April 8, 2006

Welcome Home Bakers and Friends,

Welcome Spring!

Yes, Spring is finally here and with it brings flowers blooming, birds chirping and hopefully blue skies and warmer weather.

I have to admit that for someone who really likes the fall and winter seasons the most (I do like fog and rain, the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves and the cooler weather, yes, I'm a bit strange in this respect. I guess it's because I'm originally from San Francisco where the weather is quite moderate with a lot of foggy days, especially during the summer), I am actually looking forward to brighter days and just a bit more sunshine AND to enjoy my Rose Garden once again. It seems like it's been forever since my roses were in bloom.

It will also be nice to make desserts using fresh fruits with the warmer summer months coming up. I am really looking forward to my town's farmer's market opening up again later in the season. I love to pick out fresh fruits and vegetables from our local farmers. It's a great way of "giving back" to the hard working people who supply us with wonderful produce.

I hope you enjoyed last month's recipes for Purim and St. Patrick's Day. I made the Apricot Almond Chocolate Balls for Purim and a very tasty Oatmeal-Raisin Soda Bread for St. Patrick's Day. My husband Kenny helped me gobble down these goodies, which was good as we didn't have any friends or family over this year to celebrate these holidays.

What's in this Edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter?

This edition includes recipes for Passover, Easter and Spring and below in the Food Tips and Information section, it's all about Cinnamon, a spice that is used in cooking and baking giving a unique flavor to our desserts, beverages, and breads. There's a recipe for Hot Cross Buns after the information on Cinnamon. These delicious buns are a very traditional treat for Good Friday (observed on April 14, 2006 or Orthodox Good Friday which is observed on April 21, 2006) or to serve at Easter.

The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown Wednesday April 12, 2006 and ends at sundown on April 20, 2006. The Passover Seder (meal) is celebrated on the first two nights of Passover (an eight day celebration). The main Passover seder is celebrated on the first night (April 12, 2005) and a smaller seder is celebrated on the second night (April 13, 2006).

Easter is celebrated on Sunday April 16, 2006 and Orthodox Easter is observed on Sunday April 23, 2006.

This month's Guest Submitted Recipe is for Mint Chocolate Cupcakes, submitted by Maria. A great treat for the kids and I know the grown-ups will love them also, especially for those of you who love the flavor of chocolate and mint. Thank you Maria for sharing your recipe with us.

And now on to the recipes:

Guest Submitted Recipe

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Servings: Makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes

225g (8 oz.) self-raising flour
4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
225g (8 oz.) caster sugar (granulated or superfine baker's sugar may be substituted)
225g (1 stick/8 oz./1 cup) unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 tsp. mint essence or extract
100g (3 1/2 oz.) plain (semisweet) chocolate chips

For Icing:
115g (1 stick/4 oz./1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
225g (8 oz.) icing sugar, sieved (powdered or confectioners' sugar may be substituted)
1 tsp. mint essence or extract
Green food colouring

For Decorating:
100g (3 1/2 oz.) plain (semisweet) chocolate chips (or use chocolate sprinkles)

You will need 18 paper cases (paper muffin or cupcake liners)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C/325 degrees F. Place 18 paper cases (muffin or cupcake liners) into muffin tins.

In a bowl sieve flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat butter and sugar together in another bowl. Add eggs one at a time and beat together. Add flour mixture gradually. Stir in the mint essence and chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into cases (cupcake or muffin liners) and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely before icing.

To Make Icing:
Beat icing sugar and butter in a bowl; stir in the mint essence and just enough food colour to turn the icing mint green. Ice the cooled cupcakes and decorate with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Photograph taken by Maria 2006

Source: 500 Cupcakes and Muffins

Submitted By: Maria

Date: March 4, 2006

Click here to view recipe and photo of Mint Chocolate Cupcakes on Diana's Desserts Website


Passover is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II.

A time of family gatherings and lavish meals called Seders, the story of Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah. With its special foods, songs, and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. As the Jewish day begins at sundown the night before, for the year 2006, the first night of Passover will be April 12th.

Source: Holidays on the Net: http://www.holidays.net/passover/index.htm

Passover Recipes

Chocolate Farfel-Nut Clusters

Servings: Makes about 30 clusters

These clusters are easy to make and are always popular when served to friends and family. Matzo farfel, available in most major supermarkets, is simply matzo that has been chopped into small pieces. Toasting the matzo farfel and nuts is an important part of this recipe as it intensifies the flavor of these ingredients. For a delicious variation, create rocky road bonbons by adding 1/2 cup diced Passover marshmallows or mini-marshmallows along with the farfel and nuts.

