This recipe is originally from the baking blog Wild Yeast. For even softer buns, use King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour in place of the whole wheat flour.
Makes 12 buns
For the sponge:
• 37 grams flour
• 190 grams milk at about 100 degrees F
• 9 grams (1 ½ teaspoons) sugar
• 7.4 grams (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant yeast
For the dough:
• 170 grams flour
• 170 grams whole wheat flour
• 60 grams butter, softened
• 57 grams sugar
• 1 whole egg
• 3 grams (½ teaspoon) salt
• ½ teaspoon ground allspice
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 tablespoon water
• 114 grams dried currants
• 20 grams candied orange peel, finely chopped
• 20 grams candied lemon peel, finely chopped
For the piping paste:
• 170 grams pastry flour
• 50 grams vegetable oil
• 120 grams water
For the glaze:
• 60 grams sugar
• 60 grams water
Make the sponge:
Combine milk and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour and sugar. The mixture will be very liquid. Cover and let rest until it is about three times its original volume, 30 to 40 minutes.
Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, mix final dough flour, whole wheat flour, and softened butter until the butter is evenly distributed through the flour.
Add egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Continue to mix until combined. The mixture will be quite dry at this point.
Replace the mixer paddle with the dough hook. Add the sponge and start mixing in low speed. Add water as needed to make a very soft dough (I added about one tablespoon). and mix until well combined, about three minutes. It is almost more like a cookie dough at this point, and will not come together yet.
Mix in medium speed, occasionally scraping the dough down the sides of the bowl. When the dough starts to leave the sides and come together around the dough hook, the gluten should have reached a medium level of development. This may take about eight minutes, but will depend on your mixer.
Add the currants and orange and lemon peels. Mix in low speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, covered container. Ferment in a warm place for one hour, with a fold at 30 minutes.
Turn the dough onto an unfloured counter and divide it into 12 pieces.
Lightly degas each piece of dough and tuck the edges under to form a loose ball. To tighten the ball, place it on the counter with your cupped hand loosely around it, and move your hand in a tight circle several times.
Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press them lightly with your palm to flatten them a bit.
Cover and proof in a warm place for about an hour.
Make the glaze.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make the piping paste.
Sift the pastry flour and combine it with the vegetable oil. Slowly add water, stirring well after each addition, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick glue. Don't make it so thin that it runs, but if it is too thick it will be difficult to pipe.
Preheat the oven to 440 F. When the buns are finished proofing, pipe the crosses onto them using a pastry bag fitted with a quarter-inch round tip (I used a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off). Bake the buns on the parchment-lined sheet at 440 F until the tops are browned, about seven minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 F and continue baking until browned all over, about another eight minutes. While the buns are still hot, brush them with a light coating of glaze.
To read about how the author of this recipe vowed not to eat high fructose corn syrup and discovered these buns instead, click here.