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Hot Cross Buns, the GF Version

More and more people that I know are developing food sensitivies or intolerances. I can certainly relate, being lactose and tomato intolerant. It can be difficult to go out to eat or to eat in other people’s homes. This is why I always like to ask about any food issues when I invite people over to eat. I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble making something and then serve it to a person who really shouldn’t eat it. This is a dilemma that you never want your guests to have, right? To be polite, they might eat it, but they can’t enjoy it fully because they know they will suffer for it later. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time and make necessary adjustments so that everyone can enjoy the food and be happy?

Yes, I know, it can be hard and sometimes it means going out on a limb and cooking in a way that is unfamiliar, but isn’t it worth it for our friends and family? Yes, it is. Fortunately, there are more resources out there to make cooking for food sensitivities easier, especially for those sensitive to gluten. This year, for Easter dinner, I decided to try a new GF flour mix and make some Hot Cross Buns for our GF guests.

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The recipe is adapted from the GF brioche recipe that I found in The Bouchon Bakery. The Cup 4 Cup flour mix was developed by Thomas Keller’s staff and claims to be a good cup for cup substitute for regular flour. I have not yet tested this claim, but may in the near future. For now, I contented myself with adapting his brioche recipe to make, I hoped, a wonderful Easter treat for my friends.

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The recipe, like most GF bread recipes, is easy enough. Since there is no gluten to develop, you basically just want to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. One thing I noticed right away about the Cup4Cup flour is that it already has xanthum gum incorporated into the mix, so there are no other specially GF ingredients to buy or measure out. That’s a great convenience, especially if you only bake GF occasionally. The C4C flour is expensive, but at least you don’t have to buy 5 other things to go with it.

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The recipe has three rises, with a rest in the fridge during the second rise. My dough took twice as long to rise as the original recipe stated, but the extra ingredients and the temperature of my house could account for some of that difference. As with all yeast breads, you must be patient and wait for the dough to tell you when it is ready.

Was it worth the wait? I must admit to being a little nervous. I once made some GF muffins that looked beautiful and puffy when they came out of the oven, but deflated to about half their size after a few minutes on the counter.

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I need not have worried, though. They puffed up beautifully in the oven and kept their structure after they had cooled. After I brushed on the glaze, I could not resist trying one. After all, I had to make sure they would be ok, right?

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First, I cut it open to see the structure.

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I was impressed with the springiness of the bread. It was soft and fluffy on the inside, not dry at all. But, you ask, how did it taste? Well, I took a bite, and then another, and then another. Pretty soon, half of it was gone and I had to stop myself from eating the rest because I wanted the husband to try it to see what he thought. He said that it was quite good and difficult to tell that it was GF, which always a good thing.

My first reaction was that it could use a little less salt and a bit more sugar. The sugar part will probably be resolved once I put on the frosting crosses, though next time I would probably try adding a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dough anyway. Aside from this issue, I thought that they were very good indeed. They were soft, but not pasty, like some GF foods can be. They also had very little grittiness. It’s still detectable, but not enough to get in the way. I was really amazed at the springiness of the dough. It was not as fluffy and light as regular brioche, but if I didn’t know it was GF, I might not have guessed that it was. In fact, it was tempting to eat them all up, but I behaved myself. I wrapped them up and froze them to await their Easter dinner debut on Sunday. I can’t wait to see what my GF friends think.

I am curious, now, to try the C4C in some of my favorite regular flour recipes, especially cakes and cookies and also to see how it compares to my other favorite GF mix from King Arthur Flour. Anyone want to come over and be a taste tester?

GF Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from The Bouchon Bakery

makes 12-14

Do you want your GF friends to feel comfy eating these? Of course you do! I cannot stress enough the importance of working with scrupulously clean equipment and ingredients when making GF foods, especially if your friends have Celiacs. Dedicated GF baking pans are best. Clean everything you plan to use, even if they are already clean, and use new packages of dried fruits or sugar or other ingredients if you are not absolutely sure that they have not had contact with gluten.

Also, the original recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt. I have cut this back by a third here. If you are using regular table salt, use just 1 teaspoon.

