Remember “… one-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns!”? Well, the English nursery rhyme you may have learned as a child features these beautiful, subtly-spiced yeast rolls that are often served on Good Friday or Easter around the world. And though I grew up baking countless loaves of bread and rolls with my Mom from generations-old recipes in our farmhouse kitchen, these were not part of our all-German family repertoire. So, there’s no better time than right now to start a new tradition!
This version of hot cross buns features traditional currants and typically-used spices, including cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Add a pinch of nutmeg and ginger if you want, too. And while brewed coffee may not be a traditional recipe ingredient, it adds depth of flavor, enhancing the warm spice notes without imparting a concerted coffee flavor. Honey adds a mellow sweetness and acts as a humectant to help keep the buns moist. The cross is a simple powdered sugar icing with a touch of background coffee flavor.
If you haven’t baked with yeast before, absolutely no worries. Look for the extra tips in the notes section just for you. And once you’ve tried yeast baking, you’ll be a regular. The aroma alone of yeast-leavened baked goods from the oven will hook you – long before the first bite.
Enjoy … and Happy Easter!
Spiced Coffee Hot Cross Buns
4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast (1 package)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup milk, slightly warm or room temperature
¼ cup brewed Community Coffee, slightly warm or room temperature
¼ cup honey
¼ cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
½ cup currants or raisins
1 egg white
1 teaspoon milk
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon brewed Community Coffee, cooled
In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in milk, ¼ cup coffee, honey, butter and eggs. Knead 5-10 minutes with an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook – or by hand – until dough is smooth and elastic. Knead in currants. Scrape dough to one side of bowl, spray with vegetable cooking spray, and repeat on other side of bowl to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let rise about 1 hour or until puffy.
Evenly divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll dough pieces between hands and round into smooth balls by gently stretching edges under and securing. Place in 9”x13” pan sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Cover with towel or plastic wrap sprayed with vegetable cooking spray; let buns rise about 1 hour or until touching each other.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.
In small bowl, whisk together egg white and milk. Very gently brush over risen buns. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely.
In large mixing bowl, beat together powdered sugar, milk and 1 teaspoon coffee until completely combined. Place in a resealable plastic bag, snip off a small amount of bag corner, and pipe a cross on top of each bun.
Makes 12 buns
- Baking with yeast tips:
- Kneading is required for yeast breads to develop gluten, the support structure for rising, stretching dough. If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook to knead, do it by hand: Fold. Push. Turn. Repeat. Knead until dough is smooth, stretchy and not sticky. Sparingly use extra flour for dusting hands and kneading surface to prevent sticking.
- For easy clean-up of bowls, dough hook, etc., immediately wipe with a wet paper towel when finished using. This keeps leftover dough from hardening on surfaces. (Thanks, Mom, for teaching me this one!)
- If you don’t have time to finish all of the steps in a recipe, cover and chill dough at any point to slow down yeast’s activity. Long and slow (refrigerated) rise time actually produces more flavor!
- Shaped bread loaves and rolls may be covered and refrigerated overnight before baking, too. (Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with vegetable cooking spray.) Make sure to let them rise until about double in size before baking.
- Bread flour is higher in protein – what gluten is made of – than all-purpose flour. Either one will work fine for these buns.
- Take the chill off of the liquid ingredients and soften butter with a few seconds in the microwave.
- Why baking powder? This rich, heavy dough gets a little extra lift in the oven from added baking powder.
- Dried fruit: raisins or other favorite dried fruit may be substituted for currants.
- For evenly-sized buns, use a kitchen scale to equally divide dough (just over 3 oz. each).
- Make, shape, cover and refrigerate buns the night before serving if you want. Just leave enough time to let them cool before frosting.
- Egg wash: this simple extra step on top of the buns before baking gives them a special gloss after baking; gently apply wash to avoid causing the bun to deflate. Refrigerate the yolk and extra white/milk mixture for making scrambled eggs or omelets.
- Check out these decadent brownies for another recipe featuring coffee as a flavor-enhancing ingredient!
Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.