Hot Cross Buns, It must be Spring!

hot cross buns

I love this particular Hot Cross Bun recipe. It is a little more complex than others that I have seen, with a few extra steps, but it is hard to argue with the results! Like most other formulas out there, this one uses the straight dough method for the rolls themselves, and similar instructions for combining the batch of cross dough, but it is the spiced bun glaze that really sets this recipe apart from the pack.

This recipe is from a culinary cookbook, I have mentioned in the past that culinary texts are written differently than standard cookbooks or recipes in general. I have adapted this and made a few changes but the format will be by weight and volume for the most part.  One additional step done here is to condition the dried fruit. This step requires a 2 hour, minimum rest, so plan ahead! However, after that step the recipe moves along smoothly since it is a straight dough method, everything goes in together and combined quickly.

The flour, butter, sugar, yeast, milk powder, salt, vanilla paste, eggs and spices are combined first then the temperature controlled water is added. Once the dough has pulled together and is soft and pliable the dried fruits are added.

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The dough is allowed to rise, covered on the bench until doubled in size (about 30 minutes)

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It is then degassed and folded into thirds, allowed to rest again for 15 minutes. This lets the dough relax and is easier to portion and shape. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 oz portions to be rounded and panned 5 rows by 6 rows for a total of 30, rather large, buns!

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yes, I do weigh them-this one was a little big and had to have a pinch removed!

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The rolls are covered and allowed to proof until doubled which takes about an hour

While the rolls proofed I made the cross dough which is applied right before they go in the oven. The cross dough is pastry flour, butter and milk which is combined and mixed until smooth.

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The cross dough was put into a disposable pastry bag that had been fitted with a plain tip.

This was piped onto the individual rolls to form the cross pattern.

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The pan went into a 375°F preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the desired color was achieved. This particular cross dough is not sweet. As I said before it is just flour, butter and milk. Many other recipes use cream cheese or other flavored icing and apply it at the end of the baking process. This recipe uses a lemon, ginger simple syrup to give the rolls flavor and shine.

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This bun glaze is water, sugar, ground ginger, lemon juice, lemon zest and cream of tartar. It should be made ahead of time and chilled before applying to the hot rolls.

As soon as the rolls come out of the oven the glaze is generously applied.

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They are shiny, sweet, sticky, fruity and delicious! The extra steps are worth it!

 

 

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Artisan Bread from your home oven!

Of all the items I enjoy baking, artisan bread is far and above the top of the list! The culinary program where I was enrolled offered many, wonderful courses and I learned a great deal from each one. But Artisan bread baking was my favorite. We used 20-quart mixers and rotating shelf ovens with a stone platform and the ovens had steam injection options. My home oven is, well, normal and does not have any of those features that produce a crackling crust and the wonderful chewy internal texture that are synonymous with artisan bread. I have spent many hours (and more than a few dollars) to turn my normal oven into the best artisan bread production center possible. I am pretty happy with the results so far, but am always on the lookout for a better upgrade.

Now that the craziness of the holidays is dying down I wanted to get back to baking some of my favorites. The first on the list is Ciabatta, Italy’s answer to the French Baguette. This bread, like many other artisan bread begins with a preferment (more later).

I want to take a moment to talk about lean bread dough. A lean dough is when a recipe only calls for flour, yeast, salt and water. Since there are so few ingredients each is vital to the finished product, as is the ratio in which they are combined. I am rather picky about my bread flour and often order it on the internet. One of my best go to product is King Arthur Flour, which is found in many grocery stores. The specialty flours I have to order, for this ciabatta I am using this blend.

 

This has 11.7% protein content, a good medium strength flour for this recipe.

 

 

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This stores for long periods of time, does not require dissolving and I use it interchangeably when recipes call for active yeast, I have found no need to convert measurements. For the salt, I like to use Kosher and, unless stated in the recipe, use temperature controlled water.

Back to the preferment!

If you have made french baguettes than you may be familiar with the poolish, which is made from equal parts flour and water and used within a short time frame, generally 2-3 hours. A biga is only 30% water to flour and requires a much longer fermentation time, generally 18 to 24 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. I started my biga at 6:00pm the night before by mixing 737g (13oz) bread flour, 199ml (6.6fl. oz.) 80°F water and a pinch (~1/8 t) instant yeast in my 6 quart stand mixer.

 

 

 

Once combined, the biga was left covered at room temperature until 2pm the next day.

