Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com
Hot Cross Buns
Servings: Makes 12 buns
On the first day of Lent and during the six weeks that follow (up to Easter), many bakeries and Christian homes make Hot Cross Buns. They are generally only served during the Lenten season, preserving their Christian significance. Traditionally, they are prepared on Good Friday.
A HISTORY OF HOT CROSS BUNS
Hot Cross Buns were traditionally served during the Lenten Season, especially on Good Friday. Their origins, however, like the Easter holiday, are mixed with pagan traditions. To the ancient Aztecs and Incas, buns were considered the sacred food of the gods, while the Egyptians and Saxons offered them as sacrifices to their goddesses. The cross represented the four quarters of the moon to certain ancient cultures, while others believed it was a sign that held supernatural power to prevent sickness. To the Romans, the cross represented the horns of a sacred ox. The word "bun" is derived from the ancient word "boun," used to describe this revered animal. The Christian church adopted Hot Cross Buns during their early missionary efforts to pagan cultures. They re-interpreted the "cross" of icing which adorns the bun to signify the cross on which Jesus sacrificed His life. Some historians date the origin of Hot Cross Buns back to the 12th century, when an Angelican monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honor Good Friday, known at that time as the "Day of the Cross." In 1361, a monk named Father Thomas Rocliffe, was recorded to have made small spiced cakes stamped with the sign of the cross, to be distributed to the poor visiting the monastery at St. Albans on Good Friday. According to the scholar Harrowven, the idea proved so popular that he made the buns every year, carefully keeping his bun recipe secret.
According to tradition, Hot Cross Buns were the only food allowed to be eaten by the faithful on Good Friday. Made from dough kneaded for consecrated bread used at Mass or Holy Communion, and thus representative of Christ’s body, Hot Cross Buns were also credited for miraculous healing and for protection. Throughout the years, Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday were used in powdered form to treat all sorts of illnesses. In addition, many families hung the buns from their kitchen ceilings to protect their households from evil for the year to come. The tradition, however, suffered attack during the 16th century. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, when Roman Catholicism was banned, ‘backward - lookers’ were reportedly tried for Popery for signing the cross on their Good Friday buns. The accused often claimed that it was necessary to mark a cross on the dough, to ensure that the buns would rise. However, the popularity of the buns prevailed, and the Queen resorted to passing a law which limited the bun's consumption to proper religious ceremonies, such as Christmas, Easter or funerals. So go ahead and try your hand at making these traditional Hot Cross Buns for your Good Friday or Easter meal! This recipe makes one dozen buns. The buns can be served with lemon curd or candied lemon peel.
For the Buns:
1/2 cup warm milk (105°F–115°F/40°C-46°C)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp./1/4 oz./7 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. PLUS 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (and 1/4 cup extra flour as needed for kneading)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. raisins or currants
2 tbsp. grated orange or lemon zest
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg white or yolk, beaten
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
Icing for the Crosses:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. milk or cream
For the Buns:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, yeast and the 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cups flour, the allspice, cinnamon, salt and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Add half of the flour mixture to the milk mixture. Using the flat beater, beat until combined. Add the butter and egg and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until a soft dough forms.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If needed, add extra flour 1 tbsp. at a time (up to 1/4 cup) to keep the dough from being too sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and knead in the raisins and grated orange zest. Shape the dough into a 12-inch log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Cover with clean plastic wrap and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing the buns 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
For the Egg Wash:
In a small bowl, mix together the beaten egg white (or yolk) with the 3 tbsp. of sugar to make a glaze. Brush the buns with the glaze.
Bake buns in preheated 400 degree F (200 C) oven for 12 minutes. Remove buns from oven and transfer to wire rack. Cool buns for 5 to 10 minutues while you make the icing for the crosses.
Icing for the Crosses:
Combine all the icing ingredients in a small bowl and beat until thick. Use a pastry bag and tip to pipe thick crosses onto the buns. (If you don't have a pastry bag, fill a sturdy plastic ziploc bag with the icing, squeezing it down into one corner. Snip the tip of the bag off, and squeeze the icing onto the buns making a cross design over the tops).
Hot Cross Buns can be spread with lemon curd for a delicious Good Friday or Easter treat.
Makes 12 buns.
Date: March 10, 2002-Revised April 9, 2004