Here in the U.K. there are many variations of spiced and fruited buns. Some are specific to region like the Bath Bun or the Chelsea Bun and others are baked only at certain times of year.
The Hot Cross Bun, according to the Christian calendar is to be baked on Good Friday, to mark the end of forty days of fasting during lent. The cross on the top is said to represent the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices signify the spices used to embalm him at his burial. Yummy.
But the practice of marking Buns and breads with a cross goes back further than that; it was the Saxons who first started the tradition of baking Buns marked with a cross at the beginning of spring to honour the Goddess Eostre. The cross represented the rebirth of of the world after winter and the four seasons.
During the reign of Elizabeth I the sale of spiced buns was banned except for at burials, Christmas and on Good Friday, and it is around this time that crossed buns are first linked to the Christian calendar. But the first recorded reference of ‘Hot Cross Buns’ is from the early 1700s in ‘Poor Robin’s Almanac’:
“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns”
As well as it’s various religious affiliations, the hot cross Bun is also steeped in superstition. Some people believe that a Bun baked on Good Friday will never go mouldy. Some people believe that nailing a Bun to the wall of your kitchen will protect your home from fires and bring you good luck with all your future baking. Another belief is that a hot cross bun taken to sea will bring the ship and its sailors good fortune.
I am not religious nor am I superstitious but I do love a hot cross bun!
Here’s my recipe, perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea over the long Easter weekend. I like mine fresh from the oven, with salted butter, jam and a nice cup of tea.
- 300g milk
- 30g butter
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g salt
- 50g sugar
- 250g dried, mixed fruit
- 7g yeast
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 large orange
- Mix the fruit with the zest and juice of the orange and set aside to soak for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
- Warm the milk to body temperature and pour into the bowl of your mixer.
- Add the yeast and give it a quick stir.
- Next add the flour followed by the sugar, salt, butter, mixed spice and soaked fruit.
- Using a dough hook, mix the dough for 7 minutes until a dough has formed. The dough will be quite sticky so don’t panic! Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside to prove for 2 hours.
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 and roll each portion into a balls, using as little extra flour as you can. Set the balls on a lined baking tray, cover loosely with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for another 30 minutes.
- While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 190°c or Gas Mark 5.
- To make the paste for the crosses mix together 50g of water and 50g of flour and transfer to a piping bag.
- When the buns are risen, egg wash each one and pipe on your crosses.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning half way to ensure an even bake. The buns are ready when they are a golden amber colour and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.