Spring is almost here, or as we celebrate in our house, Ostara. Ostara is a holiday of hope, as every day after it brings more and more light until the Summer Solstice. It’s a celebration of growth and fertility so it’s a great time to plant, and it’s also a great time to eat some healthy hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns are decorated with a cross on top to symbolize the midpoint between Winter and Summer, as well as equal parts day and night. I “healthified” these by making them free of refined sugar and dairy (this also works well if you observe a strict Lent). Instead of wheat flour, these contain einkorn flour, an ancient grain with more fiber, protein and less gluten than their more modern counterparts. Since eggs are another symbol of Ostara (hello fertility), this recipe does contain egg and is therefore not vegan. I haven’t tried it using a flax egg.
Hot cross buns were later adopted for Easter with the cross signifying the cross of Jesus Christ. Whether you celebrate these holidays or not, I wish you many bright and sunny days as we head into Spring!
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- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened plant milk
- 2 tsp + 1/4 cup coconut sugar, divided
- 4 cups + 1/2 cup all-purpose einkorn flour, divided (plus more for dusting)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp pumpkin spice blend
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 egg
- 3.5 tbsp melted vegan butter (I like Monty’s or Miyokos)
- 3/4 cup dried unsweetened tart cherries
- zest of 1 orange
- glaze options: warm water mixed with 1 tbsp St. Dalfour apricot fruit spread, or raw honey, or maple syrup, or coconut sugar
- Warm the milk to bath temperature. Combine the yeast, warmed milk and 2 tbsp of coconut sugar in a large mixing bowl. Give it about 10 minutes to get nice and foamy.
- Add the remaining coconut sugar, 4 cups of einkorn flour, spices and salt. Mix until just combined. Then add the egg, butter, cherries and zest. Either knead by hand on a generously floured surface for about 10-15 minutes or use a stand mixer on speed 2 for about 5 minutes. Due to its weaker gluten content, einkorn makes for a rather sticky dough, similar to rye and spelt. Keep at it, and use as much flour as you need to work with it.
- Place back in a mixing bowl (or keep it there if you used the stand mixer). Cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until double in size. I placed mine in a sunny spot in the kitchen, and it took about an hour.
- Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper, allowing some parchment to hang over two sides. Punch down your risen dough, and place it on a floured surface. Shape into a log, and cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and place into your baking dish. Lightly coat your plastic wrap with oil, and use it to cover the baking dish for a second rise. You’ll want to see them nearly double in size, which took mine about 45 minutes.
- About halfway through your second rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup einkorn flour with 5 tbsp warm water until the lumps disappear. It will resemble a pancake batter. Place the batter into a plastic bag. When you’re ready to pipe, you’ll snip off a small corner of the bag. Alternatively, use a piping bag if you have one.
- When the buns have risen enough, remove the plastic bag. With your piping bag, pipe a cross on each. I like to pipe across the entire row and column to make it easier.
- Bake for 21-24 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove the buns using the parchment paper overhang, and place on a wire rack to cool.
- While they’re still hot, brush the tops of the buns with your choice of glaze.
- Enjoy your healthy hot cross buns! My family likes them toasted with butter and a little maple syrup to offset the tartness of the cherries and zest.