I thought I would like to share with you what I have been baking today…. Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns are traditional in England, where I come from, but unheard of in Switzerland, where I now make my home. They are typically served on Good Friday – hence the cross, which is to represent the crucifixion. However, the idea of spiced buns served in the spring actually seems to date back to pagan times where they were eaten in honour of the goddess Eostre (see the resemblance to our word easter?) and the cross symbolized the four quarters of the moon.
Wherever they came from – they are delicious and this time of year I have trouble baking enough to keep up with demand!
This is a recipe that I have been using for years and it really couldn’t be easier (and it is so much better than bought buns!) :
Hot Cross Buns (makes 12)
1lb (450g) strong plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1/4 pint (150ml) hand hot water
2oz (50g) cut mixed peel (you can omit this if you prefer – just add a few more sultanas to compensate!)
20z (50g) butter, melted
11/2 – 2 fl oz (40-50ml) warmed milk
a little less than 1oz (20g) fresh yeast
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice
3oz (75g) currants or sultanas
2oz (50g) sugar
1 egg, beaten
For the glaze: 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 425F or 220C. Either grease a baking sheet or line the sheet with greaseproof baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients and the crumbled yeast together in the food mixer using the dough hook attachment. Pour in the egg, water, butter and warmed milk and mix thoroughly to a dough. This usually takes just a couple of minutes. If the dough looks a little dry, add a tiny amount of additional water; if it is too moist add a little flour. It should resemble a bread dough – not too sticky and not too dry. It should come away from the side of the bowl and hold together well. Let the machine kneas if for a few minutes. Cover the bowl with loose cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
Knock out the air and form the dough into 12 round portions. Arrange them on the baking sheet, leaving room for them to rise again. Now you have a choice. You can either make a deep cross on each one with a sharp knife or you can wait until the buns have risen and lightly press moistened pastry crosses into each bun before baking. Either way, leave the buns to rise for another 30 minutes.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
While the buns are cooking, melt the sugar and water over a gentle heat and as soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the warm mixture. This glazes them and makes the tops sticky.
Best served warm, split in half and with lashings of butter!
(Note – I’m sure that you can substitute dry yeast for fresh – just follow the instructions on the packet and use enough for the amount of flour that you have. I don’t do any fancy preparations with fresh yeast – not ever, and I bake quite a lot of bread – and I never have a problem!)