Marmalade Hot Cross Buns

The first recipe for my new site is not, in fact, for a preserve, but for one of my favourite baked goods of spring, HOT CROSS BUNS. I’ll actually be posting quite a few baking recipes that incorporate preserves in the coming months, seeing as I’m both a pastry chef and avid preserver, and I figure anyone who ends up here might be looking for more wonderful ways to use their own preserves. Hot cross buns, though– I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off. They will fill you’re whole kitchen with the scent of spice, you’ll eat them all squishy and hot, and then toast them and slather them with butter later on. I think everyone should eat one a day for the whole month of April. This recipe in particular, of course.

The trick here is that instead of candied citrus peel I call for chopped marmalade, which I’m much likelier to have on hand. And frankly if you don’t have either on hand it’s much easier to buy a good quality marmalade than candied peels, which, while delicious homemade, are generally no better store bought than the flavourless candied turnip that bulks up industrial fruitcake.

For this recipe you’ll want a very thick, chunky marmalade, like my Seville marmalade, although we’ve been using a whole fruit 3 citrus marmalade to make these at work, to very good effect. But essentially the chopped peel becomes the candied citrus, while the jelly perfumes the whole and lends added moisture. And just to be annoying, I’ll ask that you try to use a different marmalade, more jelly than peel, for the glaze, if you’ve got one hanging around. Since we’re straining it, obviously the less bits the better.

I’ll also encourage you to seek out fresh yeast for this recipe, which is pretty much always my preference. It just works so much better than the dried packaged stuff. Does this really come as a surprise? That said, I realize it’s not always accessible. In Montreal I used to buy it at Milano, the Italian grocery store near my house, and in Hamilton I find it at Starsky. The old world crowd is obviously still demanding it, and I couldn’t be happier. Most nice bakeries will also sell you some if you just ask. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few weeks at least, so you can use its perishability as an excuse to make more delicious yeasted treats.

Historically I’ve never been big on yeasted treats simply because if I wanted to serve them for, say, brunch, all that rising required me to rise at a rude hour. The ultimate life hack is to own a proofer, like we use at work, but that’s unreasonable, and even we aren’t making buns from scratch in the morning. At any point you can raise the dough in the fridge overnight instead of for an hour or two at room temperature. I like to do it so I have the least amount of work to do in the morning– make the dough after supper, let it do it’s first rise while you curl up with a book and a few glasses of sherry, then before bed you portion and shape them (the work of mere minutes!) and put them in the fridge (hopefully you have room– I usually do not), then just pull them out and let them come to room temperature in the morning. That’s Easter brunch, sorted.

Marmalade Hot Cross Buns

168g (2/3 c.) whole milk, warmed to 115F

4 t. instant dry yeast (or, better yet, 34g fresh yeast)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

25g (2 T.) sugar

115g (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature

545g (3 3/4 c. + 2 T.) all-purpose flour

3/4 t. kosher salt

2 t. mixed spice (see note)

210g (2/3 c.) thick cut marmalade (preferably Seville), coarsely chopped

54g (1/3 c.) golden raisins

58g (1/3 c.) currants

For the cross paste: 3 T. ea flour & water, pinch of salt, ½ t. oil

Put the currants and raisins in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to plump.

If using instant yeast, dissolve it in the warm milk and wait about 5 minutes until it starts to foam. Then combine all  ingredients (other than the dried fruit) in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Drain the currants and raisins and fold them into the dough by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour and a half (or put the dough in the fridge for a long overnight rise).

Preheat oven to 350F

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and place, spaced a few inches apart, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (or tuck them together into a greased 9 x 13″ pan). Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Prepare the cross paste by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small tip and pipe the crosses onto the buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Prepare the glaze by heating a 1/3 c. fine cut marmalade until liquefied. Strain through a fine mesh sieve then, while the buns are still hot, brush them generously.

Note: To make mixed spice, finely grind 3 pc. mace, 2 t. cloves, 6 allspice berries, 1 star anise, 3 green cardamom (seeds only!), then 1T + 1t cinnamon, ½ T. ginger, and 1 t nutmeg. This will make more than you need, but probably you need to make hot cross buns more than once this spring. I also use this mix in a few different recipes in my book.

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