Cross Your Buns & Don’t Ask Why

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on April 5, 2012

Who, What, Where & Why?…The age old questions we all ask ourselves and each other while pondering many of life’s mysteries… and when it comes to hot cross buns, have you ever wondered why there is a cross on top of each bun? I know that I always have but never really knew the answer, so it was about time that I found out.

Historically Christian countries traditionally ate hot cross buns on Good Friday with the cross referencing the symbol of the Crucifixion of Christ. The bakeries were only permitted to sell them during the Easter and Christmas Holiday season, but the delicacy itself is believed to have been created in ancient Greece. The first actual recorded use of the term to describe it as hot cross buns was not until 1733.

English folklore finds many superstitions surrounding these little morsels. One of which finds the bun fed to the sick to help them recover and another that believes that sharing the bun will ensure a friendship through the coming year while reciting, ”half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be”.

So what is a hot cross bun?

In short…they are little yeast based rolls made of a spiced, rich sweet dough that is filled with plumped currants (or raisins) and candied lemon or orange peel.  I know, I know…you’re worried about using yeast, but don’t…this is a wonderful recipe. It is my go to brioche recipe that I tweaked slightly to incorporate the traditional flavors. Once baked, they are glazed with either an apricot glaze or apple jelly to give it that beautiful shine and then once cool they are topped with a sugar cross made from a frosting made of powdered sugar, corn syrup and either lemon/orange juice or water. I usually make the rolls but I don’t add the cross of sugar on top…I prefer to add a milk glaze over all of the rolls that gently seeps into the dough to give it a lovely added creaminess and sweetness.

If you have never made them I will tell you that you are missing out on a very special treat. If you do not like the traditional raisin and candied zest combination,  try some of the other combinations used around the world like cranberry orange, cinnamon apple, toffee or the ones made popular in Australia that are chocolate or coffee flavored dough with chocolate chips.

So run don’t walk to your grocery store and pick yourself up some fresh yeast. Prepare a batch for your Good Friday Holiday then make yourself a cup of your favorite hot beverage and enjoy these babies while still warm with butter, jam, honey or just by themselves…they are that perfect.

Hot Cross Buns (rolls will fit in 1-10” pan)

500g flour

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon**

¼ teaspoon allspice**

¼ teaspoon cloves**

1 teaspoon salt

50g sugar

20g fresh yeast

200ml warm whole milk

3 tablespoons candied zest

½-1 cup raisins or currants, soak in hot water then drain

3 eggs, room temperature

100g butter, room temp

1½ tablespoons canola oil

1 egg plus 2 tablespoons water (egg wash)

**You can use any combination of spices that you prefer, just don’t add more than 2 teaspoons 

First add the raisins or currants to some hot water and allow them to soak for about 15 minutes. The drain them well and set them aside until you are ready to add to the dough.

Put the canola oil into the bowl that will hold the dough, and with your hands or with a paper towel, coat the entire inside of the bowl well with the oil. Crumble the yeast in a small bowl, pour in the warm milk and dissolve with a whisk.

Crack eggs and set them aside. Put all of the dry ingredients together in the bowl of your stand mixer and use either a paddle or a dough hook to begin mixing your ingredients. With your paddle in motion add your milk and eggs until all are incorporated. At this point, take a look at your dough. Does it look too wet? If so, add a small teaspoon of flour and help the dough pull away from the sides into a ball. Does it look too dry? Add a few drops more of milk. Let this beat for a few minutes, and then add the butter a little at a time until it is all mixed in. Turn this out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is no longer sticky. I add the raisins and the zest after the first rise, so don’t worry about that at this point. Put this dough into the previously greased bowl and turn the dough around the bowl to make sure it is all coated with a little oil. Cover with plastic and 2 towels and allow it to double in size, about 90 minutes.

After the first proof, gently deflate, add the zest and the raisins and re-knead the dough to redistribute the yeast.

Allow to proof for another 60-90 minutes until doubled…

At this point, scale your dough to see check the weight so you can scale out equal portions of dough to form the rolls. This part is important so that they all cook evenly together. I made large rolls, about 10 oz each, Place them in a greased pan seam side down, and allow some space in between for the next rise. Cover with plastic wrap and tea towels again and allow to proof for 60 minutes or until doubled.

Once they have proofed, brush them gently with the egg wash and bake them in a 350°F preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and either glaze them with apricot or apple jelly or pour on the milk sugar glaze while they are still warm. The glaze will set as the buns cool. .

Milk Sugar Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 ½ tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the sifted powdered sugar to a bowl and then add the liquid components until you get the perfect consistency. Make this a few minutes before the buns are ready to come out of the oven and once they are out pour this on top and allow it to set as the buns cool.

Piping Sugar For Cross

1 cup Powdered sugar, sifted

Corn syrup

Water, lemon juice or orange juice

Add the sugar to a small bowl and then add a little of each of the other ingredients until you have the right consistency for piping. If you add too much liquid, just add a little more sifted sugar.

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