These little buns have a fairly famous history, some interesting folklore, and even a nursery rhyme… Thanks to Wikipedia, here are a few of the facts I learned … “In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Mardi Gras (the evening before Ash Wednesday) through Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion.”
English folklore from Wikipedia includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns:
- One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or mold during the subsequent year.
- Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.
- Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time.
- If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
History and folklore aside I find they are just really delicious, so I attempted for the first time to make the old recipe I have seen my Mom make for years. A bit of phone research with my Grandma shows that this was her Mothers recipe, so this one dates back to my Great Grandma, my Mom’s Mom’s Mom. Lets get started…
Hot Cross Bun Recipe:
- 2 Packages of Instant Yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1/3 Cup Sugar
- 3 1/2 Cups of Bread Flour
- 3/4 Teaspoon of Salt
- 1/2 Cup Melted Butter (between 95-115 degrees)
- 2/3 Cup Warm Milk (between 95-115 degrees)
- 3 Eggs (Megan Note: Bring eggs up to room temperature before using, just set out a couple of hours or so before use)
- 2/3 Cup Raisins (I added a heaping 2/3 cup because I like the raisins in this recipe)
- 3/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
- 1 Egg White, with 1 Tablespoon of Water – set aside
In your mix master bowl add sugar, salt, 1 cup of flour, yeast, and cinnamon. Mix briefly with a spoon or spatula just to shuffle the ingredients around. Over your stove melt the butter, then add milk, mix and bring up to a temperature of 95-115 degrees, this does not take long so watch it. Pour this mixture into your bowl with the dry ingredients and mix. Add your raisins and mix briefly. Then add another cup of flour, and the eggs and mix again until eggs are fully incorporated. Then add 1/2 cup of flour, once it is mixed in, switch to the dough hook and add remaining cup. If the dough still looks too soft, feel free to add a bit more flour, but as soon as it is not sticky stop you do not want to dry out the dough. Dump dough onto counter, knead briefly, and shape into a round ball. Place in greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth let this rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours. It is a pretty heavy dough with all the milk, eggs, and butter so give this dough some time to work its magic. Below is a filmstrip of photos trying to capture the above.
Once the dough has doubled (I forgot to take a picture of the green bowl after my 2 hour rise, sorry) dump it onto a flat surface, punch down and divide. This batch should net you between 20 – 24 rolls, so cut them to your size. I opted for 20. This is the part I messed up on, the shaping… I shaped them more like dinner rolls and I should have worked the dough more to get better rolled balls, but live an learn. So make sure you shape the divided pieces into rolled balls, really work the dough, and place on a greased sheet pan, if not you will end up with blobs like I did. Cover with that damp cloth and let rise until double another good 60 – 90 minutes. See pictures below.
About 15 minutes before your buns are done rising preheat your oven to 350. Once done rising, cut a cross into each roll, then whisk that 1 egg white you set aside with a tablespoon of water and brush over the tops of the buns. Then bake in oven for 12-14 minutes. Be very careful not to over bake these as they can dry out very quickly. I baked mine 12 minutes on the nose and they were perfect. Some of my family does not like how pale these come out of the oven so they bake at 375 for 10-11 minutes to brown the edges more. Either way is fine. I went with the traditional 350 for 12 minutes way so my rolls are a bit paler but still baked to perfection. (Now just ignore how awful mine were shaped, they came out of the oven more like hot “blob” buns, but they still tasted awesome). See below.
The last step is adding your frosting glaze cross. You can add as much or as little frosting glaze as you like. Traditionally people only frost the groves of the cross shape you cut into your buns to form a frosting shaped cross. I however have “sweet teeth” and so I prefer to cover mine in the glaze. To make the frosting glaze mix powder sugar and milk together until you have a thick yet drizzly consistency. Then I dunk mine in the frosting once they have cooled slightly. I left a few plain for Huz, he has sweet teeth too but does not like frosting much. See pictures of my final hot blob (cross) buns below. Not bad for a first try, just got to work on my shaping!
Once they cool to room temp and the frosting dries, I would bag them up or put them into a Tupperware and pop them into the freezer. Since they are a sweet roll they tend to go stale with in a day or two but they will keep much better frozen. When ready to use just pull out an hour or two before use and they will be defrosted.
- I shared some of these with Huz’s Grandma and she approved, cross or no she liked the frosted ones.
- They go great with butter and coffee. Also you need to try them fresh out of the oven, they are extra delicious.
- Wishing everyone a wonderful Easter season!
Please let me know if you have any comments or questions. Enjoy ~ Megan