Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns have a history dating to as long back as the 14th century. A bun with a similar recipe called an ‘Alban Bun’ was said to have originated in St Alban’s Abbey in England. Brother Thomas Radcliffe, a 14th-century monk is said to have developed the recipe and distributed it to the local poor starting from the Good Friday of 1361.
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, a decree was issued by the London Clerk of Markets in 1592, forbidding sale of hot cross buns and similar spiced breads except at burials, on Good Friday, or at Christmas. Non-compliance entailed forfeiture of the entire stock of the forbidden product, which was then made over to the poor. Understandably, hot cross buns moved to domestic kitchens and that is where many innovations and embellishments found their way into this much loved and looked forward to bread.
The typical hot cross bun is lightly spiced, quite often studded with raisins or currants and marked with a cross on top. Traditionally the cross is made from flour, the more creative using icing to mark the cross. An interesting variant also surfaced a few years ago: The Not Cross Bun with a smiley replacing the cross in the sense of not being angry!
Now what does it take to actually make the stuff. Here’s a quick recipe which you can consider trying at home.
You will need:
- 3/4 cup warm water (110 F/45 C)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon instant powdered milk
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup dried currants
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons milk
Method to the gladness:
- To make this recipe in a mixie, combine warm water and yeast in the bowl of the mixer and let soften for about 5 minutes. Add flour, milk powder, sugar, salt, egg, and egg white. Mix on low speed using the dough hook, scraping the dough down occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the softened butter, cinnamon, and currants and mix for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.
- Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.
- Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.
- Bake at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.
To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Place glaze in a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off; pipe a cross onto each roll.