Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns

Bread, Week 16: I’ve always wanted to make Hot Cross Buns, but never have. In fact, I’ve never eaten one. I came across a recipe for them in a gluten-free baking book I’ve been reading through. I debated whether or not I should make them for a little while, before deciding that I should go for it, even though it’s a gluten-free recipe and I’d never tried them before. After all, this way I get to share Hot Cross Buns with you before Easter!

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Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns (adapted from Gluten-Free Baking Classics)

1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sweet rice flour (I didn’t have this, so I ground 2 tbsp of Arborio rice until it was very, very fine, and then measured 2 tbsp)
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour (the book has a recipe for this, but I used Trader Joe’s)
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup candied orange peel (or dried mandarin segments from Trader Joe’s, as I used)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
~1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat milk to 110F. Add yeast and 1 tbsp sugar (and 1 tbsp sweet rice flour, but I skipped that step). Stir until yeast dissolves, and let rest for 10 minutes. Yeast should proof and double in size. Meanwhile, grease a 12-cup muffin pan. The recipe originally called for a square cupcake pan so you could make larger, square buns.

Add gluten-free flour, remaining sugar, remaining sweet rice flour, xanthan gum, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and eggs. Using the paddle attachment, mix dry ingredients. Add yeast mixture and egg mixture to bowl; mix until combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, and then beat on high for 3 minutes. Add fruit.

Scoop dough into prepared muffin pan. Fill cups 1/2 to 2/3 full. I only filled mine halfway, so they rose to the top of the pan; however, I also got 16 buns instead of 10-12, so 2/3 is likely the better way to go. Grease a sheet of plastic wrap well, then lay it over the buns. Set in a warm place to rise (like a preheated oven); let rise until dough has doubled in size.

Bake in center of oven at 375F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. I baked mine for 15, which was likely too long for smaller buns.

The recipe says to use a knife to cut around the edges of the buns and pry them loose; I waited 5 minutes to do this to make handling them easier. Cool on baking rack for 30 minutes before frosting.

Combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to form a stiff frosting. The recipe tells you to put it into a bag and pipe it onto the buns in a cross shape. I added a little extra milk and drizzled it on the buns by hand. I stored them in plastic containers for us to eat over the next few days.

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These were pretty good for a gluten-free bread. They were best warmed – in fact, I didn’t particularly like eating them cold. I think I overbaked them, which made them a little dry – I think they would have been fine if I’d baked them less. Clearly, Hot Cross Buns are a vehicle for fruit. Bites with fruit were delicious, but when I ate bites without fruit, I could tell I was eating gluten-free bread. This wasn’t unpleasant, but it was a little different than eating a wheat bread. They weren’t soft like a wheat bread might be. The buns had some chew to them, and were not crumbly as I had feared they might be; I’m sure it would have been even better if I had baked them a few minutes less. The yeast created a fine crumb and gave the buns a light texture.

Since I overbaked the buns, this was a partial success. I wanted to not notice that the buns were gluten-free, and I only got that part of the time, when there was fruit in each bite. Overall, I enjoyed eating the buns when they were warm, and since I’ve made things before that I haven’t wanted to eat (including gluten-free bread), I consider this to be successful enough. I would consider making this again for a special occasion.

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