1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup currants
1 tablespoon dark rum

2 teaspoons instant yeast
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water at room temperature
3 3/4 cup Cup4Cup flour (535 grams)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey (80g)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (100g)

Egg Wash: 1 egg, well beaten and strained through a sieve

Sugar glaze:
1 Tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange extract

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine fruit with rum in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Then, stir well and let stand until completely cooled and the rum has been absorbed.

Combine yeast, granulated sugar, and water in a medium bowl and whisk together. Let stand until the yeast has bloomed and the top is foamy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the flour, salt, and spices into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk to combine.

To the yeast mixture, add the eggs, orange extract, honey, and butter. Whisk until all is combined.

Place the mixer bowl in the mixer and turn it on to medium low. Add the liquid in a steady stream. Once all the liquid is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for several minutes until it is nice and smooth. Turn the mixer off and, using a spatula, scrape the bowl thoroughly. Replace the bowl and mix for another 5-6 minutes on medium speed. Total mixing time will be ten minutes. The dough will be very loose, somewhere in between a pancake batter and a bread dough. It should be free of lumps.

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Turn down the mixer to low and add the fruit mixture. Mix until the fruit looks evenly distributed, about a minute. Scrape the bowl down again and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled. depending on the temperature of the dough and your house, this can be between 1-2 hours.

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Scrape the dough down again. Cover tightly and place in the fridge for two hours.

Prepare your pan: Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Do Not use a pan that you would normally use for regular flour muffins. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough into the wells of the muffin pan. I wanted to make at least one extra, so I also sprayed a ramekin and made 13.

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Brush the dough with the egg wash, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise just until puffy, not doubled. This can take between 45-90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, bake for 18-21 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

While they are baking, make the glaze. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a microwavable bowl and heat until just beginning to bubble. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

Brush the buns with glaze as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool in the pan on a rack until completely cool.

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At this point, they can be wrapped and frozen. Or, if you plan to serve them within a few hours, you can go ahead and ice them. If they have been previously frozen, make sure that you thaw them before proceeding with the icing.

To make the icing, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. It should not be runny. If it is, add a little more powdered sugar until it will hold its shape without dripping. Scrape the icing into a plastic bag or disposable icing bag. Snip a 1/4 hole in the tip or corner and pipe crosses onto the buns. Let stand to set for at least on hour or up to four before serving. If you have other foods that are not GF, makes sure to keep these separated from them. The last thing you want is to go to all this trouble to make something special for your friends and then have it cross-contaminated. Enjoy!

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Hot Cross Buns, the Sourdough Version

Our favorite treat of the Easter season is not a chocolate bunny or a jelly bean or even a sickly sweet cream egg. No. Our favorite treat to eat during holy week is a bun. A hot cross bun. Go ahead. You can sing the song, now.

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I have made several versions over the years and we have loved them all, even the ones that go stale almost as soon as they cool. It’s something about the sweet fruit mingled with the spices in the dough. I think the spices are supposed to represent the spices they used to use in Jesus’ time for dead bodies so that you wouldn’t notice the smell too much.

Fortunately, here, there are only sweet smells. And let’s not forget the sugary glaze that makes it all shiny and the frosting cross piped on each bun. Every once in awhile, I toy with the idea of making the crosses out of dough, but then I shake myself. Who am I kidding? If I left off that sugary cross, there might be some mutiny at the Easter table. When my younger son was younger and he had less self-control, he would always eat the frosting cross first, then the sticky sweet top portion of the bun, and then he would sometimes leave the rest on the plate. Nowadays, he eats the whole bun and sometimes asks for another. So, I wouldn’t think of leaving off the frosting top. Besides, I think it’s a sweet reminder of what the season is all about.

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This year, I used a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. The recipe is based on the Greek Celebration Bread, but with a few changes. There’s more sourdough starter and I used butter instead of oil and left out the almond extract and I changed the mixing method and….oh. Forget it. Here’s the recipe.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

This recipe makes about 40 buns at 2.5 ounces each. For less, you can half the recipe for 20 buns and space them on one half-sheet pan.

