Sunday, September 11, 2011


What the F*%# are Hot Cross Buns??!??

Why do they have their own day, today, of all days?

Why does one give them to their sons if they have no daughters, according to the nursery rhyme??

Are these buns angry at something??? Is that why they're "cross"????

Honestly, I have no idea.

More commonly associated with Easter, not September, and, more specifically, associated with Good Friday, Hot Cross Buns are a spiced bun with currants, raisins, and candied fruit that are enjoyed throughout the year. Obviously, the cross on the bun is a symbol of the Catholic Church and signifies the resurrection as the dough must rise; the cross is traditionally baked into the bun using either pastry dough, cake icing, or, simply, sliced into the dough, before baking, with a knife.

Legend has it that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become mouldy during the subsequent year, and giving a Hot Cross Bun to someone who is sick or ailing is said to help them recover. Not bad for a lowly bun, hunh?

Legend also has it that sharing a Hot Cross Bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten; the buns, not the person, silly, unless, maybe, it's the person's buns?? Ooooh!

If a Hot Cross Bun is hung up in the kitchen, it is said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads baked in that kitchen turn out perfectly. Each year, the hanging bun is replaced with a fresh one to insure continued good fortune in the kitchen.

Guess I'd better go make some, I could use some good fortune.....

Recipe after the JUMP

Hot Cross Buns

Makes about twenty-four (24) buns

  • One (1) cup warm whole Milk, about 105°–115°F (40°-46°C)
  • Two (2) 1/4-ounce (7 g.) packages (5 teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon Caster (granulated) Sugar
  • Four (4) cups All-Purpose (AP) Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Allspice or Cardamom (a personal preference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold Sweet Creme Butter
  • Two (2) large Eggs
  • One (1) large Egg Yolk
  • 1/2 cup dried Currants
  • 1/3 cup Golden Raisins
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh Orange Zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh Lemon Zest
  • 3 tablespoons Superfine Granulated Sugar
  • Pastry Dough, store-bought frozen, thawed
INGREDIENT NOTE : Pastry Dough can be found in the freezer section of most large Über-Marts. Just look around. You can, of course, make this yourself, from scratch. I'll be waiting over here....

In a small bowl stir together the Milk, Yeast, and one (1) teaspoon Caster Sugar. Let the mixture stand for about five (5) minutes, or until foamy.

Into a large bowl sift together the Flour, Allspice (or Cardamom, if using), Cinnamon, Kosher Salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup of Caster Sugar. Cut the Butter into small bits and, using a wire pastry blender or large dinner fork, blend the Butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.

Lightly beat one (1) whole Egg with the Egg Yolk in a small bowl.

Make a well in center of the flour meal and pour in the Yeast mixture, the Egg and Yolk mixture, the Currants, the Raisins, and the citrus Zests. Stir together well until a dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and, with floured hands, knead until smooth and elastic, about ten (10) minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm quiet place until it has doubled in size, about an hour and a half (90 minutes).

While the dough rises, go butter two (2) large baking sheets.

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and, with floured hands, knead the dough briefly to form two (2) twelve-inch (12 in. or 30 cm.) long logs. Cut each log crosswise into twelve (12) equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2-inches apart (4 cm) on the baking sheets. Let the buns rise, covered with a clean dish towel, in a warm quiet place, until doubled in bulk, about forty-five (45) minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C) with the racks set to upper and lower third.

While the buns are rising, lightly beat the remaining Egg with the Superfine Sugar to make an Egg Glaze.

Frozen Pastry Dough generally comes in folded sheets about 1/8-inch (30 mm) thick. If your sheets are a little thicker, use a floured rolling pin or empty wine bottle to flatten them out some more. Using a sharp knife, cut the sheets into strips 1/8-inches (30 mm) wide and six-inches (6 in. or 15cm) long. If you made the stuff yourself, congratulations! Now, roll it out by hand to form a 20x6-inch (50x15 cm) rectangle about 1/8-inch (30 mm) thick and then slice it into strips.

When the buns have fully risen, brush them with the Egg Glaze and arrange two (2) strips of Pastry Dough over center of each bun to form a cross. Trim the ends of the pastry strips flush with bottoms of buns.

Bake the buns in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through, until golden brown, about twelve (12) minutes total.

Transfer the buns onto a rack to cool slightly.

Serve either warm or at room temperature with butter or your favorite preserves.

These buns may be made one week ahead and then individually wrapped in foil, placed in a sealable plastic bag, and frozen. Thaw buns and reheat before serving.

As I mentioned earlier, if you don't feel like mucking about with pastry dough, you can make a simple doughnut glaze to form your cross. In a small bowl, whisk together one (1) cup Confectioners Sugar, two (2) teaspoons Vanilla, and four (4) teaspoons of whole Milk to form an oozy paste. Slice through the tops of the risen buns with a sharp knife to make a shallow furrow in the form of a cross. Fill the furrow with the doughnut glaze using a spoon or a square of parchment paper shaped into a cone as a piping bag. Then bake as normal.

I mentioned the use of Cardamom as an option to Allspice earlier. My Norwegian Mother really likes her Cardamom, so the buns that I grew up with used that instead. Personally, I like a combination of the two, but it's your kitchen that your blessing after all, so who am I to say.

Recipe adapted by L. M. Sorré from Epicurious

"Hot cross buns!
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!"

-The Oxford English Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes

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