Hot Cross Buns with White Chocolate, Dates and Pistachios Recipe

To celebrate Easter this weekend, I made hot cross buns, the brioche-like spiced loaves the British bake and serve on Good Friday*. I have made them on previous occasions, but instead of following the recipe I used last time, I decided to take a leaf from Dan Lepard‘s book.

I loosely followed the process he describes — the overnight fermentation in the fridge, in particular — but converted the recipe to use my sourdough starter, though the recipe below gives instructions both with and without a starter.

The classic hot cross bun is studded with raisins or currants, and sometimes candied citrus peel, but I had an entirely different picture in my mind: this year, I wanted to make them with white chocolate, pistachios, and dates.

And because I’m trying to clear out my fridge before Maxence and I leave for Japan later this week, I also modified the recipe to incorporate a half-tub of crème fraîche that needed using: various French brioche recipes call for it, and here it came to replace all of the butter and part of the milk, a substitution that brings a bit more tang and fluff to the crumb. I also lowered the amount of sweetener used in the dough itself, to account for the nontraditional filling I’d plotted.

You see, the classic hot cross bun is studded with raisins or currants, and sometimes candied citrus peel, but I had an entirely different picture in my mind: this year, I wanted to make hot cross buns garnished with white chocolate, pistachios, and dates.

The white chocolate and pistachio combo is inspired by little brioches I’ve seen sold at Eric Kayser’s bakery, and I added some diced date paste because I had some on hand, and I knew it would make for a harmonious trio.

I’m ordinarily not a fan of white chocolate: I find it terribly two-dimensional from a gustatory standpoint so I would never just eat it on its own, but I’m open to using it as an ingredient to make other things, especially if it makes a certain someone happy.

My remarkable selflessness was rewarded; it worked fantastically well. I’d expected the white chocolate to remain detectable as chunks in the finished buns, like bittersweet chocolate would, but what happened was a lot better: the white chocolate dissolved into the dough as it baked and candied at the edges, providing little jolts of lightly caramelized sweetness throughout the buns.

If you remember my previous post on the subject, I’d had trouble creating the cross that give these buns their name: though some bakers opt for a cross made of frosting or marzipan, I remain convinced that a hot cross bun needs to be toaster-proof, so a flour/water paste is the only way to go. But I wasn’t sure then what the consistency should be, and I ended up with strips of dough too firm to be pleasant.

I had better success this time: I made a thinner mixture of flour and water that I piped using a paper cornet — a simple piping bag that is folded from a triangle of parchment paper, and a handy tool to decorate cakes, breads, and plates. Those crosses melded nicely with the top of the buns so as to remain decorative without getting in the way of the buns’ softness.

Once the buns were baked, I brushed them with the easy sugar glaze Dan suggested, and this makes all the difference in terms of looks (shiny bun!), texture (sticky bun!) and flavor (sweet bun!).

We enjoyed our first taste fresh from the oven, and loved them immediately. After that, hot cross buns are traditionally split in two horizontally, toasted, and spread with butter or jam. I think this version is sweet enough that adding jam is gilding the lily, and I actually skip the butter as well, but I’ll let you decide what you do with your buns.

And of course, while these are typically an Easter-time treat, the 1592 decree that forbid their sale outside of Good Friday, Christmas, and burial days has long been repealed, so you’re free to use the recipe at other times of year, perhaps changing the cross symbol into another decoration to suit the occasion.

* To learn more about the origins of this culinary tradition, see this collection of excerpts from the invaluable Food Timeline website.

Hot Cross Buns with White Chocolate, Dates and Pistachios Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours

Makes 12 hot cross buns, about 85 grams (3 ounces) each.

Hot Cross Buns with White Chocolate, Dates and Pistachios Recipe

Ingredients

  • 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) ripe 100% starter (see note) [optional, see alternatives below]
  • 340 grams (12 ounces) all-purpose flour (I used an organic French T55 flour) [if you don't use a starter, use 400 grams (14 ounces)]
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast [if you don't use a starter, use 2 teaspoons]
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) milk, at room temperature [if you don't use a starter, use 225 ml (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon)], plus a little for brushing
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) crème fraîche (or equal parts sour cream and heavy cream)
  • 50 grams (6 tablespoons) raw pistachios (untoasted and unsalted), roughly chopped
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) good-quality white chocolate, chopped to chocolate chip size
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) date paste (or pitted dates), diced or chopped to chocolate chip size
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup (substitute honey, golden syrup, or maple syrup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • zest of 1/2 organic lemon or orange, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • For the crosses:
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • For the glaze:
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar (I use a raw cane sugar in which I leave a vanilla bean to infuse)
  • 50 ml (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) water

