I woke up this morning with an odd need to bake. And I got this notion in my head that I needed to bake Hot Cross Buns, probably because it’s Good Friday. Not that I’ve ever made, or even eaten, Hot Cross Buns before.
According to the Oxford University Press, the hot cross bun is made of a “rich yeast dough containing flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, currants, and spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. In England, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday; they are marked on top with a cross, wither cut in the dough or composed of strips of pastry. The mark is of ancient origin, connected with religious offerings of bread, which replaced earlier, less civilized offerings of blood. According to superstition, hot cross buns and loaves baked on Good Friday never went moldy, and were sometimes kept as charms from one year to the next.”
Just in case you’re wondering, I don’t plan on keeping my buns until next year.
I chose this recipe from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Cookery and Household Management, published in 1861. It was pretty darn easy. The dough is rich and spicy, and it reminded me a lot of the figgy pudding but not quite as heavy. I also thought way the yeast base is made was interesting-warming the liquid and then setting it in a warm place to ferment a bit before adding in an egg.
Here’s how you make the buns:
• 3 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 tablespoon yeast
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons allspice or 1 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cloves
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 4 ounces dried fruit (I used a blend of blueberries, cherries and cranberries)
• 1 egg
• 2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Sift 2/3 cup of flour and the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Warm the 1/2 cup of milk and water in microwave for about 40-45 seconds, until warm but not hot. Mix in the yeast. Pour the yeast liquid into the flour and sugar mixture and beat well. Leave the bowl in a warm place for 20 minutes. When it’s done, it should look like this:
Sift the rest of the flour, salt, and spices in a bowl. Slightly soften the butter, just enough to get it to mix with the flour and form course crumbs. Add the four tablespoons powdered sugar and dried fruit.
Beat the egg into the frothy yeast mixture. Add that to the flour mixture until it’s a soft dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead for five minutes (or you can let your mixer do it, as I did). Turned dough into slightly greased bowl. Cover with Saran wrap sprayed with cooking spray and leave in a warm place until it’s doubled in bulk. It took my dough an hour and a half to rise.
Knead dough again until firm. It took my mixer about 10 minutes to get the dough to where it wasn’t sticky but rather smooth and pliable.
Break the dough into 12 equal pieces and form into balls, placing on a greased and floured cookie sheet. With a sharp knife, cut a cross on top of each bun. Allow to rise another 35 minutes.
Bake buns in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, just until they start to turn a little brown and crusty. As soon as you take the buns out of the oven, boil the 2 tablespoons of milk and the 2/3 cup powdered sugar on the stove for six minutes, stirring constantly. Brush this glaze over the hot buns.
They didn’t turn out as pretty as some I’ve seen but I thought they tasted wonderful-spicy and rich. Enjoy and Happy Easter!