If the clusters are not eaten within a few hours, store them in the refrigerator; otherwise, a white powder will form on the outside. They’re still fine to eat, however.

1 1/2 cups matzo farfel
1 lb. Passover semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup chopped toasted pecans, walnuts or skinned hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Spread the matzo farfel on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 10 to 15 minutes.

Line another baking sheet with waxed paper or place about 30 paper candy cups on the baking sheet.

In the top pan of a double boiler set over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Pour the melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add the matzo farfel and pecans and stir until thoroughly combined. Drop the mixture by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet or into the candy cups. Refrigerate until the clusters are set, about 45 minutes.

To serve, peel the clusters off the waxed paper and arrange on a platter, or arrange the candy cups on a platter.

Makes about 30 clusters.

Source: The Gourmet Jewish Cookbook by Judy Zeidler (William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1988).

Click here to view recipe and photo for Chocolate Farfel-Nut Clusters on Diana's Desserts Website

Passover Fruit Cake

Servings: 24

This fruitcake recipe was adapted for the Passover holiday by substituting matzo cake meal for the flour. The combination of dried fruits and nuts is reminiscent of charoset, a traditional dish served at seders. Sliced very thin, the fruitcake is sure to be a popular dessert for Passover.

2 tbsp. (1/4 stick/1oz/28g) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
2 cups pitted dates, thinly sliced
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds
1 1/2 cups toasted walnut pieces
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup matzo cake meal
1 tbsp. potato starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C. Brush a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with the melted butter (or non-dairy margarine) and line with parchment paper.

In a bowl, stir together the dates, apricots, raisins, almonds and walnuts; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla just until combined; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the matzo cake meal, potato starch and sugar. Add the fruit mixture and stir to combine, then stir in the egg mixture.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly, pressing the batter into the corners of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

Tap the pan gently on a work surface to loosen the fruitcake. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Peel off the parchment paper and let the fruitcake cool completely on the rack. Wrap the fruitcake in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1 day or up to 2 months.

To serve, using a sharp knife, cut the fruitcake into 12 thin slices, then cut each slice in half and arrange on a platter.

Makes 24 servings.

Source: The Gourmet Jewish Cook by Judy Zeidler (William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1999).

Click here to view recipe and photo of Passover Fruit Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Passover Orange Sponge Cake

Servings: 10

Light, airy and moist, this traditional Passover sponge cake boasts the delicious flavor of fresh oranges. If desired, the cake can be sliced and transformed into French toast.

1/2 cup matzo cake meal
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
6 eggs, separated

Position a rack in the lower third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C.

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the matza cake meal, potato starch and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice and the zests; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together 3/4 cup of the sugar and the oil on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the matza mixture in three additions, alternating with the orange juice mixture and beginning and ending with the matza. Beat each addition just until incorporated, then beat for 1 minute more. Remove the bowl from the mixer and set aside.

In a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the egg yolk mixture just until combined.

Pour the batter into an angel food cake pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched in the center, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Immediately invert the pan onto its feet or the neck of a wine bottle and let cool completely. Run a thin-bladed knife around the outer sides of the pan and around the inside of the tube to loosen the cake. Invert the pan onto a cake plate and lift off the pan.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: The Gourmet Jewish Cook by Judy Zeidler (William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1999).

Click here to view recipe and photo of Passover Orange Sponge Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

Servings: 4

Chocolate and raspberries are the perfect ending to a very special Passover seder.

1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz/113g) butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 (1-ounce) squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted, cooled (Kosher for Passover)
1/2 cup pasteurized refrigerated real egg product (Kosher for Passover)
2 teaspoons raspberry liqueur (optional)
1/2 pint raspberries

Combine butter and sugar in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add chocolate; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Add egg product; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until very creamy. Stir in raspberry liqueur, by hand (liqueur is optional).

To serve, place 4 raspberries in bottom of each of 4 parfait glasses. Top with 1/4 cup chocolate mousse, 4 raspberries and 1/4 cup chocolate mousse. Garnish with remaining raspberries. Store refrigerated. Any remaining mousse can be stored in the refrigerator up to 2 days.

Use kosher products for Passover, available at specialty food markets.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Recipe adapted from Land O'Lakes

Click here to view recipe and photo of Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries on Diana's Desserts Website


Easter is the time of springtime festivals, a time to welcome back the Tulips, the Crocuses and the Daffodils. Its a time of new suits, new dresses and patent leather shoes. A time for Christians to celebrate the life and resurrection of Christ. And a time of chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and colored eggs!

