Win Easter baking with these Hot Cross Buns by James Beard Award nominated pastry chef Melissa Weller, who currently bread and pastry program at Walnut Street Café in University City, Philadelphia. The buns show off Melissa’s impressive bread work, and include a well-spiced, currant-laden dough topped a sweet icing forming the classic white crosses.
Melissa is also the owner and founding baker of acclaimed bagel-mecca Sadelle’s in Soho, New York City. Prior to pursuing a culinary career, she worked as a chemical engineer developing fuel cell engines for alternative fuel vehicles. In 2004, she turned to bread and pastry and started her culinary career at the French Culinary Institute. She went on to refine her skills at various establishments in NYC, including Babbo Ristorante and Sullivan Street Bakery. From 2008 through 2010 she was the head baker at Per Se and Bouchon Bakery. From there, she created the much-lauded bread program at Roberta’s in Brooklyn, baking all of her bread in an outdoor, wood-fired oven.
- For the buns:
- 2 cups (255 grams) dried currants
- ¾ cup (170 grams) whole milk
- 2 (100 grams) eggs, large
- ¼ cup (50 grams) Crème Fraîche
- 4 ¼ cups, plus more for dusting (510 grams) All-purpose flour
- ½ cup (100 grams) dark brown sugar
- 5 teaspoons (15 grams) instant yeast
- 2 ½ teaspoons (15 grams) fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 orange
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, softened
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Egg, for egg wash
- 1 cup (200 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) milk
- Place the currants in a small bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak for 10 minutes. Strain.
- Pour ¾ cup (170 grams) milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In the following order, add the eggs, crème fraîche, flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Zest the orange into the bowl. Knead the dough with the dough hook on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Add the butter, reduce the speed to low, and mix until the butter is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the hook once or twice with a wet hand, about 5 minutes. Add the currants and mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Turn off the mixer.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with a dishcloth or plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside in a warm place to ferment the dough for 2 hours, turning the dough by folding the four edges in toward the center, once halfway through the fermentation.
- Meanwhile, spray a quarter-size baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Line the baking sheet with parchment and spray the top of the parchment with the nonstick spray.
- Lightly dust a flat work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the floured work surface and divide the dough into 15 equal (85 gram) pieces.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, rotate the dough on your dusted work surface in a circular motion, rolling it counter clockwise if you’re right handed, and pushing against the work surface to create a ball. (The dough is not terribly sticky, so you shouldn’t need any additional flour to shape the dough into balls. If you use too much flour on your work surface the pieces of dough will slip and slide while you try to round them. If this happens, scrape the extra flour away with a bench knife and round again.) Place the balls evenly, three across by five long on the prepared baking sheet.
- Cover the baking sheet with a dishcloth or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to proof the dough for about two hours, until the balls look swollen, are touching each other, and have approximately doubled in size.
- Adjust the oven racks so one is in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Whisk the egg in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Brush the tops and side of the buns with the egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the cooking time, until the buns are nicely browned and hollow sounding when tapped on the top.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately remove the buns from the pan onto a cooling rack. Use an offset spatula to do this, giving the pan a little jerk to help slide the buns onto the cooling rack. Let the buns cool for 20 to 30 minutes before icing them.
- While the buns are cooling, prepare the icing. Stir the confectioners’ sugar together with the milk in a small bowl. Transfer the icing to a disposable pastry bag and make a small cut in the opening.Pipe the icing straight lines down and then across the centers of each line of buns to create a cross on each bun.
I’m reading this and realize Melissa doesn’t warm the milk to activate the yeast. Is this correct?
Thank you for your question!
Because Melissa uses instant yeast, activating it isn’t necessary in this instance. However, if you’re nervous that your yeast may be old or inactive, you can always warm the milk (105°F/41°C to 110°F/43°C) and combine it with the yeast to test it.
Hope this helps, and happy baking!