Posts Tagged ‘Hot Cross Buns’

Hot Cross Buns

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009



Easter is coming—and before we get to it we arrive at the time for one of my favorite treats. Hot cross buns are a sweet yeasty roll traditionally served at the end of Lent, specifically on Good Friday. The cross of icing that tops them symbolizes the crucifixion, although it was adapted from a pagan symbol that represented either the four quarters of the moon or the perfect balance of the sun at the vernal equinox, March 21.


A monk named Thomas Rockcliffe began distributing the buns to the poor in St. Albans in England in 1361 as part of a missionary effort. They became a popular treat throughout the country.


When Elizabeth I was queen (her father Henry VIII had banned the Catholic Church for reasons of his own) she outlawed the consumption of the buns except during religious festivals-—burials, Good Friday, and Christmas. Vendors on the streets of London are said to have hawked the buns enthusiastically on the days on which they were allowed to be sold, giving rise to the nursery rhyme:

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.

If ye have no daughters, give them to your sons.

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.


Many make the buns with glaceed fruits and/or citrus peel instead of (or in addition to) the raisins or currants. I like them best this way.




for the buns:


1 generous teaspoon active dry yeast (about half a packet)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 to 2-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (generous)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt (generous)

2/3 cup raisins or currants


for the glaze:


1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

milk as needed

(for a different flavor, try substituting orange juice for the vanilla and milk)




In a small dish combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the lukewarm water. Leave them for 5 minutes or so to proof. While they are proofing, heat the milk and butter just to lukewarm.


In a large bowl combine the yeast, water, milk, butter, remaining sugar, egg, and vanilla, and whisk them together. Stir in the baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat in 1 cup flour and the raisins or currants; then stir in enough flour so that the mixture begins to stick together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and knead it for a minute or two, adding more flour if necessary. Leave the mixture to rest for 10 minutes.


At the end of the rest period, continue kneading, adding more flour as needed, until the mixture becomes smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rise until it almost doubles in bulk (1 to 1-1/2 hours). Place the dough on a floured or greased board, knead it 2 or 3 times to release air bubbles, and divide it into 12 pieces that are as close in size as you can make them.


Roll the pieces into little balls, and place them on a large greased cookie sheet. Cover again with a damp towel, and let rise until almost double in size, 45 minutes to an hour. About 15 minutes before you think the buns will be finished rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Uncover the buns, and gently slash a cross on each with a serrated knife (this doesn’t always work perfectly but isn’t 100 percent necessary). Bake the buns for 18 to 22 minutes, until they turn light golden brown. Remove them from the cookie sheet and cool them on a rack for a few minutes.


While they begin to cool, make the glaze by whisking the vanilla into the confectioner’s sugar and then adding milk, a tiny bit at a time, until you have a thick glaze. Applying the glaze is a matter of timing. The buns must be a little cool (so the glaze doesn’t run off entirely) but not too cool (in which case they glaze doesn’t stick). After 15 to 20 minutes of cooling, try spooning the glaze into the criss-crosses on the buns to form a cross. If it runs off too much (it will always run off a little), wait a few more minutes.


Allow the buns to cool after glazing, then place them carefully in a container that won’t mess up the glaze. Try to eat these buns within 2 days. They are most delicious with lots of butter.


Makes 12 buns.


Easter is coming!

Easter is coming!