Friday, March 29, 2013

Hot Cross Biscuits

Hot Cross Buns are a Good Friday tradition, with the crosses representing the crucifixion.  I like the idea of hot cross buns, but the process seems to be a bit much. I love baking and complicated recipes, but I tried making traditional, yeasty hot cross buns before. Not only was the process long and labor-intensive with a lot of waiting, but the buns were not very good at all. they were very, very dry and lacked flavor. So the next year I tried making chocolate hot cross buns. These were much better and tastier (most chocolate things are), but were far from traditional and still a little on the dry side and time consuming. So last year I made hot cross muffins (see April 6th, 2012). These were the best yet, quick, moist, and tasty! This year I tried another take on hot cross buns, which are probably the closest to traditional yet, and I made hot cross biscuits. Just like hot cross buns, but a quick rise version instead of using yeast. They are still spicy, sweet, and chock-full of raisins!

Hot Cross Biscuits
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup raisins or currants, soaked in water for a few ours to plump up, drained and patted well dry
1 large egg
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, plus extra if needed and for brushing tops

Preheat oven to 425F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the first dry ingredients. Cut in the butter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins. Make a well in the center. Mix the egg and buttermilk together and add to the well, mixing with a fork until just moistened.
Pour the scrappy dough onto a work surface and knead lightly just to form into a one inch thick or so round mass. Do not overwork the dough. Add a little extra buttermilk, a Tablespoon at a time, if needed. Cut with a round floured biscuit cutter or glass.
Transfer to prepared baking sheet, and brush tops with buttermilk.
Bake for about 15 minutes until biscuits are golden brown and firm.
Let cool, then pipe on crosses (just use a little icing sugar, vanilla, and water). 

I really like this tea biscuit recipe, and it is quite easy to do. The trick to this is to handle the dough as little as possible - no kneading! It has a nice flavor and texture, and is full of juicy raisins. They are especially good warm. I thought I was doing very well, but then ended up forgetting the spices in the biscuits. The spices are not necessary if you are just making biscuits, but if you are trying to imitate hot cross buns they are. So I just added a little cinnamon and a pinch of cloves to the icing, which is what gives it its brownish color.

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