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Hot Cross Buns

This recipe is adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg (Van Nostrand Reinhold 1996).

Makes 18 small buns

For the dough:

4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup warm milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup honey

1 pound bread flour, approximately

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

1/2 cup dried currants

Finely chopped peel from one lemon

Egg wash, made by combining 1 egg with 1 tablespoon cold water

For the pastry cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 egg

In the bowl of a mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Stir in the salt and the honey.

In another bowl, combine the flour with the spices. Mix into the yeast and milk mixture, using the dough hook at low speed. Alternatively, stir gently with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Incorporate the soft butter.

Knead at medium speed for 8 to 10 minutes, adding additional bread flour if the dough is sticky and tacky rather than smooth and soft. Do not overknead the dough.

Place the dough, covered with plastic, in a warm place and let rise until it is doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the pastry cream.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla to a boil.

Keeping an eye on the milk, mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a bowl with a whisk. Add the egg and mix until smooth.

Slowly add about 1/3 of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking. Pour the tempered egg mix back into the remaining milk.

Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Pour the custard in a bowl and cover the surface directly with plastic or parchment. When cool, store in the refrigerator, if making later.

Knead in the currants and lemon peel by hand, kneading until the dough is smooth. Let the dough rest, covered for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 6-inch ropes, and then cut each rope into six equal pieces. Form the small pieces into tight round buns. Place approximately 1 1/2 inches apart on sheet pans lined with parchment.

Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross on top of each bun just deep enough to penetrate the skin. Let the buns rise, covered, until slightly less than doubled in volume.

Brush the buns with egg wash.

Place the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a No. 3 plain tip, or cut a hole in the corner of a ziplock bag for a makeshift pastry bag. Pipe a cross of pastry cream in the opened cut on top of each bun.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly.

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