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Traditional Hot Cross Buns (Home Dairy Bakery Recipe)

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Hands down the most requests I get for Upstate New York recipes are for anything from Home Dairy. I receive several emails and messages every month about Home Dairy. Often the recipe requests come with a nostalgic story of afterschool walks to the bakery to get a half moon cookie, lunches with mom after a morning of shopping, and beautiful tiered wedding cakes.

Finding recipes from Home Dairy has proven to be incredibly difficult. The signature baked cookies, cakes and bread that people continue to crave even now, seemingly disappereard when the small localy adored luncheon spot closed its doors for the last time.

Often in small family establishments recipes are exchanged verbally, and techniques taught in person. Not to mention Robert Avery, the owner of Home Dairy seemed to be somewhat of a powerhouse of a man, who jogged to the shop at 3 am every morning to start work on the day’s baked goods. It’s easy to imagine he had committed most of what he produced to memory, intuitively creating doughs by feel and muscle memory.

Home Dairy and Cafeteria In Ithaca New York

While the beloved cafe has been gone for quite a while, the impact Home Dairy left on the community is profound. It is not uncommon to hear stories Clearly this Finger Lakes luncheon and bakery left a lasting impression on the area.

The Home Dairy Bakery and Cafeteria had a couple of locations in the Finger Lakes area, one was on the Ithaca Commons in the heart of the Finger Lakes.Originally owned by Edgar “Ted” Berry until the Avery family took full ownership of the Home Dairy establishment in 1968. The Avery family operated the Home Dairy in Ithaca until 1997, when they closed the doors for the final time. Several years ago Robert Avery’s son Jim created a nostalgic Home Dairy facebook page to share family photos from the bakery, it’s definitely worth a look!

I personally do not have any memories of visiting Home Dairy, but I know many do. I would love to hear your thoughts and stories about visiting the Home Dairy!

Reader Submitted Recipe: Sweet Buns

Here comes the obvious disclaimer! This recipe for sweet buns was submitted to me by a reader. I have absolutely no way to verify the authenticity. There is very little backstory to the recipe, other than the reader’s husband was friends with Ford Chrissy who happened to be a baker at Home Dairy. The hand written recipe was shared with the reader’s husband, and she has had the index card with this recipe in her possession for many years, since the mid 1980’s.

I was able to confirm that Ford Chrissy worked at Home Dairy in Ithaca, but that’s where the story ends.

Whenever recipes are submitted to me I test the recipe exactly as written, if the recipe fails or doesn’t yield consistent results I will tweak the recipe. I share my adjustments in the recipe card, but I will always supply the recipe as was submitted. 

Ford Chrissey’s Sweet Bun Recipe:

  • 6-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 pkgs. dry yeast
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs

The adjustments I made to the sweet bun recipe…

  • I decreased the recipe by half. Like most bakery or restaurant recipes this makes a huge batch.
  • Melted the shortening before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Melting shortening is a frequently used technique for making dinner rolls. Melting the shortening had a dramatic effect on the hot cross buns. The buns made with melted shortening were unbelievably soft and fluffy.
  • Increased the flour a tad. With yeast dough, the amount of flour needed can vary slightly depending on the humidity of the air in your kitchen, but my first batch of sweet roll dough yielded an almost pourable dough. I increased the base amount of flour in the recipe, but as always use your best judgement when making a yeast dough add flour until a soft dough forms and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, but the dough ball is slightly sticky to the touch.
  • Increased the sugar a bit. Increasing the sugar was 100% a personal preference, but well worth it in my opinion. If you are a purist, stick with ¼ cup of white sugar for the bun dough.
  • I also added raisins, and a very traditional icing for a cross top. It seemed pretty clear to me that this recipe is a base dough recipe for hot cross buns. It isn’t uncommon for a certain amount of verbal instructions to be passed along with a written recipe, and it seemed within the realm of possibility, adding in a ½ or cup or so of raisins or currants could have happened verbally. Yes, I realize could be considered extreme extrapolation based on the recipe that was given to me, but it felt right.
A 9x13 baking pan filled with golden brown hot cross buns on a white wood table. The pan is sorrounded by a grey and white kitchen towel, a  and small bowl of raisins, brown eggs in a egg holder.

What are Hot Cross Buns?

Hot cross buns are yeasted sweet buns filled with warm spices and dried fruits such as currants, raisins, and/or candied citrus. These sweet buns are traditionally eaten during the Easter season, particularly on Good Friday, although many people enjoy them any time of the year. The signature icing cross that represents the crucifixion—is piped on the top of each bun.

Hot cross buns have a long history, and versions of them even appear in ancient Greece. There are a lot of Historical Myths And Traditions surrounding Hot Cross Buns, and even a nursery rhyme that is said to be English language street cry used by vendors to sell their baked goods, later perpetuated as a nursery rhyme and an aid in musical education.