Instructions

    1. [Day one] Prepare the dough for overnight fermentation.
  1. In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, starter if using, yeast, milk, and crème fraîche to form a shaggy mass, making sure all of the flour is incorporated. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, place the pistachios, white chocolate, date paste, syrup, salt, zest, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the pistachio mixture to the shaggy dough and fold it in with a sturdy spatula or the dough hook of the stand mixer until incorporated. Continue to fold the dough (as demonstrated here) for 4 minutes -- or set the stand mixer on low speed -- until the dough starts to get a little smoother.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough, cover the bowl with a plate, and place in the fridge for 12 to 18 hours.
  5. 2. [Day two] Divide and shape the buns for the second resting period.
  6. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plate, and let rest for 30 minutes; it should have risen moderately, not quite doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface -- the dough will be fairly sticky, but if you work quickly while it is still cold from the fridge, you will be fine. Divide into 12 equal pieces (about 90 grams or 3 1/6 ounces each), trying to make sure the fillings (pistachios, dates, white chocolate) are more or less evenly distributed.
  8. Shape each piece into a squarish bun (the dough is a bit sticky, just do your best) and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space between them: you do want them to touch as they rise and bake.
  9. Cover with a clean towel (to prevent the towel from resting upon and therefore sticking to the buns, I improvized a "tent" over the baking sheet by balancing the towel on a few objects) and let rest for 2 1/2 hours, until they've risen to about 1.5 times their original size.
  10. 3. [Day two] Add the crosses, bake, and glaze.
  11. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
  12. Brush the buns lightly with milk (this will foster browning).
  13. Prepare the flour paste for the crosses: in a small bowl, place the flour and water and whisk with a spoon until smooth; it should have a consistency a bit like face cream, spreadable but not too thick. Spoon this mixture into a small paper cone (a cornet) assembled from parchment paper as demonstrated here. Snip the tip of the cone to form a 3-mm (1/10-inch) opening and pipe the flour paste over the buns to form a cross.
  14. Insert the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  15. While the buns are baking, prepare the glaze: combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time to ensure the sugar dissolves, and let the syrup boil for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Brush the buns with the glaze while they're still warm; the glaze will remain quite sticky on the day of baking, but will be less so on subsequent days.
  16. Once cooled, hot cross buns should be split in two horizontally and toasted.

Notes

  • A "100%" starter is fed an equal weight of flour and water at every feeding. To learn more about sourdough starters, please refer to my post on natural starter bread.
  • The hot cross buns will keep for a few days at room temperature, tightly wrapped. You can also freeze them.

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  • http://www.howsweeteats.com Jessica @ How Sweet

    Those sound like the best hot cross buns I’ve ever seen. Yum

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I wait all year for hot cross buns. I bet they are delicious with chocolate in them!

  • http://www.zomppa.com Belinda @zomppa

    I love hot cross buns…I love them with chocolate even more!

  • Sam

    This sounds great. I can’t stand dried fruit like raisins or currants (dates excepted) so I spent a childhood running away from the hot cross buns every Friday (and the boy scouts who delivered them). This could at last be the one for me. I am very happy you understand the need to be toaster proof though. It’s the whole point. They don’t get that over here.

  • http://thelacquerspoon.blogspot.com the lacquer spoon

    Easter isn’t really celebrated in my country, but hot cross buns are available in some bakeries. Love the taste!!

  • http://www.crispytarts.blogspot.com The French

    Wish I was having one of these with my coffee!

  • http://enchantedfig.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    Oh, thank you! I studied and researched and then attempted hot cross buns this year myself…without the very good overnight soak, without the very desirable sourdough starter, and unfortunately, without much success (or, without as much success as I would have liked…buns did not rise as I had hoped). This new-fangled version of yours sounds lovely. And maybe I’ll just have to try it before next Easter, just to get a taste.

  • http://www.estouest.blog.lemonde.fr est

    these buns look fantastic! I can’t wait to try them out. I used to be freaked out by recipes starting with Day one, but thanks to you I’m not anymore!
    have a great trip to Japan, say hi to Tokyo for me and bye bye to sushi as you know them – after eating the best sushi in the world, it’s always hard if not impossible to actually enjoy eating regular sushi …

  • lovinallfoodie

    whoa, those look amazing. i think they would also be great with date syrup as the sweetener. organics are for everyone now has an organic date syrup you can buy online.

