Every Holiday must have it’s own specific and special breakfast, am I right?! Well for Easter, its definitely Hot Crossed Buns. While some hot crossed bun recipes can be a little bland, more like a soft roll with a little icing, these Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Hot Crossed Buns are definitely satisfying and more up for the holiday challenge. After all, it’s Easter and we must celebrate well!
While some ignore Easter, and others celebrate with bunnies and eggs, I’ve dug deep to seek out some rich meaning to the holiday (nothing wrong with egg hunts and bunnies of course, but I needed and wanted something more!). Last year, during the Lenton season, in between Ash Wednesday and Easter, we awaited my son’s major surgery to remove a tumor. We knew it was coming and all we could do was wait. Never before had Easter had so much meaning to me. After years of calling myself a ‘Christ follower’ I finally could grasp the waiting, longing, questioning, and the agony of the season. I was waiting for something I knew was coming and couldn’t do anything about it. I was treasuring up the moments I had with my little guy every day up until his surgery, just as Jesus spent time with his most beloved before his day came. I still don’t claim to completely understand everything revolving around Easter but last year I got a taste of the real emotion behind it, something outside the story that my mind knew and a beginning of an understanding from my heart. It was a painful time, long days, my thoughts going round and round, with often sleepless nights. And yet, it was also a sweet time, we made memories, and lived extravagantly with so much meaning and richness.
This year during the Lenten season, I did a lot of recalling those emotions and memories. I also devoted some time to studying the Bible. This gap of time between Fat Tuesday or Ash Wednesday and Easter will forever be important to me. In years past, Easter was always a celebratory day. At our church we go all out, some years with wine and lamb, others with bounce houses and food trucks. It’s the day that Jesus could no longer be ignored as God; he rose from the dead! There’s nothing more grand to celebrate!! After my experience last year, my personal celebration of Easter has a deeper more real meaning of what I’m celebrating and the drastic nature of the waiting turning to despair then to elation. I experienced a real life miracle. I waited for my son to have this surgery, then had to wheel him into a surgery room and turn and walk down the hall without him, then hours later I heard the news that he was tumor free and would recover from it all. We experienced all of the emotions!
My personal experience of the Lenten Season gave me a taste of despair turning to celebration that I’ll never forget. So, bring on the special food, the choice wine, and the party!!
About the Recipe
Like I mentioned earlier, most hot cross bun recipes can be a little bland so I spiced these up loading the dough with dates and roasted hazelnuts and topping them with a caramel frosting. Most hot crossed buns call for dried fruit but I went for all dates in these (mainly because I LOVE dates). I chopped them up roughly and tossed the with flour so they’d keep separate in the dough. The dates add a sweetness to the dough and gooeyness almost similar to cinnamon rolls. You could definitely sub for raisins but I would highly recommend the dates. And because I wanted the buns to be decadent, somewhere in between a sticky bun and cinnamon roll, I topped them with a salted caramel frosting, still keeping with the cross tradition, then I topped the sticky frosting with extra roasted hazelnuts. I also use quick rise yeast so you can make these quickly. I recommend making them the day before and putting them in the refrigerator after the second rise. Then you can set them out the next morning as the oven preheats and just bake them off fresh for Easter morning. Another option is to make ahead then freeze before the second rising. For this option you can set them out on the counter to defrost and rise overnight before baking the next morning. Both options work perfectly, resulting in hot buns for Easter morning. Make the frosting right before the buns are out of the oven and ice while they are still warm.
Here's an upgrade on traditional Easter Hot Crossed Buns topped with salted caramel and hazelnuts and filled with dates.
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted
- 3/4 cup, seeded and chopped dates
- 1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, 1 separated
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg white, reserved from above
- 1 tablespoon milk
- for the frosting:
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (or a pinch)
- 1 cup powdered sugar*
- Lightly grease 2 round cake/pie pans or a 9" x 13" pan.
- Toss the seeded and chopped hazelnuts with a little flour and set aside. Roughly chop up the hazelnuts.
- When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients (from milk to flour) except the dates and hazelnuts, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, till the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the dates and roasted hazelnuts.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.
- Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3 3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. You'll make 12 to 14 buns. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.
- Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.
- Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
- For the icing: Melt butter over medium low heat. Stir in brown sugar and cream. Turn heat up to medium high and bubbly; stir until sugar is dissolved (about 3 minutes). After buns are out of the oven and have cooled for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar with a whisk. Transfer icing to a piping bag and pipe out crosses on each bun. Top with remaining chopped hazelnuts.
Icing hardens when it cools so wait to make the icing right before you're ready to use it. Or you can make the caramel while the buns are cooking and then reheat slightly before adding the powered sugar. Sometimes I go for just caramel-like topping instead of the frosting and skip the powdered sugar then, just pour the warm caramel over the top of all of the buns (for-go the cross).
The original hot crossed bun recipe I began with for this idea came from King Arthur Flour.