water
In a small bowl stir together milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Into a large bowl sift together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cut butter into bits and with your fingertips or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. Lightly beat 1 whole egg with egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, raisins, and zests. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a floured surface with floured hands knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
While buns are rising, lightly beat remaining egg with superfine sugar to make an egg glaze. Mix remaining flour, sugar and salt until combined. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender. Slowly sprinkle in ice water until a smooth dough is formed. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out pastry dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Slice into strips.
Brush buns with egg glaze and arrange 2 pastry strips over center of each bun to form a cross (dab a bit of egg glaze between strips so they stick together. Brush strips with egg glaze. Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.