If, like any good Episcopalian, you feel that you should enjoy hot cross buns but, like many of us, you nonetheless loathe the yeasty rolls with their bitter bits of candied citrus peel, chef Minh Phan of Hollywood's Beachwood Cafe may have a solution for you. She replaces the citrus bits (currants and raisins are also popularly used) with crystalized ginger infused with tawny port and flavors the dough with chai tea and extra cardamon. The essence of the spent tea is combined with confectioners sugar and heavy cream to create the icing. As a festive spring touch, Phan crowns each bun with a tiny edible flower.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten by Catholics on Good Friday and by Protestants on Easter. In folklore, the magical buns are said to heal rifts, protect against shipwrecks, prevent fire in the home and ensure that all your bread will turn out perfectly if you hang one in the kitchen. (The frosting cross on top is a symbol of the crucifixtion.) And since you can't get them for one ha'penny anymore, maybe consider making your own.
"Chai spices remind me of pumpkin pie spices, but with brighter notes, appropriate for spring," Phan says. "Cardamom, one of my favorite spices, especially stands out. The Moorish tawny port-soaked candied ginger reminds me of Easter, the Last Supper, and my own Catholic upbringing. What may seem like modern combinations are really Old World flavors, rooted in tradition, which is a good place for inspiration every now and then."
Phan will be serving the buns on Easter Sunday at Beachwood.
Chai-ginger hot cross buns with chai frosting
From: Minh Phan of Beachwood Cafe
Makes: 1 dozen
1/2 cup tawny port
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons masala chai tea (such as Art of Tea's Tali's Masala Chai)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
Whisk one egg and 2 tablespoons whipping cream.
1/4 cup heavy cream
Previously spent chai tea solids
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1. Mix the tawny port and boiling water, add the chopped crystallized ginger and let steep for an hour.
2. In a small saucepan, scald 2 cups milk and the masala chai tea. Right before it comes to a boil, remove from heat and let steep for about 10 minutes. The milk mixture should become caramel-colored and just warm enough to touch. Strain the liquid, and put the spent solids aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the warm chai milk mixture, sugar, yeast, beaten egg and melted butter. Let the yeast bloom for 10 minutes, creating a foamy top.
4. Sift flour, salt and cardamom into mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, then build a well, adding the liquid mixture to the well. Incorporate with a wooden spoon or by hand until a shaggy ball is formed. Drain and add the chopped crystallized ginger to the dough. Continue to mix and knead until the dough is smooth. Cover and proof in a warm spot for half an hour.
5. After proofing, punch down the dough and knead a few times. Divide the dough into 12 portions. Shape each into a round ball, tucking the edges underneath. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet and let the shaped dough proof for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Brush the dough with egg wash and bake for half an hour, until golden in color, at 350 degrees.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
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8. Meanwhile, scald 1/4 cup heavy cream with the tea solids; steep for five minutes. Let cool and strain, tamping with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Whisk the strained liquid with confectioners sugar until smooth. Transfer icing to a piping bag with a small round top (or a plastic bag with the tip cut off).
9. Pipe the icing across the buns to form a cross.
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