The usually fun, sometimes frustrating thing about dating someone from another country is learning about (and adapting to) how the other person celebrates holidays.
Take last year, for instance. Growing up, Aussie always had hot cross buns for Easter and wanted to continue that tradition. So, we drove all over the city searching and searching and searching… and the only ones we could find had icing. Heavens no, not ICING!!! Apparently, this isn’t how it’s done in Australia, and Aussie was quite disappointed… even though I thought the buns we eventually got at Bakery Nouveau were insanely delicious.
I had quite enough of the “but they shouldn’t HAVE icing” grumbling last year, so this Easter, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I scoured the internet to find the perfect hot cross bun recipe from Australia so they couldn’t be accused of being inauthentic. I found out how to make “mixed spice” from what I had at home. I found out how to make a substitute for caster sugar with granulated sugar and a blender. I scoured Whole Foods for any kind of candied peel to substitute for “mixed peel,” but alas, no, so I added lemon zest. Why not?
In my zeal, I forgot that American cups do not equal Australian cups, and American teaspoons do not equal Autralian teaspoons, and so on., or tablespoons, or any volume measurements. So… a 3.5 hour recipe became a 4.5 hour recipe as I painstakingly researched conversions of Aussie cups of flour and sugar and currants to grams. This website is a life-saver.
Hours later, after calculating and converting and kneading and piping and baking and glazing…
Well, they were beautiful! Aussie’s eyes brightened when he saw them. He did a happy dance when he bit into one. He deemed them just like the ones from home (well, minus that pesky mixed peel).
As for me? I preferred the sweeter, more buttery, streusel- and icing-topped ones from Bakery Nouveau! But they weren’t for me, right? Right.
Australian Hot Cross Buns Recipe, adapated from Taste.com.au.
These are a labor of love. You make bread. You pipe little flour paste details on the top. You bake. You glaze. You don’t enjoy them nearly as much as your other half, but you make them because he loves them. They taste like unsweetened cinnamon-raisin bread, if that makes any sense. To serve, cut in half and toast under the broiler for a couple minutes, then slather in sweet cream butter.
Note: important measurements converted to weights (albeit metric ones!) or US volumes, and unfamiliar ingredients converted to familiar for all of us Yanks!
600 g all-purpose flour
14 g active dry yeast
60 g sugar, put in the blender and pulverized
1+ tbsp spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Amount depends on how spicy you like things — I’m sure I had 1.5-2 tbsp with about 75% of it being cinnamon.
pinch of salt
1 to 1 1/2 cup currants. I think I ended up with about 150 g or so.
zest of 1 lemon
40 g unsalted butter
300 ml milk (I used 2%)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
For flour paste:
45 g all-purpose flour
80-100 ml water
Combine flour (all but 1/2 a cup), yeast, sugar, spices, salt, currants, and zest in a large bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add milk and heat for 1 minute. Add the milk mixture and the eggs to the dry mixture. Mix with a spatula until dough almost comes together, then mix with hands to form a soft dough.
Dust surface with remaining 1/2 cup of dough. Knead dough on this surface for 10 mins (don’t add more flour — it’s sticky and a mess but it works!) or until dough is smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 to 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Punch down down and knead on very lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide in 12 equal portions (mine were about 100g each), shape each portion into a ball, and then place on the tray about 1 cm apart (4 balls x 3 balls). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 mins or until buns double in size. While rising, preheat oven to 375F.
Make the flour paste by mixing flour and water together in small bowl, adding more water if the paste is too thick. Pipe paste onto buns in the shape of a cross (I just used a ziploc bag with the corner cut off for this… no need to get fancy!). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through.
Make the glaze by heating golden syrup in the microwave in 10-sec increments until very runny. Brush warm glaze over the warm buns.
(Apparently leftovers can be frozen for up to 7 days. I’ll let you know how mine fared this weekend!)