Easter will be celebrated on Sunday April 16, 2006. Greek/Orthodox Easter will be celebrated Sunday, April 23, 2006.

Source: Holidays on the Net: http://www.holidays.net/easter/index.htm

Spring and Easter Recipes

Strawberry Lemon Tart

Fresh, ripe strawberries complement the tangy lemon filling in this tart. A very fresh and colorful dessert to serve for Easter.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz/113g) cold butter
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz/56g) butter

1 tablespoon red currant jelly
3 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C. Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt in medium bowl; cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 egg yolk. Stir in enough water with fork just until flour mixture is moistened. Form dough into ball.

Roll out dough between two pieces of waxed paper to 11-inch square. Remove waxed paper. Place into ungreased 9-inch square tart pan with removable bottom. Press into pan; trim excess pastry. Prick bottom and sides with fork. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine 2/3 cup sugar and cornstarch in 1-quart saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil (2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir half of hot mixture into egg yolks. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until mixture boils and thickens (2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in 1/4 cup butter. Place plastic food wrap on surface of filling. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Just before serving, place jelly in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH until jelly is melted (15 to 30 seconds). Cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread filling into pastry; arrange strawberries on top. Drizzle with jelly just before serving.

Substitute 1 (12-ounce) jar lemon curd for filling.

Prepare and refrigerate filling up to 24 hours ahead.

Roll dough into 11-inch circle. Place into ungreased 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom.

Makes 9 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo for Strawberry Lemon Tart on Diana's Desserts Website

Citrus Cheesecake

Servings: 12-16

With springtime bringing a bit warmer weather serving a refreshing citrus cheesecake will definitely hit the spot. Serve for an Easter dessert or just as a lovely dessert for a weekend treat. If desired before serving, heat orange, lemon or lime jelly in a small saucepan and spread a thin glaze over the top of the cheesecake, then garnish with citrus slices and a mint sprig.

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz/56g) butter, melted
4 (8 oz. each) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. grated lime peel
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Topping: (optional)
Orange, Lemon or Lime Jelly

Garnish: (optional)
Orange, Lemon or Lime slices
Mint sprig

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or to 300 degrees F/150 degrees C if using a dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan). Mix crumbs, brown sugar and butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes. Beat cream cheese, granulated sugar, flour and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients; pour over crust. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. If desired before serving, heat jelly in a small saucepan and spread over chilled cheesecake and decorate with citrus slices and a mint sprig. Store leftover cheesecake covered in refrigerator.

Makes 16 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Citrus Cheesecake on Diana's Desserts Website

Spring Blossoms

Servings: Makes 4 dozen cookies

The pastel mint adds a hint of spring to this traditional butter cookie.

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/6oz/170g) butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
48 mint meltaway candies

Combine 1 cup sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking soda and salt. Beat until well mixed. Cover; refrigerate until firm (30 minutes).

Heat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in remaining sugar. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until very light golden brown. Remove from oven; immediately press 1 mint candy in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets; cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Spring Blossoms on Diana's Desserts Website

Springtime Candy Baskets

Servings: 12

Kids will love to fill these baskets with candy and give them as sweet gifts during springtime.

2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/2 oz/56g) butter
1 (6-ounce) package (4 cups) chow mein noodles
Pastel-colored chocolate candies or jelly beans

Combine marshmallows and butter in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows are melted (6 to 8 minutes). Stir in noodles until very well coated.

Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of buttered 12-cup muffin pan with buttered fingers. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm.

Remove baskets from cups; fill with candy. Store in airtight container up to 2 days.

Makes 12 baskets.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Springtime Candy Baskets on Diana's Desserts Website

Lemon Macaroon Tartlets

Servings: 12

These little goodies would be wonderful to serve at an afternoon tea or at an Easter brunch. Lovely with a cup of hot tea.

12 Macaroon Tart Shells
(see ingredients and instructions below)

Lemon Mixture:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

1/2 cup frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
2 tablespoons flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Prepare Macaroon Tart Shells.

To Prepare Macaroon Tart Shells:

To keep the shells from being tough, spoon the flour into the measuring cup instead of packing it. Use large eggs, and spread the mixture thinly into the muffin cups. Baked shells may be frozen for later use.

2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
Vegetable cooking spray

Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Spoon mixture evenly into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray, pressing mixture into bottom and up sides of muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F/200 degrees C for 15 minutes or until edges are browned. (Do not overbake.) Cool 2 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Set aside.