  • http://www.thatveganblog.com Danielle

    Have a wonderful trip to Japan, Clotilde! I’m looking forward to viewing some sightseeing (and eating!) photos on C&Z.

  • Sam B.

    Hello Clotilde;

    I thought this recipe seemed extremely delightful!The modifications and subsitutions were phenomenal, and they are very creative and clever of you!

    I must say, I am very suprised that the White Chocolate worked… whenever I melt White Chocolate and leave it out a little bit, or even touch it, it stiffens! Any suggestions of that(slightly off topic) wonder?

    Also, I have never thought about food as shiny/sticky/sweet. They contrast nicely in my mind! Again, this recipe was creative in many ways. Enjoy Japan Clotilde!

    -Sam B.

  • http://www.makanaibio.com Flo Makanai

    Ohlala, ces hot cross buns me plaisent diablement! Un jour…
    Je vous souhaite à tous deux un fabuleux séjour nippon, et pour l’occasion te souhaite à nouveau un bon 30ème anniversaire! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!

  • http://bewitchingkitchen.wordpress.com SallyBR

    They turned out spectacular! Dan Lepard is my bread-guru for sure, his recipes are amazing, his book a real masterpiece

    Now, am I the only one who loves love LOVES white chocolate?

    (deep silence)

    I guess so…

    (I feel so lonely sometimes… :-)

    Bon voyage, Clotilde… looking forward to your photos and reports

  • http://www.edenkitchen.com Joe @ Eden Kitchen

    Clotilde, these sound so decadent and I can’t wait to try them! I too made some non-traditional hot cross buns this year – with mesquite flour and vanilla bean.

  • http://www.aspiringvegan.com Aspiring Vegan

    SallyBR,
    No, you are not alone… and I’ve just found out you can buy ready chopped white choc chips from the Unmondevegan website…

    Clotilde, have a great trip!

  • http://www.michellekoen.com Michelle

    Funny, I was thinking along the same lines. I didn’t do sourdough, instead went Gluten Free but used white chocolate as the crosses! See here.

  • Trisha

    Thanks always for your post.
    Welcome to Japan! Hope you have fun… Looking forward to seeing your view of what you discover here.

  • http://jaap-en-mickey.blogspot.com/ swan

    oh Clotilde, Japan!! Where will you go? I just got back. You will just be in time for the last week of Sakura blossoms I guess? Enjoy! Many bakery’s and coffee places have sakura-specialties.
    For a tiny preview of the atmosphere and funny things on menu’s there are some pics on both my blogs…
    ENJOY!!! have lots of fun!

  • Katsusando

    Hi Clotilde,

    I am a long time reader and lover of C&Z, and read in the above you will be in Japan soon. I am in Tokyo, so if you need an interpreter for your adventures, feel free to contact me!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Sam – Growing up in the UK not liking raisins and other dried fruit must have been a challenge. It reminds me of a Japanese friends who loathes red beans in sweets. :)

    Amanda – I hope you get back on that hot cross bun horse sometime — let me know if you try this recipe!

    Est – That is probably the single disadvantage of going to Japan. :) It happens to me every time I come back from California, where sushi is also great, but I’m sure it’s much worse coming home from Japan.

    Lovinallfoodie – Date syrup is a very good idea. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Sam B. – Perhaps it depends on the particular kind of white chocolate you use? I use the Valrhona brand, which is used by the pros, and have never had that problem.

    Flo – Merci ! Je suis plus près du 31ème maintenant, mais on va faire comme si. :)

    SallyBR – Sorry I can’t join you on that one, but then again it just means more for you, right?

    Michelle – Congrats on coming up with a gluten-free version!

    Swan – Thanks for pointing me to your pics, I’ll take a look.

  • http://www.sasasunakku.com Sasa

    Japan! Jealous and a bit homesick…Itterashai! (Uh, closest translation “off you go”?)

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    I am wishing that I had one of these right now. Have a great trip to Japan. Looking forward to reading about it.

  • emma

    You had more luck than I did – seems that after having spent the time raising the dough etc my oven decided to break down – although this helps me in my general quest of re-doing the kitchen.
    Thanks Clotilde for the great site!

  • http://www.dashofnutmeg.com Meg @ A Dash of Nutmeg

    Those look yummy! I’ve never tried to make hot cross buns but maybe I should change that now!

