Hot Cross Buns have a mixed history. Some say they were part of pagan spring festival and later given the cross by monks wanting to give Christian meaning to the tradition. Other accounts tell of an English widow whose son went off to sea and she vowed to bake him a bun every Good Friday. When he didn’t return she continued to bake a Hot Cross Bun for him each year and hung it in the bakery window. The English kept the tradition for her even after she passed away. Holiday traditions often have pagan and Christian roots and often the symbolism has adapted over time.
Hot Cross Buns
There is nothing quite like fragrant, soft and spicy homemade buns. Makes 12 buns.
• 1 egg
• 1 cup (250 ml) warm milk, approximately
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
• 2 tbsp (30 ml) melted butter
• 3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp (5 ml) each: salt and cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp (1 ml) each nutmeg and cloves
• 1 - 1/2 tsp (7 ml) bread machine/instant yeast
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) currants
• 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped mixed candied peel
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) each granulated sugar and water
• 1/2 cup (125 ml) icing sugar
• 1/4 tsp (1 ml) vanilla
• 1 - 2 tsp (5 -10 ml) milk
METHOD (with bread machine):
In a 2 cup (500 ml) measure, lightly beat egg. Add enough milk to make 1-1/4 cups (300 ml). Place ingredients, except currants, peel, glaze and icing, in bucket of bread machine, in order recommended by instruction manual. Use dough cycle, and add currants and peel at “add ingredient” signal.
Remove dough from machine and turn out onto a well-floured surface (dough will be sticky).
Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Cut dough into 12 even pieces. Shape each into a ball, stretching and pinching dough underneath to make tops smooth. Place balls on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place (75-85°F/24-29°C) until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and bake on middle rack for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
METHOD (without bread machine):
In a 2 cup (500 ml) measure, light beat egg. Add enough milk to make 1-1/4 cups (300 ml). Add sugar, butter and yeast, stir and pour in a large bowl or bowl of standing mixer. Let sit 5 minutes.
In another bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, currants and peel. Add to milk mixture and mix at low speed until a dough forms. Using hook attachment (or by hand on lightly floured surface), knead 5 to 6 minutes, or until smooth and shiny, adding more flour if necessary.
Place in oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.
Push dough down, transfer to lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 12 even pieces (follow directions above from this point for shaping and baking).
In small saucepan (or microwavable glass measure), stir sugar with water. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Brush over warm buns. Let buns cool on baking sheet.
Combine icing sugar, vanilla, and just enough milk to make an icing consistency. Spoon or pipe a cross on buns.
Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.