Lemon Mixture:
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and lemon rind in a saucepan, and stir well. Gradually add water and lemon juice; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually stir one-fourth of hot lemon mixture into egg; add to remaining lemon mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until thickened. Pour mixture into a bowl; stir in food coloring, if desired. Place plastic wrap on surface, and chill.

Spoon 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon mixture into each prepared shell. Top evenly with whipped topping and coconut.

Makes 1 dozen tartlets.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light, January 1996

Click here to view recipe and photo of Lemon Macaroon Tarts on Diana's Desserts Website

Food Tips and Information Section


For centuries, people have been fascinated by cinnamon as a healing potential as well as its unique flavor. The use of cinnamon can be traced back to Egypt around 3000 B.C., where it was used as an embalming agent, to China around 2700 B.C., where it was used medicinally by herbalists. It was also mentioned in the Old Testament. Cinnamon has the distinction of being one of the first commodities traded on a regular basis from the East to the Mediterranean.

Cinnamon has been associated with the ability to prevent ulcers, destroy fungal infections, soothe indigestion, ward off urinary tract infections, and fight tooth decay and gum disease. The pharmaceutical industry currently uses cinnamon in toothpaste and mouthwash as a natural flavoring.


Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, of which there are about 100 different species, all with similar aromatic properties. The two most commonly available varieties are Ceylonese cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon, which is actually from the bark of the cassia tree, is not considered a true cinnamon (species Cinnamomum verum). Grown in Southern China, and other parts of Eastern Asia, cassia is a dark reddish color and stronger in flavor than its Ceylonese cousin (Cinnamomum zeylancium). Cassia is less expensive to process than true cinnamons and is the type of "cinnamon" most commonly sold in supermarkets--though it is sometimes blended with Ceylonese cinnamon.


Cinnamon is available all year long and can be purchased at supermarkets as well as specialty shops.


Most cinnamon is sold in powdered form; however, it is also available in the form of sticks (scrolled portions of bark) and essential oil. Cinnamon sticks are sold in various lengths, though the most common supermarket cinnamon stick is about 3" long. You can also buy cassia buds, which are the buds of the cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, tree.


Cinnamon should be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid exposure to moisture and humidity. Cinnamon should smell of sweet spice; if it has no odor, chances are it's old and should be discarded.


Use cinnamon sticks for flavoring poaching liquids or for steeping in milk for custards or custard sauces. Add sticks to cold liquid then bring to a simmer. If preparing a wine poaching liquid for fruit, cook the cinnamon sticks in the liquid along with the fruit. If using the cinnamon sticks to flavor milk for a custard, add it to the cold milk, bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Cover and let the milk steep with the cinnamon in it. If the sticks are very long and tightly wound, break them into pieces with your hands, then use the flat side of a knife to break it up so that more surfaces are exposed.

Ground cinnamon is used in baking and is generally combined with dry ingredients such as flour or sugar.

Nutrition Chart

Cinnamon/1 teaspoon
Calories: 6
Total fat (g) 0.1
Saturated fat (g) 0
Monounsaturated fat (g) 0
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0
Dietary fiber (g) 1.2
Protein (g) 0.1
Carbohydrate (g) 1.8
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 0.6

Source: WholeHealthMD: http://www.wholehealthmd.com/refshelf/foods_view/1,1523,271,00.html

Recipe Using Cinnamon

Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday or Easter

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.

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 degrees F–115 degrees F/40 degrees C-46 degrees 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
1 egg
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 degrees F (200 degrees 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 degree C) oven for 12 minutes. Remove buns from oven and transfer to wire rack. Cool buns for 5 to 10 minutes 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).

Serving suggestion:
Hot Cross Buns can be spread with lemon curd for a delicious Good Friday or Easter treat.

Makes 12 buns.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall Copyright 2004

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hot Cross Buns on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Time

That's it for this edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter. As always I hope you've enjoyed the recipes and this month's information on Cinnamon.

I hope to be back in May with a newsletter that will include information and recipes for Mother's Day (Sunday May 14th) and also for Father's Day which is celebrated in June (Sunday June 18th), then I will most probably take a break and send out a summer newsletter in July or August.

I wish all of you a happy beginning of Spring and do enjoy Passover and Easter for those of you who celebrate these holidays. Good luck with all of your baking and cooking. I know your friends and family look forward to your dishes for these special days.

If you'd like to submit one of your favorite dessert, beverage or bread recipes, please click on the link below. I appreciate all of your wonderful recipes and look forward to receiving them.

Submit a Recipe

Sincerely, Diana

Diana's Desserts

Diana's Desserts
A Website Dedicated to Home Bakers

E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com