Saturday, 3 April 2010

Hot Cross Buns

Most years I don't actually remember to make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, although we happy eat them any time of the year.  For quite a few years I used to be cooking for Easter camps, and although I did often make fresh bread-rolls for 80, I never did buns. As you can see, I don't put a cross in mine. These were the last two left from the dozen I made in time for a late breakfast yesterday, and we finished them off with afternoon coffee today. I have to admit that when it came to dinner last night, we decided we didn't really need a big meal, so we passed.

According to my book of festive baking, the association of Hot Cross Buns with Good Friday began only after the Reformation in the 16th century. Before that almost all dough was marked with a cross before it went in the oven, to ward off evil spirits that might stop it rising. After the Reformation this practice was discarded as being "Popish", and was just kept for the day in the Church year when the cross was most significant.
Check out this photo of a little Greek wood-fired oven that we saw in the folk museum in Corfu - it has a cross on it.

Hot Cross Buns makes 12
1/2 pt (1 1/4 cups) milk and water mixed, lukewarm
3/4 oz fresh yeast, one sachet instant yeast
1 lb strong flour
1/2 tsp each salt, mixed spice, cinnamon, grated nutmeg (I like more mixed spice)
2 oz castor sugar (1/4 cup)
2 oz butter (1/2 stick)
2 beaten eggs
6 oz currants or raisins
1 oz finely chopped candied peel
shortcrust pastry if you want to make crosses

Using instant yeast I just knead everything together, adding the raisins near the end. Again with instant yeast I skip on the initial rising in a greased bowl, and just shape them into 12 buns, arrange in a greased roasting tin and leave to rise. The original recipe, calling for fresh yeast has two risings before the shaping. If you want to make crosses, roll the shortcrust pastry out, cut into thin strips and stick on with cold water.
Bake in a pre-heated oven, 400CF, 200C, Gas Mark 7 for about twenty minutes, till browned on top. If you can put a tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to make a steamy atmosphere, all the better.
If you like a glaze on the buns - I do, C doesn't - boil  2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar with 2 tblsp water until it's formed a syrup, and brush over the top of the warm buns.


  1. I'm sure I would love the glaze myself. I don't know that I've ever had hot cross buns, although I've definitely heard of them. I had two friends drop off baked goods for the holiday. One made yeast bread and the other nut roll. They are both delicious as I'm sure your hot cross buns are.

  2. Mmmmmm!!! I bet these smell heavenly when baking and absolutely melt in your mouth. I enjoyed the lesson on the history of hot cross buns, too! It's always interesting to learn why our predecessors did the things they did, as will ours be to those who follow us.

  3. I agree with Lorraine. I would probably want the glaze too. Your description almost made me smell them baking in the oven.