Fluffy, light and tender, Hot Cross Buns (freestyle) with Rum Soaked Currants are a treat anytime of year but make holidays feel extra special. Lemon and orange zest lightly scent these buns with highlights from cinnamon and a touch of cardamom.
Before we jump into these Hot Cross Buns, I gotta share an update with the Chestnut-Backed Chickadees! So, early April Rob and I built nest boxes in hopes of attracting either Black-Capped or Chestnut-Backed Chickadees or House Wrens.
Two weeks ago we noticed a pair of Chestnut-Backed Chickadees were interested in one of the nest boxes. A few days later, they were pulling wood shavings that we put in the box out and taking moss from the yard into the box. This went on for several days.
Then over the next few days, they’d disappear for most of the day, only to show up again in the early evening gleaning seeds from the Doug Fir cones and calling to one another. I didn’t see much nest building activity after those first few initial days.
Their songs make my heart happy.
Checking the Nest Box
I was worried though when I hadn’t seen them for about a day and a half. So yesterday Rob and I checked the nest box to see if there was any sign of a nest with or without eggs or if perhaps they abandoned the box due to the aggressive House Sparrows I’ve been discouraging over the past several weeks.
I swear I’ve been hovering over them like a new mother.
We discovered a FULLLY constructed nest!! It’s 5 1/2″ deep made mostly of moss, with some rabbit fur and maybe deer fur at the top. It’s SO soft. After closing the box back up and coming back into the house, not five minutes later, here came the Chickadees! Hooray! They always travel together.
So, for now, all is well in the Chickadee house. Now we wait for eggs.
Freestyle Hot Cross Buns
There must be a million sweet buns recipes on the interwebs, so I thought I’d add mine to the mix. These are not traditional, according to Wikapedia. But they’re traditional(ish) Easter buns.
Not cross buns, perhaps?
Freestyle hot cross buns?
Or simply sweet buns?
They’re loaded with butter, a few eggs, milk (I use homemade cashew milk, but dairy can be used), maple syrup, orange and lemon zest, rum soaked currants, cinnamon and cardamom.
I just went with it.
And why not?
After reading multiple baking books about sweet buns and hot cross buns, I pulled this recipe together after four trials of fussing and tweaking mostly with spices, melted vs room temperature butter and boozy currants. I also tested kneading the dough with a mixer and by hand. I prefer the hand kneading (fewer dishes). We’ve been munching on sweet buns for two months!
Overnight or Same Day Buns
This sweet bun recipe can be made in about three and a half hours, in which case you’d need to get up before dawn to have them ready for breakfast. If you’re an early riser like me, whipping these up over coffee and a favorite book or newspaper is a morning well spent.
Or the buns can be rested in the fridge overnight. After mixing and fermenting the dough, then shaping the buns in the evening, they can be retarded in the refrigerator overnight so they’ll just need a bit of attention in the morning.
I’ve included both methods in the recipe.
PRO TIP: Since kitchen temperatures vary, and in order to allow the buns to rise in a timely manner, you can use your oven to help control this process. Simply turn on your oven at the lowest setting for about 30 seconds, then turn it off. Place the covered dough into the oven. This will help the dough rise in a cool kitchen. This technique can be done for the first (fermentation) and second rise (proof).
Slightly sweet, fluffy, with hints of citrus, cinnamon, cardamom and sweet boozy currants, these sweet buns are worth getting up early for!
Hot Cross Buns with Rum Soaked Currants
For the Buns:
- 1/2 C (115g) Milk, warmed to 105-110F (40-43C) I use homemade cashew milk, but whole milk will work too
- 2 1/2 tsp Quick Rise Yeast*
- 2/3 C (94g) Dried Currants** or raisins
- 4 Tbs Light Rum***
- 3 Whole Eggs (one will be used for egg wash)
- 1/2 C (113g) Unsalted Butter melted and cooled
- 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
- 1/4 C + 1 Tbs (75g) Pure Maple Syrup
- 2 2/3 C (380g) All Purpose Flour plus more for dusting
- 1 3/4 tsp Cinnamon ground
- 1 1/2 tsp Cardamom ground
- 3/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 Lemon zested
- 1 Orange zested
For the Drizzle:
- 5 Tbs Powder Sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs Milk or fresh squeezed orange juice , use also to thin the mixture if needed
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon ground
For the Buns:
- Line an 9"x9" (23x23cm) baking pan with parchment paper, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add the warmed milk and sprinkle yeast over the top. Whisk and set aside for 15 minutes to proof. It will be bubbly and frothy when ready. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, pour the rum over the currants/raisins, cover and warm for 30 seconds in the microwave. This will plump them up. Drain, pressing the currants/raisins through a fine strainer just before using in the recipe.
- To the frothy milk/yeast mixture add 2 eggs, melted butter, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Whisk throughly. To the wet ingredients, add the flour, cardamom, cinnamon and sea salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix first, then as the ingredients come together mix by hand until there are no dry patches. Add the lemon and orange zest and the drained currants/raisins. Using one hand, gently lift and press the dough over and onto itself while rotating the bowl in quarter turns with each fold with the other hand. Do this for about one minute to throughly fold in the zest and currants/raisins.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 9 minutes until the dough has a tacky, not sticky, feel to it. If it's sticking to your hands, dust the dough with flour and continue kneading. Roll into a ball by tucking the edges in underneath the ball. Place in a lightly greased clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location to rise (see tip in notes) to double in size.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently roll the dough into a log and divide into 12 equal pieces (about 74g ea). Roll each piece into a ball and place into the parchment lined baking pan. Cover the buns with plastic wrap. (see options A and B for finishing the buns).A. OVERNIGHT BUNS: Place the buns in the refrigerator overnight (8-9 hours). In the morning, remove them from the refrigerator and allow buns to rise until almost doubled in size. When ready, they should be squishing against one another. Use the TIP in the notes to speed this process along (my overnight buns take about two hours to proof after removing them from the refrigerator using the oven proof method).
B. SAME DAY BUNS: Set buns in warm spot to rise (proof) until almost doubled in size. When ready, they should be squishing against one another. Use the TIP in the notes to speed this process along. (my same day buns take about one hour to proof using the oven proof method).
- If using the oven to proof your buns, remove the buns from the oven before preheating the oven. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Crack the remaining egg into a bowl and whisk with one Tbs of water. Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash and bake for 23-25 minutes (or an internal bun temperature of 190F/87C). The tops will be golden. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before adding the drizzle.
For the Drizzle:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk or orange juice and cinnamon. If it's clumpy, keep whisking until smooth. If holding for more than 10 minutes place plastic wrap right on the surface of the mixture, otherwise it will dry out and start flaking. After the buns cool for about 5-10 minutes, use the tines of a fork to drizzle the mixture over the buns. Or, for a more traditional look, pour the mixture into a Ziplock, snip a hole in the corner or use a piping bag and pipe a cross over each bun.
- Store buns, covered at room temperature for up to two days. They are best right out of the oven. Rewarm buns in a 325F (162C) oven for about 10-12 minutes (the sugar drizzle will get flakey if rewarming).