1 cup dried currants
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons of dark rum or water or orange juice
1 cup candied citron or orange peel (optional)

12 ounces or 1.5 cups whole milk
4 ounces or 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
5.25 ounces or 1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange extract
16 ounces 100% hydration sourdough starter
1 tablespoon instant yeast, preferably SAF gold osmotolerant yeast
2 pounds or 7 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons fround cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Glaze Ingredients:

2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons orange extract

Frosting Ingredients:

8 ounces or 2 cups powdered sugar
1 ounce or 2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To prepare the fruit:

Combine the raisins, cranberries, currants, and rum in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 minute. If your bowl is tightly sealed, shake (or stir) the fruit in the bowl. The fruit should be warm, but not hot. This step helps to plump the fruit a bit so that they don’t suck up moisture from the dough. Set aside, covered, to cool, stirring or shaking occasionally, while you are making the dough.

To prepare the dough:

Scald the milk in a pot or in the microwave until bubbles appear around the edges, it starts to steam, and smells of cooked milk. watch it like a hawk and stop the microwave before it boils over. Cut up your butter into tablespoon sized pieces and toss them into the milk. Stir the mixture until all the butter is melted. Pour into your mixing bowl and set aside to cool until it is around 100 degrees, but not more than 105.

When your milk mixture is cool enough, add the honey, eggs, orange extract, yeast, and sourdough starter. Stir with a spatula to combine. Add the flour, salt and spices. By hand or in the mixer on the slowest speed, mix until a rough dough forms. Then, knead for 10 minutes by hand or in the mixer on medium low. The dough should clean the edges of the bowl, but still be fairly soft and sticky. Add flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, if it is too sticky. I added about 6 tablespoons of extra flour.

During the last two minutes of mixing, add the fruit mixture and the citron. You may have to add additional flour here if your fruit did not soak up all the rum. I added another two tablespoons. This is a lot of dough, so there is a good chance that the fruit will not distribute evenly. If this happens, just turn it out onto your counter/kneading board and give it a few turns by hand to distrubute the fruit better. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm area until almost doubled, about 90 minutes.

Have a generous amount of flour nearby. Scrape the dough onto your counter and knead for a few seconds to deflate it. Divide the dough into 2.5 ounce pieces using a scale. This approximately 1/4 cup. Or, you can divide the dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into ten pieces. Dust all the dough with a little flour. Roll each portion into a ball and set on your baking sheet. One half-sheet pan can fit 20-24 depending on how close you’d like to squish them together. I put 24 in one pan to save for Easter Sunday and put the rest on another for us to eat right away.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and set them in a warm place to rise. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After about 90 minutes, they should be puffy and doubled. Remove the covers and bake for 20-22 minutes or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. If you have two pans, bake the pans in the order in which you shaped them, one after another, instead of both pans at once. They will bake more evenly this way.

While the buns are baking, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until it begins to boil. Stir until all the sugar is disolved and the glaze is clear. Once you take the buns out of the oven, brush them generously with glaze right away. Then, let the buns cool completely in the pans.

Once the buns are cool, whisk together the icing ingredients until nice and smooth. It should be thick and similar to the consistency of wet mustard, not runny. In other words, it should hold its shape when piped and not run all over the place. Scrape your frosting into a disposable pastry bag or a quart sized freezer bag. Snip the tip of the bag to make a 1/4 inch hole and pipe the frosting crosses onto the buns. If your buns are all nicely lined up in rows, this will be easier.

Serve. If you plane to freeze some buns, wait to frost the buns until after they are thawed. Frosted, the buns will stay soft, loosely covered for a day. After that, store in a plastic bag. On the second day, they will be a little drier, but still soft and excellent with tea or coffee. On the third and fourth day, they will be best warmed slightly in an oven, but the frosting will melt and go all crackly (just as yummy!) when you do this, so make sure you put it on a piece of foil or on a pan to do this. Five minutes in a 300 degree oven should make them soft and heavenly again.

Spring Colors

Neon Dye plus

Brown eggs equals

Great colored eggs.

The same dye plus white scrap fabric equals

mostly pink and yellow scraps.  The blue dye almost totally rinsed out.

Hope you have a sweet and colorful weekend!