Hot Cross Mini Buns

 

About the size of a large doughnut hole, though not as sweet, these miniature hot cross buns will look great in a basket on your Easter table. The dough is filled with raisins or currants, spices, and saffron (if you choose to add it). The taste can be a surprise, because our eyes see the icing design on top and our brain assumes that the buns themselves will be sugary, like cinnamon rolls . . . or doughnuts. They aren’t. The bread is like a slightly sweet dinner roll, though those little bits of fruit inside do add a sweet surprise with each bite.

With regular hot cross buns there’s a higher bread-to-icing ratio, so I usually slather mine with butter or jam, but these little ones don’t need to be gussied up like that. Just two bites (unless you’re my husband, in which case, they are popped into his mouth whole) and you’re reaching for the next one. See? You’ve just saved all of those pesky butter and jam calories, so you can eat more mini buns!

A few years ago I made hot cross buns for a Yummy Northwest Easter column, using a very old and challenging recipe. It was an experience. If you’d like to see what happens when I have kitchen fail after kitchen fail, by all means go read the archived article: Old Fashioned Easter. Scroll down; the link to the recipe is right under the photo of Hot Cross Buns.

HINTS:

  • I added saffron to this recipe because it’s a traditional spice used to symbolize something or other (sunshine, spring, happy stuff) and because I happened to have a bottle of it languishing in the pantry. If you have some, add a few strands – but don’t overdo it, because the sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg should predominate.
  • You don’t have to mark the tops of the raised buns. You can just bake them as they are and use the icing alone to create the crosses. If you want to cut the design in the top before baking, make sure you use a very sharp blade so the puffy little buns don’t get smooshed.
  • If you like lots of fruit in your rolls, add more raisins or throw in a handful of chopped apricots or dried cherries.

 

Hot Cross Mini Buns
Print
Author:
Makes 60 mini buns Hot cross buns are slightly sweet and lightly spiced. Saffron is a traditional addition, but the buns are delicious without it, too.
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • small pinch saffron - OPTIONAL!
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup butter, cut into large chunks
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • GLAZE:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons water (or use fresh lemon juice for some "zing")
Instructions
  1. In small saucepan, heat milk and saffron (if using it) until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and, using a strainer if you added saffron, pour into a large bowl. A stand mixer is best. Add raisins, butter, and ¼ cup sugar, stirring briefly. Butter will soften, but don't worry if it isn't completely melted.
  2. In a small bowl, combine warm water with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yeast mixture, egg, and spices to the milk mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Add flour and salt. Switch to dough hook if using a stand mixer, and knead by machine for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes. Dough should be soft but not sticky.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.
  6. On lightly floured surface, punch down dough. Divide into 60 equal pieces and roll into balls. The easiest way to do this is to work on an unfloured surface. Form a ball by bringing the sides to the top, like an Asian dumpling, and then turning the ball over and pulling it towards you, scooching it along the surface.
  7. Place balls at least ½-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets, cover, and allow to rise until almost double, about 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 375 F
  9. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, pinch of salt, and water (or lemon juice) in a small bowl. Mix well. (Hint: for a firmer icing, add ½ teaspoon meringue powder.) Remove 2 tablespoons of icing and place in a small cup. Add water to the small cup a few drops at a time until it is a very thin consistency. This will be brushed over hot rolls to add a thin, shiny coating. Place remaining icing in a heavy plastic bag with one tip cut off, or in a pastry bag with small writing tip.
  10. With a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross shape on top of each bun, if desired. Bake mini buns for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush with a light layer of the thinned glaze. Allow to cool on a rack.
  11. Pipe a cross on each bun with icing (fill in the design if you cut the buns before baking) and allow to dry thoroughly before storing.

Add a small pinch of saffron to milk if desired. (I may have gone a little crazy here. Don’t use quite that much unless you love the taste of saffron!)

Heat milk until bubbles appear all around the edge of the pan. (Don’t forget to strain out the saffron.)

Isn’t this beautiful, soft dough?

Cut dough into 60 equal pieces. (Mrs. OCD here can tell you that I had 60 20-gram balls of dough. Yes, I weighed them. No, you don’t have to.)

Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet to rise.

After balls rise, cut an X in them with a very sharp knife or razor blade if desired. (Or you can skip this step and just make the X with the icing after they’re baked.)

Brush with thin glaze while hot, and then pipe on the cross after they cool.

They don’t have to be for Easter, of course. Skip the icing and split these little sweethearts in half. Spread with lemon curd, honey butter, or flavored cream cheese for a luncheon or party. And . . . hide a few for yourself!

Lorinda

Easter Bunny Drops

If you see chocolate covered raisins and grated carrot peeking out of the cookies on my brunch table, you’ll know the Easter Bunny has left a little surprise on his way through the kitchen!

He can’t help it; bunnies are like that. I had a litter-box trained rabbit once, but he still left a few droppings on the way to and from the box. More than you wanted to know, right?