    Your blog has won an award! You can pick it up here: http://www.dashofnutmeg.com/2010/04/my-first-blog-award.html

  • Sam

    OK, I will try the proffesionals… THANKS CLOTILDE!

  • http://www.couscousandpudding.ober-blog.com melissami

    they look amazing..thxx for the post..

  • http://sensesinthekitchen-karolina.blogspot.com/ Karolina

    I will certainly use this recipe next time. Those I have made on Friday were total disaster. Damm you, Delia Smith! ;)

  • http://healthyeatingroadmap.com Michelle @ Healthy Eating Roadmap

    These look so much better than the ones you get from the store. Yum!

  • http://jsimplylive.blogspot.com/ Maria Chamorro

    I will have to try this recipe because I tried a different one adn the results were disastrous. Thanks for you blog by the way; this is my first time visiting it and it won’t be the last!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    Clotilde, if you want another take on the cross, my (English) husband makes a short pastry (butter, flour, water) which he then rolls out and cuts into strips. If you wet the strips they stick very well to the bun. It’s a bit tastier than just flour and water, though not nearly as nice IMHO as a glaze cross.

    I love your idea of white chocolate and dates, but I suspect it would be hard to get past my culinarily conservative spouse!

  • http://freshslowcooking.com Zibi

    These sound so much better than traditional hot cross buns! I made some last year and I was horribly disappointed… Thanks for the tip about piping with folded parchment paper, it will come in handy.

    Have fun in Japan :)

  • Rachel

    I really wish they’d re-enact that law banning hot cross bun sales except on Good Friday. By the time I’ve been ignoring revolting hot cross buns in our supermarkets from January to April, I regard ALL of them as very old and stale, even if I know some are actually fresh from a baker. Perhaps a home-made one would overcome my aversion.

  • http://undimanche.blogspot.com/ gracianne

    Formidable travail de reflexion sur les hot cross buns, qui fait qu’on aboutit a une recette si personnelle qu’on a tout a fait le droit de les consommer en dehors du Vendredi Saint ceux-ci. Je n’aime pas le chocolat blanc et pourtant tu m’as convaincue d’essayer.
    Excellent voyage au Japon. Enjoy!

  • http://www.smokersandbbqgrills.com Debbie Bello

    I remember my great grandma making these little buns for Easter. Thanks for the recipe and bringing back all those great memories.

  • http://www.wineaspects.com Julia

    These look so yummy! They make me hungry.

  • http://sophisticatedgourmet.com kamran siddiqi

    Clotilde, these look absolutely superb and have me drooling right now. Great post!

  • http://www.foodista.com Amy B.

    My most favorite part of this would have to be the pistachio nuts! Love em!

  • http://www.wineaspects.com Julia

    so yummy!

  • http://dinnersanddreams.blogspot.com Dinners & Dreams

    The hot cross buns look delicious. I love the shiny glaze and the addition of pistachios and dates.

    Have fun in Japan!

    Nisrine

  • http://www.pimpthatfood.com Gordy (PimpThatFood)

    That would be a great plus in my breakfast diet. Once in a while we have to indulge ourselves in some pastry delicatessen

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    Oh!! How fabulous! You’re going to Japan?? Have a wonderful time there & eat & drink a lot & report back to us, okay? ^^ xx

  • http://www.xanga.com/aromes S Lloyd

    Both my wife and I followed this recipe of yours. Awesome. Easy to follow and delicious.

  • http://open-to-grace.blogspot.com Open to Grace

    Clotilde,

    I was just in Japan a few months ago. I cannot wait to hear about all your adventures there (and see the pictures too!).

  • http://bettysbites.blogspot.com Betty

    wow they look great! ive never worked with yeast i feel abit intimidated..

  • cleawalford

    We make hot cross buns every Easter but will definitely try yours soon (to be honest, your recipe sounds much better)

  • http://www.ztastylife.com amelia

    You are always inspiring.
    there buns look perfect for an Easter lunch.

  • http://www.littleclove.com littleclove

    I have never been much of a baker, but these look absolutely delicious and I’m going to try them this weekend! Dates and pistachios are two of my very favorite things. thank you!

  • http://www.wineaspects.com Julia

    these buns fresh from the oven look amazing.

  • http://www.gourmetfoodandgifts.com Jen

    There’s nothing better than a hot cross bun in the morning with a cup of coffee!

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