“Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns, One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns.”
We grew up listening to and singing this nursery rhyme. And as we would hum along, we could almost smell the aroma of the delicious buns and wished we could ‘dig in’!
As the folklore goes, hot cross buns are typically baked and consumed on Good Friday to break the fast of the holy day. The different parts of the hot cross bun have certain meaning- the cross on the buns represent the cross of the Jesus, the mixed spices represent the spices used for his burial to embalm his body and and so on. They are also eaten on Easter Sunday.
The traditional method for making these buns is to make a rich dough with milk, butter, nuts, currants, orange and lemon peels (finely chopped and soaked in rum or fruit juice), mixed spices and to use shortcrust pastry for making cross on the buns- To make cross on the buns, a paste of flour, castor sugar and water can also be used.
How to make buns
The basic recipe remains the same as any regular buns ie. kneading, fermentation, deflating, proving and then baking (Link). Only the ‘basic’ ingredients get a ‘big face lift’ as we add lots of dried and candied fruits, rum/ orange juice, orange and lemon peels, milk, eggs, butter, sugar and mixed spices. It is almost as rich as a cake, and why not as it is for celebration. As always, the recipe I am sharing with you has a healthy twist –without compromising on the taste and the texture of these special buns!
- Whole wheat flour – 1cup (150 grams)
- Maida – 2 cups (250 grams)
- Yeast – 1 &½ tsp
- Castor sugar – 75 grams
- Milk powder – 2 tbsp
- Warm milk – 1 cup (235 ml)
- White butter – 4 tbsp (¼ cup)
- Salt – 1 tsp
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Baking soda – ¼ tsp
- 1 egg (beaten well) or Thick curd – 3 tbsp
- 1 cup finely chopped orange and lemon peels, candied fruits, dry fruits (preferably soaked in rum or orange juice for a few days)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg for egg wash
For the paste
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- Water, as needed
- Mix all the liquid ingredients by heating milk, butter and vanilla in a pan until the butter is just melted and then cooling it. If the yeast is ‘active dry yeast’, whisk in the yeast (only in slightly warm liquid/mix) and 1 tablespoon of sugar and then cover for 10 minutes until it froths. If it is instant yeast, it can be added directly also.
- Put the remaining sugar, flour, salt and spices in to a bowl. Mix in the egg and then add the milk mixture. If the peels and chopped candied fruits were soaked in rum then add the rum and fruit mix and form a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface.
- If the orange and lemon peel and fruits were not soaked in rum or juice then press the dough out into a rectangle, scatter over the dried fruit, and knead briefly to combine.
- Keep the dough in a glass bowl (covered) in a dark and warm place for an hour or so for rising.
- In 1-2 hours you will see that it has doubled. Turn out onto a floured surface, knock it back, divide into 10-12 pieces, and roll into balls. Place them on lined baking sheets, Cover with cling film and leave to prove for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius. Brush the buns with the beaten egg. Now make a paste by mixing the flour and sugar with water to make it spreadable. Put it into the piping bag and pipe crosses on the buns.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 190 degrees. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- VOILA!!The hot cross buns are ready!
- Special equipment needed is a piping bag with thin nozzle.
- You can replace egg with thick curd (3 tbsp of thick curd in place of an egg)
- Brush the buns with egg (egg wash) or milk and honey before baking.
- You can sprinkle some castor sugar on the buns when still warm.
- You can also glaze the buns with a mixture of butter, milk, sugar and vanilla.
- To keep them fresh store the buns in an airtight container. They are good up to 3-4 days.
- You can use some more milk (say 2 tbsp) if the dough is hard -the dough ought to be soft.
Ideally to be baked and eaten on Good Friday , these delicious buns were just in time for the Easter Sunday! A must try by all my fellow bakers, these traditional buns are very different and far superior to their shop- bought namesakes. They have a delicate, crispy exterior surface and a light, moist, fragrant crumb, with authentic fruits and spices. They are delicious when still warm from the oven, spread with cold butter.
Please share your experience baking these delicious buns, ‘dig in’ and rekindle your childhood memories!
Next week we will look at another kind of buns called ‘SACADUROS’, which in Portuguese mean ‘take out from the oven when the crust is hard’ , ie. crusty buns with soft interior!