These cookies are very light and cake-like, not crunchy. I like mine just bursting with goodies, so I add a handful of toasted pecans to the dough too for a little extra flavor and crunch. You could also add a small can of crushed pineapple with the juice thoroughly pressed out.

You don’t really have to glaze them, but they’re so appealing with that thin coat of icing that I couldn’t resist.

These are about as easy as cookies get. Make lots and lots; they’ll go quickly!

Easter Bunny Drops
Print
Author:
Makes 48 cookies (a few more if you add the optional ingredients).
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil (I use peanut, but any light colored oil will work)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated carrot (not too finely grated - you want to see the color!)
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 ounces (about 1¼ cups) chocolate covered raisins
  • OPTIONAL: ¼ cup chopped nuts, 1 small can crushed pineapple (all liquid pressed out)
  • GLAZE: 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons water, whisked together well.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Cover baking sheets with silpat or parchment.
  2. In large bowl, beat sugar and oil together well.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
  4. Mix in grated carrot, (pineapple, if you're using it) flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon just until incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate covered raisins (and nuts, if desired).
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, drop onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
  7. Cool on a rack and brush with a very thin layer of sugar glaze.

Sticky, gooey dough!

Scoop onto silpat or parchment. Don’t flatten!

Bake for 12 minute until bottoms are a rich golden brown.

Tell the kids that the Easter Bunny is magic, and his droppings are good to eat. They’ll buy that. I did!

Lorinda

 

Guinness Bread Braids – Sweet or Savory

I went all Irish on you with this bread. It has both Guinness Stout beer AND potato in the dough. You won’t even taste the beer, but what a pillowy-soft dough it helped create. I made a savory Celtic braid by adding some Parmesan and garlic to the dough, and turned another batch into a braided cinnamon and sugar ring.

Both were light – surprisingly light – and tender. I will say, however, that this is a bread that is best eaten the day it’s made. On day two it was just a tiny bit chewy, though if it had been heated a little, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. This almost made me wish I hadn’t deep-sixed the microwave. (A pat of butter and a few seconds in a microwave will revive any cinnamon roll . . . or braid.)

Guinness Bread Braids - Sweet and Savory
Print
Author:
Makes two Celtic braids or one braided cinnamon ring.
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups very warm water
  • 3½ teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ½ cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup dry instant potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if your instant potatoes contain salt)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • VARIATIONS:
  • For Celtic Braid: ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, if desired. 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water combined for egg wash.
  • For Cinnamon Ring: 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup sugar, green candied cherries. Icing if desired.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water and ½ teaspoon sugar. Add yeast and allow mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes, or until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan on low heat, heat the beer and 1 tablespoon butter until beer is lukewarm. (It’s okay if the butter hasn’t melted completely.)
  3. To the yeast mixture, add warm beer mixture, instant potatoes, salt, flour, and 3 teaspoons sugar. (IF MAKING SAVORY BREAD, ADD PARMESAN AND GARLIC.) Mix well. If using a heavy stand mixer, let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, knead on generously floured surface for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft, slightly sticky, and may stick to the sides of the bowl a little. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  4. FOR CELTIC BRAID: Cover large baking sheet with parchment. Punch down dough and divide dough into 4 pieces. (If dough is too sticky to work with, knead it a few times on a generously floured surface.) Working with 2 pieces at a time, roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long. Follow photo instructions in post for making braid (or find a template online). Repeat with remaining 2 pieces. Place braids on prepared baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Cover loosely with towel, and allow to rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 375 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Cool on rack.
  6. FOR CINNAMON RING: Prepare two large baking sheets by covering with parchment. (One will be used to coat the bread ropes in butter and cinnamon, and the other will be used to bake the braid.)
  7. Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll into ropes, each approximately 24 inches long.
  8. Melt butter and pour onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Combine cinnamon and ⅓ cup sugar in a small bowl.
  9. Roll ropes of dough in the melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture, rolling until completely coated.
  10. Pinch the three ropes together at the top. Lift onto clean baking sheet and braid. Tuck the ends under and pinch together where the ends meet.
  11. Cover braid loosely with clean towel and allow it to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Decorate with green candied cherries, if desired.
  12. Heat oven to 375 F. and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Place baking sheet on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then slide braid and parchment onto rack to cool completely.
  13. Drizzle with icing if desired. To make a simple icing, combine ½ cup powdered sugar, 1-2 drops green food coloring, and 1 tablespoon milk or water.

Dough will be sticky. Don’t add extra flour yet – you can always work in a little more once it’s risen if necessary.

Rises like a champ! Wait ’til you feel this dough – it’s billowy and soft as a baby’s cheek.

Roll dough around in the flour. If it’s really sticky, knead it a few times to add a bit more flour and make it manageable.

Start by crossing the two ropes at the middle, like an “X”.

And then do this . . .

. . . then this.

It should finally look something like this.

Brush the braid with egg wash and bake!

If you’re making the cinnamon ring, it’s a little easier – just a simple braid:

For the cinnamon braid, begin with three long dough ropes.