 

 

 

By the end of fermentation the biga should have risen and begun to recede, and appear bubbly and airy. This took 20 hours in my rather cool kitchen!

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Now you are ready to mix the dough. You will need the rest of the flour, water, instant yeast and salt. The full recipe is at the end of the post.

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I combined the biga, water and salt with the dough hook attachment on my 6 quart kitchen aid set on low to begin mixing, then added the flour and yeast to form this wet, slack dough. Artisan dough is wet by definition, you do not want to add more flour at this point, resist the temptation! After the dough is combined, transfer to a large bowl to bulk ferment until doubled, ~ 30 min.

 

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I sprinkled a little flour around the outer edge of the bowl, to help with the transfer to the counter later and a little on the top to help prevent drying out. I covered the bowl with plastic and a tea towel and placed it in a draft free area.

 

 

 

Everything up to this point has been fairly standard bread making, until now. This is where traditional bread and artisan bread become quite different. If you were making a standard loaf you would add enough flour so you could pull out the dough and knead it until it held your final shape. The key to artisan bread is to retain as much hydration (water content) as possible. You will not be able to knead this dough, instead you will be doing a series of stretch and fold techniques.

First transfer the dough to a floured surface. I find that my plastic bowl scraper works best for this process.

 

 

The dough will feel like jelly and be quite sticky. Using floured hands, lift one end and stretch the dough as you fold it back over the midline.

 

 

Repeat with the other side. fold-1k

Now you have completed 1 fold. Rotate the dough 90° and begin fold #2

 

 

Then return the dough to the bowl for the second fermentation (another 30 minutes). You need to do one more stretch and fold after the second fermentation. Then it is time to shape your bread.

Each time you fold then rest the dough, it will begin to hold its shape better as the proteins align and strengthen.

 

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The bread is still too fragile for a rolling pin and you need to take care to avoid tearing it with your fingers. Working with the palms, stretch the dough into a rectangle.

 

I decided to make two full loaves and six buns.

 

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Using a bench scraper, I divided the dough through the middle, into two halves. I set one half aside for the buns, and split the other half, longitudinally, reshaped into rectangles and placed on a couche. A couche is a floured, cloth that allows the dough to proof and will be useful in transferring to the oven later.

 

 

 

The other half of the dough was also split longitudinally, then sectioned into three rolls each, yielding 6 rolls total and placed in the couche.

 

 

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The bread was covered with a tea towel and allowed to proof for another 45 min.

While the bread proofed, I turned my attention to the oven. In order to mimic the oven found in a professional bakery I had to purchase a home oven baking stone. I bought mine from Breadtopia.com another one of my favorite websites!

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I leave my stone in at all times to help it cure, but only use the surface directly for my bread baking. To mimic the steam environment, I purchased a smoker box from Home Depot and filled it with volcanic rock. I load the stone with my bread and pour a cup of cold water into the smoker box, then quickly close the oven door to keep the steam inside. Resist the urge to open the door in the first 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent the humidity from escaping!

Now it is finally time to transfer the bread to the oven. A few key tips and tools for this process! A baguette flipping board will come in handy, and again, I bought mine from Breadtopia.

Transfer the bread to the baguette board that has been dusted with flour.

 

 

Flip the bread onto a pizza peel or a sheet pan for loading on the pizza stone. Dusting the surface with semolina flour or cornmeal will allow the bread to slide off the surface onto the baking stone.

 

 

 

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The loaves will slide off the cornmeal dusted surface quite easily

The bread needs to bake for about 30 minutes or until desired color is achieved. I like my bread on the darker side.

 

 

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I hope you are inspired to try some artisan bread baking at home!

Ciabatta Bread

  • Servings: 4 loaves or 2 loaves and 6 large sandwich rolls
  • Difficulty: moderate to advanced
  • Print

This Ciabatta recipe produces a wonderful crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior. This bread hold up well to saucy ingredients such as pulled pork or barbecue and pairs well with your wine and cheese tray.