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

Making Hot Cross Buns is very similar to preparing dinner rolls. Hot cross buns require basic baking ingredients like flour, yeast, shortening, eggs, sugar, and milk. Basic baking tools such as a stand mixer, measuring cups, a bench scrapper/dough cutter, a large bowl, and a 9×13 baking pan.

The Basic Steps to Make These Hot Cross Buns are:

  • Make the bread dough.
  • Knead the dough for 2 minutes.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise. The dough rise in about 1-2 hours.
  • Punch down the dough to release the air, cut the dough into equal pieces then shape into rolls.
  • Let the rolls rise for about 1 hour.
  • Brush the rolls with an egg wash before baking.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Make a simple icing with powdered sugar and milk
  • Pipe the crosses on top, if you don’t have a piping bag, a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off works.

Bread Machine Hot Cross Buns

My bread machine is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets! I almost never use it to completely bake a loaf of bread, instead I use the dough setting to handle the messiest, but most critical step in bread making.
To use your bread machine to make hot cross buns, simply add your ingredients to the dough bucket. Set the machine on the dough cycle. Most bread machines have a setting for dough additions like dried fruit, add the raisins or chopped dried fruit at the beep indicating it’s time to add your soaked raisins. If the mixture seems too dry, add water in very small amounts. Once the dough cycle has completed, remove the dough and shape following the instructions.

The Best Way to Portion Dough For Rolls

After making Hot Cross Buns several times while testing this recipe I have come to the conclusion that there is a surefire way to make sure each of your rolls are the same size, and you have picture perfect rolls, and bakery quality results. A digital scale will be your best friend if you are like me and have difficulty eyeballing 15 equally sized pieces of dough. Simply weigh your total dough in ounces, and divide by 15, this will give you the exact ounces each of your rolls should be for consistent sized rolls. After you have your desired dough weight per bun, cut a small portion of dough and weigh it, adjust the dough by cutting more off or adding to it until it reaches the ounce size you found by dividing the whole dough ball by 15.

How to Reheat Hot Cross Buns

There are two camps of thought when it comes to reheating hot cross buns, some people prefer to toast them, and others prefer a short spin around the microwave. A hot cross bun reheated in the microwave will be soft, warm and fluffy and more like they were when freshly baked. Toasted hot cross buns will be crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

To reheat hot cross buns in the microwave. Arrange rolls on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the rolls with a slightly damp, clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Microwave until just warmed through, 30 to 45 seconds. The rolls should not be super hot, or they will turn tough and chewy.

To toast hot cross buns in the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F (177 °C). Put the buns face-up on a baking sheet, brush the cut side with melted butter if desired. Bake the buns for about 7-10 minutes or until they are slightly crispy.

Home Dairy Bakery Sweet Buns

Home Dairy Bakery Sweet Buns

Yield: 15 buns
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes

This recipe is thought to be from Ford Chrissey, a baker at Home Dairy in Ithaca, and makes soft and flavorful hot cross buns with a deliciously spiced yeast dough. Each bun is studded with plump raisins, baked until golden, and marked with a traditional cross.

Ingredients

Sweet Bun Dough

  • 1/2 cup raisins + 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1 cup warm milk divided into 1/2 cup, and 1/2 cup measures
  • 1/2 cup white sugar + 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (or 6 Tbsp) shortening
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs well beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

Eggwash:

  • 1 egg well beaten with 1 tsp water

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar mixed
  • 2 1/2 tsp milk

Instructions

  1. Soak the raisins: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup raisins with 1 cup boiling hot water. Let sit 10 min then drain well and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and shortening and heat over medium low heat until shortening is melted and milk is barely simmering. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Proof the yeast: In a large measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup warm milk with 1/2 tsp sugar and sprinkle 1 packet of yeast over the top. Stir and let sit at room temp until bubbly and doubled in volume (10 min).
  4. In a large stand mixer bowl, combine the cooled milk, sugar and melted shortening mixture, with 2 well beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, and proofed yeast mixture. Stir in 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp ground nutmeg.
  5. Using the dough hook attachment mix in 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup at a time until soft dough forms. Knead 8-12 min on low speed or until smooth and elastic. The dough will be soft and still slightly tacky/sticky.
  6. Add drained raisins to the stand mixer bowl with the dough (pat them dry with paper towels if they still seem too wet). Mix the dough on medium speed until the raisins are incorportated throughout the dough. Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, turning it to bring the buttered side-up. Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 15 equal sized pieces. Roll dough into balls and transfer to a buttered 9x13" baking pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let them sit in a warm, draft-free place 30 min or until puffed.
  8. Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Generously brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
  9. For the glaze, once the buns are just warm stir together the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and about 2 1/2 tsp milk. You can add more powdered sugar to thicken it up if needed. Transfer glaze to a ziploc bag, cut off the tip of the bag and pipe a cross shape over the tops of the buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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