Roll them in melted butter, then coat them with cinnamon and sugar.

Braid the sticky ropes on a clean piece of parchment. Tuck the ends under and pinch together to make a ring.

Risen and ready for the oven.

Warm and fragrant.

Oh, and if you want to go with the whole green thing, drizzle this puppy with some green icing. 

Serving it was kind of interesting. You can cut it in slices (the least messy option) or you can do what we did and just rip and tear. Licking your fingers is half the fun – no fork and knife for this gal.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lorinda

St. Patrick’s Day Recipes from The Rowdy Baker

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite baking holidays, and I happily challenge myself each year to come up with something different. When my children were young, their lunches consisted of green everything. Everything!

As fun as it is to make green bread, rolls, and pastries, there are many other fascinating options out there – some Irish, some not so much. Booze plays a prominent roll in my brainstorming sessions, of course, which adds to the festivity.

Here are links to 9 of my favorite posts:

Corned Beef Pot Pie
Mint Chocolate Chip Pie
Irish Pretzel Knots
Drunken Leprechaun Balls
Corned Beef Hand Pies
Chocolate Mint Swirl Zucchini Bread
Pot o’ Gold Cupcakes
Mint Bombe
Guinness Cloverleaf Rolls

Sláinte!

Lorinda

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie

If you ask me what my favorite ice cream is, the answer will always be mint chocolate chip. It’s getting harder and harder to find the good stuff though; I’ve turned my nose up at brands with waxy chocolate and too much mint or coloring. It has to be just right!

For a fun twist on my favorite dessert, I created this refreshing Mint Chocolate Chip Pie. It’s soft and fluffy, lightly flavored, and laced with mini chocolate chips. (If you’re a purist you can substitute good quality dark chocolate instead.)

This pie would be wonderful for Christmas – or any time. But since I was making this for St. Patrick’s Day, I melted a few green candy melts, poured the candy into small heart molds, and then connected three of them with a dot of green chocolate and added a stem to create a shamrock. Several of those on top of the pie definitely added an Irish flair!

I’m one of those people who prefer the crust of a pie over the filling. In this case, the filling is delightful . . . but I’m still all about that crust! The thicker the better. This recipe will make two thin crusts, but I like rolling out a crust without worrying about getting the shape perfect, knowing that it will be big enough to cut out a perfect circle. You can make yours thinner if you prefer. Either way, you’ll still have some leftover crust. You could cut out shamrock shapes to decorate your pie, or just bake strips of crust, dusted with cinnamon sugar, for a treat. (C’mon – guilty pleasures are the best!)

Mint Chocolate Chip Pie
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ½ cup cold shortening
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
  • FILLING:
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream (divided)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • green food color
  • ¾ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered (plus 2 tablespoons) sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional, to stabilize the whipping cream)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. CRUST: In medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut butter into small cubes. Add butter and shortening and use pastry blender or fingers to combine. Mixture should have small lumps of fats visible - no larger than peas.
  2. In a small measuring cup, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Add all at once to dry ingredients and toss/stir just until combined.
  3. Place dough on generously floured surface. Sprinkle flour over the top and roll out to a thickness between ⅛-inch and ¼-inch, depending on preference. Place pie pan upside down on dough and cut circle about 1 inch larger all around than the pan.
  4. Slide flat baking sheet or cutting sheet under the dough and flip the pan and dough over. Gently ease the dough into the pan and fold excess over to make the dough come to just above the top edge of the pan. Flute the edge with your fingers. Chill for 30 minutes.
  5. Heat oven to 350 F.
  6. With a fork, poke holes in the sides and bottom of the crust. Carefully line with foil, allowing the foil to cover the top edge of the dough. Fill with pie weights (or beans, rice, or sugar) and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove foil and weights and allow pie to cool completely.
  7. FILLING: in a small saucepan on lowest heat (or in the microwave using 15 second increments) heat ½ cup cream and white chocolate chips until chips are melted.Add a few drops of green food coloring and peppermint extract and stir well. Allow to cool.
  8. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add white chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated. .
  9. In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1½ cups cream until soft peaks form.
  10. In a small cup in the microwave, or a small metal measuring cup or pan on the stove, heat the gelatin and water until gelatin is dissolved (this should happen very quickly...just 5-10 seconds in the microwave) and drizzle over the whipped cream while mixing on high speed. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  11. Fold approximately ⅔ of the whipped cream into the filling, fold in chocolate chips, and spoon into the cooled crust. Pipe or spread the remaining cream onto the top of the pie. Chill for several hours (or overnight) before serving.

Cut circle of dough larger than pie pan. Slide a flat sheet under dough and flip.

Ease dough into pan and flute. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Line crust with foil and fill with weights, beans, rice, or sugar. Bake.

Filling ingredients

Add green chocolate mixture to the cream cheese mixture.

Fold whipped cream into the filling

Fold in the chocolate chips.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill all the way to your door.

Lorinda