Credit: Baking and Pastry textbook 

Ingredients

-Ciabatta  Makes 4 1/2 lbs of dough (2.02 kg)

For the Biga:

-13 oz or 368.5g Bread flour

-6.6 fl. oz. or 199ml water (60°F/16°C)

-a pinch of instant yeast

 

 

For the Final dough:

-1 lb 10.8oz or 0.76kg Bread flour

-1/4oz or 3.5 g Instant yeast

-22.6 fl. oz or 680ml water, temperature controlled to ~80°F/26°C)

-Biga from the day before

-1 oz or 28.5g salt 

Directions

  1. Prepare Biga the night before. combine flour, water and yeast and mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment for 3 minutes, or until combined thoroughly. Transfer to a container, cover and ferment at 75°F/24°C for 18 to 24 hours, until bigs has begun to recede; it should be airy and bubbly.
  2. Prepare the final dough. combine the flour and yeast and set aside. place the biga, water and salt in the mixer and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Then add the flour and yeast and continue to mix on low for 4 minutes and then medium speed for 1 minute. Dough should be combined by still slack and very wet.
  3. Bulk ferment in a tub or bowl until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Begin the stretch and folds by folding gently in half four times (it should feel like jelly). Ferment for another 30 minutes. Fold in half again, gently, two times. Allow to ferment for another 15 minutes.
  4. Place the dough onto a floured surface and, using the palms of your hands, gently stretch the dough into a rectangle. Be careful to avoid tearing the dough with your fingertips. Divide the dough into desired shapes and place onto a floured lined couche. Gently reshape as needed.
  5. Proof, covered, until the dough spring back slowly to the touch but does not collapse, 30-45 minutes. While the bread proofs, preheat the oven to 460°F/238°C. Lightly flour the top of the dough, flip each ciabatta over onto a floured transfer board and slide each one onto the floured peel.
  6. Load the ciabatta into the oven and add steam. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the ciabatta sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on racks. 

 

 

Great Recipes

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are heading out for food, football and festivities. I am lucky because I have amazing parents-in-law (is that a term?). Both my mother and father in-law are kind and generous and have always made me feel like part of the family. After 30 years with my husband, I have come to appreciate them more each year. My mother-in-law loves to cook so there is not a lot I can bring to the table, with one exception-bread!  We all love fresh baked bread and rolls and I happen to really enjoy bread baking. This year I decided to do something different and found these adorable pumpkin bread rolls on Pinterest. This is one of those great recipes that you don’t have to tinker with at all. Usually I change some things to accommodate my picky family, but these are perfect as is!

I found this from the “handle the heat” page, Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and served them to our dinner guests one evening. It was hard to tell which they liked better, the rolls or the cinnamon butter served on the side. I decided to make them again for Thanksgiving. One thing I should mention about my style of cooking and baking is that I am one of those who likes to weigh out my ingredients. I am a molecular biologist by training and love the reproducibility and precision that results from scaling out ingredients as opposed to using measuring cups which can produce different volumes and introduce variable results. Ok, I got that out of the way! I use an inexpensive scale purchased from Bed, Bath and Beyond and it works great (both english and metric units)

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It is dusty from flour and I said I am precise-not neat!

This recipe is simple, once the dough comes together it will double in 45 min to an hour.

I use plastic wrap and mark the time with a sharpie, otherwise I will forget how long they have been rising. I love my granite counter tops but they do get cold in the winter months so I often will place the bowl on a towel to warm the bottom of the bowl, then cover with cloth and hope the room is warm enough!

The fun part is the shaping. I use my handy scale again and weigh out 2 oz. of dough, which yields 16 rolls. The recipe says to divide the dough into 15 balls, but I like mine to be more uniform and am not capable of eye balling 15 equal pieces. One of the tricks is to get a smooth surface for the ball of dough. In culinary school, I was shown a number of ways to get that taught surface but only one method worked for me. I take the 2 oz. clump of dough, flatten it and push the smooth side through a ring formed by my index and thumb, while pinching the underside together to form a seam. This is a good picture, but not my hands doing the work!

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Eventually my rolls looked like this, these are my hands!

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The rolls were flattened slightly and the “ridges” of the future pumpkin were made by slicing 8 seams (leaving an intact center) which looked like spokes of a wheel.

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I placed 8 sliced rolls onto a parchment lined, full sheet tray (so, two trays total) and let the rolls rise for another hour. At that point I used the end of a wooden spoon to make the indentation for the future stem, brushed them with the egg white wash and baked them off in the oven at 350F, for about 25 minutes. My oven takes a little longer time to finish baking due to the bread stone that I keep in there for artisan breads (more on that in another post!)

The pecan “stem” was added after they had cooled a bit and they look a lot like the Pinterest picture. I was quite happy with the appearance but even more satisfied with the taste. Just the right amount of pumpkin.  I think the family will be very happy tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!