Inadvertent FedEx Office (and Spiced Hot Cross Buns)

Three packages have arrived to our house this week bearing our address and someone else’s name. Now, this isn’t the most unusual thing. What’s unusual is the quantity. When the first box showed up, Bryce goes, “What did we buy??” because it’s been one of those weeks where a very tired Bryce or Teresa might have purchased monogrammed flip flops or titanium croquet mallets and forgotten all about it.

We figured it was a fluke, because this isn’t a new house and obviously other people have lived here. We knew it wasn’t the name of either of the previous owners, but hey, Google saves addresses for eternity.

Then the second box showed up. And while we’re trying to figure out how to contact these companies and go, well, yeah, this is our address but not our package, and it’s lovely of someone to send us free things but it really clashes with our decor, and they probably wants the shelves anyhow, and how we do get it to this person without us paying shipping, the addressee turns up at our house! Huzzah!

After I put Tater in the backyard because she was obviously a dangerous criminal come in the broad daylight with a piece of paper bearing her name and address, she got her packages and off she went.

And then a third package showed up.

My house has become an official stop on the route. I might as well get one of those FedEx scanners so I can update the tracking progress when it gets here.

I’m sure I’ll be seeing my friend again soon. Maybe she’ll get here in time to munch on a hot cross bun I made for Good Friday.

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I’m calling this take semi-traditional because of the flavors and because I did use a flour paste for the crosses, but there’s no currants (a dried fruit similar to a raisin — all grapes, but there’s this thing with vines vs. bushes, and it’s all very technical so I won’t bore you). As you may have read here, I am not a big fan of dried fruits in baked goods, unless it’s something like biscotti or certain types of cookies. I was going to use dried cranberries or dried cherries, but I didn’t have enough of them. So, fruit-free hot cross buns it is!

Just Spiced Hot Cross Buns
ingredients adapted from Simply Recipes Hot Cross Buns, method told in my own words

Dough
3 cups flour, measured properly and sifted, +approximately 5 Tbs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast*
5 cardamom pods, ground (1/4 tsp. powder)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup milk, warmed to between 120 – 130 degrees**
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, brought to room temperature
zest of 2 lemons

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbs. water or milk

Crosses
2 Tbs flour
sufficient water to make a thick, pipe-able paste

Notes
*I use instant yeast in most of my bread recipes, as buying a brick of it is far more economical than the small packets. As an added perk, instant yeast does not need to be activated separately. It can be mixed with dry ingredients, then wet are added to it and it becomes activated.
** Because of this, the wet ingredients (particularly the milk) need to be hotter than with active dry yeast. Make sure the eggs are not cold. If you’re using eggs straight from the fridge, you can submerge them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and they’ll warm right up!

To use active dry yeast
Most of the recipe will remain the same, but you will want your milk to be between 110 – 115 degrees. Use about 2 1/2 tsp (one 1/4 ounce packet) active dry yeast and activate it in about 1/4 cup warm milk. Let this sit until foamy. Then you will add this along with the other wet ingredients.

Directions
Whisk together the 3 cups of flour, instant yeast, salt, sugar, and spices in an electric mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. You can also use the dough hook attachment all throughout, but you will need to scrape the sides down for all the flour to get incorporated.

To this, add the warm milk, eggs, and butter. Mix on a low speed until ingredients are well combined (high speed and the flour will go everywhere). Once it’s all well mixed and sticky, add in the lemon zest. At this point, if you’re not using it already, switch to the dough hook attachment.

At medium speed, mix the dough and add in additional flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together into a ball. For me, this was about 5 tablespoons. The dough will still be sticky, but shouldn’t cling to your hand like a desperate child who doesn’t want to go to the doctor. Continue to mix it, as this will help develop the gluten for that great bread texture. Knead on in the mixer for about 5 – 7 minutes until the dough has got a nice smooth look to it. You can also turn it out onto a floured board if you desire, and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough into an oiled bowl and keep in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured board. Roll it into a rough log, then cut into pieces. I did about 1 inch pieces, as I wanted more smaller buns as opposed to fewer large buns. These yielded about 20 smaller buns. In the future I’ll likely measure the dough (Nancy Birtwhistle recommends about 80 grams per piece) to ensure more uniform rising and baking.

Shape each piece into a ball and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space them equally apart. Once all the buns are shaped, let them rise a second time for about 40 – 50 minutes, again until doubled in size.

Near the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees (just make sure your buns aren’t in there!) and prepare the flour paste and egg wash. Traditionally, the cross on top of the buns is actually part of the bread as opposed to some sort of icing.

Whisk together the egg and milk or water. Mix 2 tablespoons of flour with enough water to create a thick paste. Brush the egg wash over the top of the buns. Carefully pipe a cross of the flour paste onto the top of each bun.

Bake for 10 – 13 minutes, until the buns had browned well. You can also use a thermometer. Enriched breads should have an internal temperature of 185 – 190 degrees when baked. Once finished baking, remove from sheets to a cooling rack.

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I ran out of flour paste halfway through because I cut the tip of the piping bag faaaaar too wide, so half of them got an icing cross.