One of my favourite things about Easter was searching for treats with my sister. We established our own rules: no looking for eggs when you came out of your bedroom, you bee-line for the kitchen; when the hunt was underway, you stick together, entering rooms and searching areas at the same time; no sampling the winnings during the hunt; when we finally felt like everything was found (to the best of our hunting abilities… apparently we often missed ones, much to the joy of our parents) we counted every last egg, bunny, marshmallow figure, and split it evenly. We took this fairness in hunting very seriously. We were serious about splitsies.
Our awesome mom kept hiding chocolate for us every Easter, straight through our teens. When my sister (who is three years older than I) moved away for school at 18, I was worried that my hunting days were over. Fortunately, dad got on board for Easter egg hunting… fortunately may not be the best word. Dad was ruthless! He was not part of the very structured system that Kellie and I had established. He was a competitive, chocolate-crazed Easter monster! He snacked on the ones he spotted on his way out of bed in the morning, then we ran from room to room, dad shoved me out of the way, stole candy from my basket, and gorged himself throughout the hunt. I remember at the end of that first year of hunting with dad I was defeated and bewildered, and I came away with a very dismal haul. I tried to explain to dad the “proper” way to conduct yourself at Easter but it was clear, the rules had changed! The next year I was much more prepared. I scouted chocolates on the bookshelves in front of my bedroom, snagged a couple in the bathroom and was much more aggressive as we made our way around the house. We had a lot of fun.
Anyway, it’s been a few years since I’ve been on an Easter egg hunt. I think my husband has never had one (his El Salvadorian upbringing favoured the religious rather than chocolate-y meaning of the season). I’ve always wanted to make one for him but we’ve always lived in little apartments and really, I am the chocolate fan. I wonder if he’s ever had a hot cross bun… I should ask him. These buns are tender, rich, and pretty incredible. I’ve spiced them fairly traditionally (it took everything I had not to add cardamom, my go-to sweet spice), and then rocked the boat by replacing the currants (blegh) with mini chocolate chips. I am not afraid of a little sweet on sweet, and these are just light enough to work! I made these for a wonderful Easter lunch my friend Diane was hosting. We all piled into her lovely little apartment just off Commercial.
Hot Cross Buns
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (or currants, cranberries, raisins)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- In a small pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the milk to the melted butter and remove from heat. Test for warmth (not too hot, just over room temperature is ideal) and add the yeast. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
- Measure the remaining bun ingredients except the chocolate chips into a large bowl, add the butter mixture. Mix until the dough comes together, and begins to pull away from the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (or do it with your mixer). Add the chocolate chips and knead through. Set the dough in a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Butter a 9- x 13-inch pan. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and split into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball in your hands and then on the work surface (I struggled with perfect balls, put the seam-side down).Place the rolled buns your prepared pan, leaving enough space between them to allow a second rise. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the buns rise for 45 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Prepare the cross ingredients. In a small bowl, add the flour, sugar, and water and stir until smooth. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag or a small ziploc (cut off a small piece of the corner). Uncover the risen buns and pipe a long line down the length of each row. Pipe slowly so the mixture has a chance to hug the sides of the buns. Pinch off the mixture at the end of each row. Repeat in the opposite direction to form crosses.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the buns are nicely browned (the crosses will remain white). While the buns are still hot, prepare the glaze.
- For the glaze, in a small pot over medium-high heat, bring the sugar, water, and vanilla to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Brush the syrup over the hot buns, making sure to give an even and thorough coat. Use all of the syrup (multiple coats will be needed). Allow the buns to cool in the pan.
- When cool, remove and serve with butter, jam, coffee, tea, whatever!