Hot Cross Buns and a Baking Challenge

If you enjoy baking, particularly hot cross buns, you may be interested in the Fresh from the Oven April challenge.  The information about this baking round-up is at Purely Food.  This month’s host of the challenge is talented food blogger The Little Loaf.  Here is my contribution to the many variations of the hot cross bun:
The traditional English hot cross bun was a familiar treat in our home when I was growing up, always a part of the Easter holiday.  This week I have taken up the challenge of presenting a different version of the hot cross bun:  a hot cross muffin.  This recipe produces a kind of hybrid pastry with the flavor and texture of a yeast roll, and the convenience and ease-of-preparation of a quick bread.  For anyone who is fearful of working with yeast, this one is for you.  There is no kneading, no portioning and shaping of all those little rolls, and no waiting for hours to enjoy the fruits of your labors.  If you are an organized person you can mix up the dry ingredients the night before, then have these muffins in the oven in just over an hour or so.  I baked mine in silicone baking cups which produce a slightly smaller pastry than a standard muffin tin. 

If you use a standard tin you should get eighteen perfect little hot cross muffins. Here is the recipe:

Hot Cross Muffins (from King Arthur Flour**)
Batter
1 cup(6 ounces, 170 gm) raisins, golden raisins, or sultanas
2 tablespoons (1 ounce, 30 ml.) rum or water (I used Crown Royal whiskey)
3 3/4 cups (1 pound, 455 gm) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces, 45 gm) potato flour or dried potato flakes
1/3 cup (21/2 ounces, 72 gm) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces, 400ml) warm water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces, 58gm) butter, melted
finely grated zest of 1 medium orange and half a medium lemon (this is my addition to the recipe)
Icing
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces, 144gm) icing or confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce, 28gm) soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Batter:
Mix together the raisins and rum or water in a non-reactive bowl, and set the mixture aside. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients; its important to whisk thoroughly, so that the potato flour doesn’t clump when the liquids are added. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, eggs, water, melted butter, raisin mixture (including any remaining soaking liquid) and the citrus zest, if you are using it. Beat until all of the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is cohesive. It won’t be smooth; that’s okay. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes; it’ll get a bit puffy, but won’t really increase much in size. Preheat your oven to 400F. Stir the dough briefly to deflate it, and use a muffin scoop or a 1/4 cup measure to fill 18 greased muffin cups; each should be about two-thirds full. Let the muffins rise, covered, for 20 minutes, until they’ve risen almost to the top of the cups. (I covered mine with a sheet of plastic wrap sprayed lightly with non-stick spray).

Bake them for 20 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Remove them from the pans and allow them to cool before icing.
Icing: Combine all the icing ingredients in a small bowl and beat until thick. Use a pastry bag and tip to pipe thick crosses onto the muffins. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a sturdy plastic bag with the frosting, squeezing it down into one corner. Snip the tip of the bag off, and squeeze the frosting onto the muffins).

** King Arthur Flour company, of Norwich, Vermont is a wonderful source of ingredients and supplies for  baking.  Visit their website at:  www.kingarthurflour.com.

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