Hot cross buns are a delicious Good Friday morning tradition, but conventional recipes are packed with unhealthy ingredients. Given my weakness for cinnamon morning buns, I had to convert a recipe to obtain the health benefits mentioned in my book. These rolls are packed with nutrient dense foods and the baking process takes advantage of the microbes in starter to alter the content of the dough, resulting an an anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, low glycemic, nutrient dense morning bun with little-to-no gluten.
To serve for breakfast on Good Friday, begin these Wednesday. For Wednesday you’ll need:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup starter
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup almond flour or almond meal
1 t salt
Bring the milk to a boil. Once it begins boiling, remove from heat and add the butter. I slice mine into approximately 7-8 pieces to ensure that all of it melts. Set aside until completely cooled. (This is important because we’re adding the starter in the next step and the scalding milk can negatively affect the microbial activity.)
In another bowl, combine the honey, starter, flours, and salt. Stir to combine. When the milk/butter mixture is room temperature, add it to the flour mixture and stir to combine. You can fold it over a few times in the bowl to ensure that everything is fully combined, but it doesn’t really require any kneading. It will be a very sticky dough, but shouldn’t be runny. Cover the bowl and leave to sit overnight.
The next morning (Thursday if you’re planning these for Good Friday), the dough should have risen a bit. Now we’re going to add the fun stuff and shape the dough into buns. Today you’ll need:
1 green apple, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup currants OR 1/4 cup raisins, finely chopped
2 t cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
Add all of this to the dough while it is still in the bowl. Stir to combine, then remove it to a clean counter-top. Knead until the dough holds together well and the apple bits stop popping out each time you fold the dough over.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Depending on how you want the end product to look, you can divide those among two pans (for rounded buns) or you can place them all in a single pan (for roll-like buns.) You can use 9×13 (greased) baking dishes or (parchment lined) quarter size sheet pans. Shape your rolls and place them in the pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 24 hours.
If you know you’ll have a busy morning tomorrow, you can also make your frosting today. Combine 4 ounces cream cheese with 1 T butter and 2 cups powdered sugar. Add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean, 1 t vanilla extract, and 1 t cinnamon. Mix until creamy and store, covered, in the fridge.
Friday morning, brush the tops with an egg wash and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. (During this time, you can make the frosting or if you made it yesterday, you can bring it to room temperature so it’s ready.) In a piping bag (or a plastic baggie with the corner cut off), pipe crosses on top of each bun AFTER they are completely cooled. If you put the frosting on too soon, the crosses will turn into a huge mess. Serve and enjoy!
(These also store really well so if you don’t have time to bake, let cool, and frost on Friday morning, consider bumping everything up a day to begin Tuesday night. Shape Wed morning, bake Thursday morning, frost Thursday night and serve Friday morning. You’ll need to store them in an airtight container to preserve freshness.)
One of the most common comments/questions I receive through the “contact me” section of the website is from those of you that have read through the Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread, love the idea, but want some additional hands-on help on mastering the technique required to make amazing and real bread through the recipes in the book.
So, here it is.
We have a facebook group set up with about 100 or so people that have read through the book and are baking bread using the recipes in the book, plus a few they’ve created on their own! While I’d love nothing more than to provide personalized tutorials for each of you, with thousands of books in hands around the world, that’s just not going to happen. So, this is the next best thing. I hop on as frequently as I can to answer questions about the scientific side of things, and the rest of the questions are handled by others that have mastered the techniques and are baking amazing loaves of bread, as well as rolls, doughnuts, cinnamon loaves, apple fritters, and much more! So if you have specific questions about the recipe section of the book, head on over and give it a try! And, as always, if you have questions about the science and historical side of things, you’re welcome to contact me or post on the group.
Earlier this year, my book The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread was released. Of all of the books I’ve written, it is probably my favorite because it covers the fascinating story of how bread has gone from the staff of life to a processed poison. The bread that consisted of the majority of our ancestor’s diets was healthy, low glycemic, anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense, delicious, and contained little, if any, gluten. You can read more about the health benefits of ancient bread and modern myths about bread that are addressed in the book here.
Once I mastered a basic and healthy loaf, I knew everything we made had to be altered to be healthier. While doughnuts are a rare family treat, they’re enjoyed when we have them. This better alternative takes advantage of all of the benefits of ancient bread with all of the flavor of a dietary splurge. With the holiday season upon us, we’ll be indulging in these treats at least once or twice! Here’s the recipe, taken from The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup starter**
1 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 T butter, melted
**Details about the starter can be found in the book or in our distance learning programs.
Combine the starter, milk, flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. For breakfast doughnuts, you’ll want to begin these in the morning the day before. Let the mixture sit 10-12 hours.
Later that evening, add the eggs and vanilla. Stir to combine. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a doughnut cutter. Place the doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. Store the dough in the fridge to rise overnight.
In the morning, fill a frying pan with 1-2 inches of melted coconut oil or a heat-stable oil over medium heat. Add the doughnuts, frying 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly browned and cooked through. (If you’re not sure whether they are cooked or not, remove the first one and break it open to see. If the edges are dark brown but the insides are still doughy, you may need to turn the heat down to medium low.)
Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess grease.
Optional: While the traditional doughnuts are fantastic just as they are, a modernized doughnut glaze elevates them to a new level of healthy goodness. To make a plain glaze, combine 3 T melted butter with 2 T hot water and 1 t vanilla extract. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and continue whisking until there are no lumps. Place the doughnuts over a wired cooling rack; dip the doughnuts in the glaze then place to dry on the rack. For chocolate coated doughnuts, combine 3 T butter, 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1 t vanilla extract and 3 T hot water. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and frost the tops of the vanilla glazed doughnuts.
We’re just a little over a week away from the release of the new bread book, but we’ve already shipped hundreds of copies and I’ve had the chance to discuss the book with hundreds more families throughout the country! Through these discussions, I’ve encountered many common myths that are repeated over and over from a variety of sources. While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a great start at getting many of the essential facts straight about one of humankind’s oldest and most loved foods.
Myth: The hybridization of wheat is how we got wonderbread and other uniformly light and fluffy loaves.
Reality: This bread was the result of a patented production process that was used for decades before the hybridization of yeast. The process was designed to mimic the best artisan breads produced at home, but with a streamlined and predictable method suited for distribution. Light and fluffy (healthy) loaves have been enjoyed for millennia thanks to kitchen skills that have been passed down through generations.
Half truth: White bread is bad for you; use whole wheat instead. Or freshly milled whole wheat instead.
Reality: Whole wheat, even if freshly milled, is still a high glycemic food that contributes to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and inflammation. It also contains a large amount of gluten, which is toxic for many people and can eventually lead to internal inflammation and damage. This doesn’t mean we have to abandon bread altogether. The key to a healthy bread is the process that has the ability to turn even store bought white flour into a low glycemic and low gluten or even gluten free food.
Myth: Soaking whole grains – as the ancients did – will reduce the phytic acid and increase the bioavailability of valuable nutrients.
Reality: Rigorous studies have shown that soaking does nothing to improve the health of whole grains, and there is no evidence found in history of any previous cultures soaking, dehydrating, then grinding grains. The practice was only used for legumes, beans, and as a cooking method.
Myth: We consume more wheat/flour than any previous generation.
Reality: We consume far less wheat/flour than almost all previous generations. Ancient cultures derived over half of their daily intake from bread and bread was a staple in most diets through many different cultures until a sharp overall decline in the early 1900s.
Myth: Refined flour is why we now have problems with gluten and sensitivities.
Reality: Refined flours have been in use since antiquity! The Romans produced a flour that was very similar to store bought white flour we buy today, and I have a collection of nutrition texts and cookbooks from throughout the 1800s that decry the use of whole wheat flour and warn that it should only be used medicinally and should never be allowed to contaminate a batch of good bread.
Myth: Gluten free diets are trends only to be used by hypochondriacs.
Reality: Evidence shows that the levels of gluten we consume today are harming everyone. While some individuals have experienced internal damage that requires a strict avoidance of gluten, all of us benefit from reduced intake. And the health concerns we face are often found to be dose dependent, which means the more we consume, the greater our risks of developing a disorder that requires strict avoidance.
MYTH: The problem with modern bread is linked to the hybridized wheat, refined flours, and additives found in modern bread.
Reality: Countless scientific studies have shown that these factors all contribute to the perfect storm of events that ruined the bread that nourished the ancients, but elimination of all of these factors still will not produce a bread that is low glycemic, nourishing, anti-inflammatory, or healthy enough to form a significant part of the diet. The secret? The production process.
Want more details? For the full story, including over 350 citations for further research, check out the Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread: Unlocking the Mysteries of Grains, Gluten and Yeast.
So in the book, I provide detailed outlines for catching your own local starter. However, if you live in an area that does not have great tasting lactobacilli or if you’d just like to play around with various other starters, you can buy them from exotic locations and enjoy the flavor that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.
There are a few online suppliers of such starters, but I’ve had the best service from a small shop called Starting with Sourdoughs. The owner, Greg, is very knowledgeable and truly enjoys the health benefits and flavor of the breads produced from these cultures collected from throughout the world. These are what I use in my kitchen. I typically keep a few alive at a time with backups. Every so often I kill off the backup and have to order more, but the prices are so affordable, it’s usually cheaper and easier than trying to revive the one struggling to survive on my countertop!
In my kitchen, I always use the San Francisco starter for tangy breads and the Country French starter when I don’t want tang – cinnamon rolls for example. However, I’ve tried and enjoyed all of the starters he offers and find them to be amazingly easy to work with. The Italian ones are also favorites of mine. Regardless of the source you choose, you’ll want to make sure that the starter is free of all baker’s yeast and has been well maintained. For the health benefits outlined in the book, you’ll need to follow the details and instructions given in the book.
Here’s the link to the ebay store.
Curious to know what I’m talking about? For more information on bread, check out our upcoming release The Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread: Unlocking the Mysteries of Grains, Gluten and Yeast.