Easter Hot Cross Buns: their history and a recipe
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns
A quintessentially English tradition, the Easter hot cross bun is delicious eaten warm, or toasted and then split in two, and buttered. During Lent we are expected to restrain ourselves before tucking into these delicious sweet buns on Good Friday, but this is easier than done!
Google it and the hot cross bun has a patchy history. No one knows for sure when the tradition began. However we know that in England, during the 16th Century, bakers were confined to making the sweet dough on just a few days a year, by law. Good Friday was one exception and the buns were marked with a cross on this holy day, towards the end of the Lenten fast. In fact Queen Elizabeth 1 and Oliver Cromwell attempted to ban the hot cross bun because of its religious associations, but the commoners would have nothing of it. The bun may have originally come into being with the Anglo-Saxons, as it is believed they ate sweet cakes marked with a cross, to depict the four seasons during ritual feasts in honour of Eostre the goddess of spring.
What we do know is the popularity of the Easter hot cross bun is assured, for as an English girl, there is little on Earth tastier than a warm, homemade hot cross bun; generously spread with butter and enjoyed with the ubiquitous cup of tea!
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
( makes 16 hot cross buns)
What you need
- 20g/ 0.7 ounces of fresh yeast
- 50g/1.7 ounces golden caster sugar/ confectioner’s sugar (set aside a little more for the glaze)
- 450g/16 ounces of strong white flour
- 100g/3.5 ounces of butter
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 3 eggs
- 150g/5.2 ounces of currants
- 50g/ 1.7 ounces of mixed peel
- 3 tbsp plain/ all purpose flour
- 200ml/6.7 fluid ounces of milk, (set aside a little more for the glazing)
- 3 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- pinch of saffron
What to do
First of all you need to warm the milk gently in a saucepan with the cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and saffron until it boils, then immediately take it off the heat and allow to stand for 1 1/2 hours. Then bring it back to luke-warm temperature and strain the milk before adding the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Next, put the flour into a food mixer with the rest of the sugar, ginger and salt and rub in the butter. Make a hole in the middle and add the 2 (beaten) eggs and the yeast mixture, blend together with enough milk to make a soft dough. Knead for 15 minutes and leave the dough in a greased covered bowl for approximately 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
Place the dough on a greased work surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Then spread the dough out and cover with the currants and peel. Knead all the fruit well into the dough. Then separate the dough into 16 equal circular shapes and place on lined baking trays. Score a cross into each one, cover and allow to prove until they have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ Gas Mark 6/ and then beat together the third egg and a little milk, mix the plain/ all purpose flour with a pinch of salt and a little cold water sufficient to create a stiff paste. Brush each of the buns with an egg glaze and then take a piping bag and make a thick cross on each bun. Put the buns into the oven for 25-30 minutes. When they are ready and have developed a golden appearance, brush each bun with 1 tsp of caster/ confectioner’s sugar mixed with a little hot water, before placing them on a wire rack to cool.
Serve while still a little warm, with lashings of butter and a pot of English tea with milk.
Bonne Appétit! x
Feel free to rate this hot cross buns recipe in the comments box below!
Category: spring recipes
About the Author (Author Profile)
Rebecca Watkins worked as a professional photo journalist and travelled the world with her husband John, before settling down as a stay at home mother to their three daughters. They have recently moved back from the French Alps to an old cottage in Devon, England. Rebecca’s days are filled with visits to the beach, animated discussions and in the best moments, happiness and creativity in her family home of five. The other moments are filled with craziness and chaos and she loves those too.