It starts the evening before. Make a yeast dough for hot cross buns and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The buns will have to be baked in the morning since you're out of cinnamon and raisins and there's no time to go to the store. There's music to see: Sleigh Bells is in town!
Wake up around 9:30 Sunday after a few snooze hits. The dough's already mixed, so there's plenty of time before the 1 p.m. lunch with family to add in the dried fruit, sugar and spice and let it rise for another hour before 20 minutes of baking time. Except the empty H-E-B parking lot tells you the grocery stores are closed. Oh yeah — it's Easter! Let's see, Farm to Market is way too local to be open. Would a gas station stock cinnamon and raisins? Nah. A warning: this will prompt frustration that results in a harried sweeping of the entire house — because at least dingy floors are a frustration with an obvious solution.
Miguel's dad is visiting, so breakfast is barbacoa tacos. As if barbacoa itself wasn't miracle enough, how about a boyfriend who has the bright idea of driving to Wal-Mart for cinnamon and raisins while he's out picking up breakfast? Yes! The only thing is, after showering and eating and sweeping like mad, there's no time left to bake buns before lunch.
As it turns out, the 16 family members likely to show up on Easter are with the other sides of their families. A giant holiday feast turns into a super casual lunch for three — just you and the parents. You have time to really catch up, talk about Easter and work and the idiosyncrasies of grandmas. And they wouldn't be happy if you'd brought several dozen sticky buns to leave at their house, so it's best that the dough's still at home.
Next, drink a cappuccino and loiter for a few hours with a buddy who works at your favorite coffee shop. (Open on Easter!) Discuss the new indie movie theater opening this week and the recurrent topics of barbecue and The Wire. Decide you've been on hold in the middle of Season 3 for too long, pick up a pizza for dinner and go watch what Omar is up to. Watch one episode while you eat, another while your dough balls rise and a third one while they bake.
Decide not to worry that the eggs in the fridge are, let's say, passé. Make a glaze of powdered sugar and milk that will taste good even if it doesn't hold a cross shape. Finally, buns!
Hey, I tried.
Hot cross buns
Makes 18 buns or many more smaller ones if you've forgotten, like I did, how big a ping pong ball is
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but I have tested and verified the theory that they taste good any day of the week, even post-holiday for breakfast. And even if they're not quite round.
2 cups whole milk
½ cup canola oil
½ cup, plus ¼ cup sugar, divided
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
4 cups, plus ½ cup all-purpose flour, divided
½ tsp. (heaping) baking powder
½ tsp. (scant) baking soda
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (plus a few extra shakes because you can't overdo it with cinnamon)
Cardamom, nutmeg and allspice (optional)
½ cup raisins
2 whole egg whites
Splashes of milk
For the buns
Combine 2 cups milk, canola oil and sugar in a saucepan. Stir and heat until very warm but not boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool until mixture is still warm, but not hot — about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Add 4 cups of flour and stir to combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and set aside for one hour.
Add half cup flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until combined. At this point, you can let it sit for a while covered with a tea towel, cover it and put it in the refrigerator overnight or just move on to the next step.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon and whatever other spices you want to use.
Lightly flour surface. Press to slightly flatten dough. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle on about a third of the raisins. Then fold the dough over on itself and flatten again so the dough is “plain” again. Repeat the sugar/raisin process, then fold the dough again. Repeat a third time until all the raisins are used. (You won’t use all the sugar/cinnamon mixture.)
Pinch off ping pong or golf ball-size bunches of dough. With floured hands, quickly roll it into a ball, then turn the edges under themselves slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. An hour-plus is better.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Mix one egg white with a splash of milk. Brush onto each roll.
Bake for 20 minutes, give or take, or until tops of buns have turned nice and golden brown.
Remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
For the icing
Mix one egg white with enough powdered sugar for icing to be very thick. Splash in milk as needed for consistency.
Add icing to a small plastic bag and snip the corner. Making sure the rolls are completely cooled first, make icing crosses on each roll.