So I was a Hot Cross virgin until recently, and oh my god, that's making me think of a song. Hang on...YouTube help me out here...
If you've never seen Moulin Rouge, this cover of Madonna's "Like a Virgin", done by Jim Broadbent, is hysterically funny. He's trying to cover for his top showgirl by saying she's at confession.
Anyway, I digress.
So I had no idea what was involved with Hot Cross Buns, but was delighted to see that they have all kinds of goodies inside--allspice, cinnamon, lemon zest, orange zest, golden raisins and currants. It's a standard bread-baking procedure, with yeast, and risings, and all that jazz, and proceed I did until I came to some instructions that stopped me cold.
And these were:
On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out pastry dough into a 20- by 6-inch rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick). With a sharp knife cut rectangle crosswise into 1/8-inch- wide strips.
Brush buns with egg glaze and arrange 2 pastry strips over center of each bun to form a cross. Trim ends of pastry strips flush with bottoms of buns.
In the headnotes they take the time to say that in the early days these buns were docked to make a cross, then they evolved to cross-shaped icing. So I was expecting some kind of icing finale and was completely baffled by this direction. And YES, I should read recipes carefully, all the way through, before I embark upon them but being a flawed individual sometimes I don't.
I just can't reconcile pastry dough with bread dough! Pastry dough is meant to be flaky, to shatter in the mouth--how does that go with springy, spicy bread? If you take one bite will the rest fall off? It just seemed totally bizarre, and after giving it some thought I decided to ignore this direction and instead try two routes--just straight baked buns, and buns that had been docked (cut) on top in the shape of a cross. I used kitchen shears to do that rather than a knife.
Here's how they turned out:
I liked the looks of the regular ones, but there were others who thought the docked buns looked more "rustic", which I sometimes suspect is a synonym for "amateurish". But they both tasted just the way you'd expect, which is irresistible.
I was curious to get on epicurious and see a) if the recipe was there and if so b) if reviewers had tried the pastry crosses. It is, and they didn't--every one of the 19 reviewers who mentioned crosses said that they subbed icing.
So it's still a mystery to me. I might try it sometime, just out of a mad desire to see WHY (there must be a reason!) but for now suffice it to say that if you're into sweet yeast breads you will LOVE this recipe.