March 22, 2013 @ 12:29 PM

March 22 ~

This time of year is dear to my heart--not because it is getting warmer, but because Hot Cross Buns are available everywhere. As with all things special, they are only in stores for  a few weeks. You can make your own any time, of course ---but DON'T--they were meant for Spring!!

Pre- Christian cultures all over the world used versions of this bun--with the cross to symbolize the 4 quarters of the moon, the 4 seasons and as a protection symbol for good health. Christianity adapted the bun (after trying to eradicate them) as a symbol of the cross since it was a popular celebratory food. In those days, icing was not used....rather, a cross was cut into the dough. Some hung these buns all over their homes for protection.  Queen Elizabeth, thinking this was "backwards beliefs",  banned the buns, but people rebelled and they were set for use only on certain holidays. Many now eat the buns during Lent--specifically near Good Friday, but I eat them just because it is Spring!!

Some add spices and a bit of Tansy to the dough as a springtime tonic and "wormer". I have done this---they remain delicious. My Grandma would make them every year and then I made them most years, but when I don't get around to it, I must go to the grocery store and while the buns taste pretty much the same, everyone seems to add candied friut (green and red)--which is an awful...and quite unnecessary addition.

This recipe is from an old blog (see source at bottom of recipe) that I adapted--leaving out a few things and adding a bit of lemon juice to the icing--as another spring tonic for the liver:



For the Buns:
1/2 cup warm milk (105°F–115°F/40°C-46°C)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp./1/4 oz./7 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. PLUS 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (and 1/4 cup extra flour as needed for kneading)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

*1 tsp. dried Tansy (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 egg
2 tbsp. raisins or currants

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg white or yolk, beaten
3 tbsp. granulated sugar

Icing for the Crosses:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. milk or cream

* 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice or lemon zest (optional)


For the Buns:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, yeast and the 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cups flour, the allspice, cinnamon, salt and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Add half of the flour mixture to the milk mixture. Using the flat beater, beat until combined. Add the butter and egg and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until a soft dough forms.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If needed, add extra flour 1 tbsp. at a time (up to 1/4 cup) to keep the dough from being too sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and knead in the raisins. Shape the dough into a 12-inch log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Cover with clean plastic wrap and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing the buns 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

For the Egg Wash:
In a small bowl, mix together the beaten egg white (or yolk) with the 3 tbsp. of sugar to make a glaze. Brush the buns with the glaze.

Bake buns in preheated 400 degree F (200 C) oven for 12 minutes. Remove buns from oven and transfer to wire rack. Cool buns for 5 to 10 minutues while you make the icing for the crosses.

Icing for the Crosses:
Combine all the icing ingredients in a small bowl and beat until thick. Use a pastry bag and tip to pipe thick crosses onto the buns. (If you don't have a pastry bag, fill a sturdy plastic ziploc bag with the icing, squeezing it down into one corner. Snip the tip of the bag off, and squeeze the icing onto the buns making a cross design over the tops).

Makes 12 buns.


Date: March 10, 2002-Revised April 9, 2004

There is nothing better with morning or afternoon tea (here is my breakfast a few days Hot Cross Bun, cheddar, grapes and Tasha Tudor's Scottish Breakfast Teaago).

Take some time this Spring to engage in this widespread and ancient tradition.... a tradition so powerful that it was banned and then reinstated by the Queen.....and has it's own song!!




"Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters,
If you have no sons,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

I don't tell jokes
and I don't tell puns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

Get them while they're hot
and eat them by the ton,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns."

             ~ Nursery Rhyme