Hot Cross Buns

Growing up in England we had hot cross buns at Easter time every year. This wasn’t just our family’s tradition, but a pretty standard tradition for most English people. It stems back from the 1700’s when Catholics marked their buns as a way to remember Christ and his crucifixion on good friday. Then when protestant monarchy came into power, they believed hot cross buns to have a dangerous hold over catholic belief in England, and tried to ban them. Except, it didn’t work completely because they were too popular, so they were permitted to be sold at Easter and Christmas time only. Now they are only sold around Easter time. Probably not because of any strange laws–but because it’s the only time of year when they’re really popular!

So today, being good friday–I decided to have a go at making them for the first time, just because I miss them, and because I want my little American family to share the tradition that I was raised with. I was kind of worried because they look so complex, and anyone who knows me, or has been following my Blog–knows the terrible luck I have at making anything involving dough!! But I was REALLY shocked to see how simple these were to make, and how amazing they turned out! [Which is a great indication that they must be fool-proof!] This is the most traditional recipe I could find–they tasted exactly like the ones sold in an English bakery or grocery store. So, here it is, all converted and American friendly for you!

1 1/2 cups very warm milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp of instant dried yeast
5 cups of all purpose flour, sifted (plus more for countertops)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups of raisins
2 eggs
for the cross pattern:
2 oz. flour
60 ml water

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk and yeast together until sugar has dissolved. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes or until it becomes frothy. 

Mix the flour, salt and ground spices in a large bowl. With your fingers, or a paddle attachment in a mixer, rub the butter into the flour until mixed and crumbly. Stir in the raisins/sultanas, egg and frothy yeast mixture until combined.

Change to a dough hook and let knead for 5 minutes, or knead the bread on a floured surface by hand for 5 minutes.

Add more flour to the dough mixture if it’s too sticky. You want to be able to get it out of the bowl and place in a ball, without it sticking all over your hands. (I added 1/8cup more) Then grease the empty bowl, and return the ball of dough to it.
Cover with cling film/seran wrap and let rise in a draught-free warm place for 45 minutes. (I set my oven to it’s lowest setting, then turn it off, so it’s warm). Let double in size. 

When ready, remove the cling film and use your fist to punch down the dough. Give it a quick knead until smooth and divide into 12 rounds. Place the buns into a greased 20 x 30cm baking tray, cover with cling film and leave in warm place to rise for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 390°F.

Whisk together the plain flour and water to a smooth paste. Pipe crosses on top of the buns and bake at 390degF for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°C bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Buns are ready when it sounds hollow when you tap them on top. Brush with warmed apricot jam while the buns are still warm. 

In my family, we would split them apart, toast them, then spread with lots of butter and jam… but you can eat them plain, or untoasted with jam- or however you like! The only rule is that you need to eat them all on the day you bake them, because they’re not as good the next day and don’t save well. Traditionally, if you split a hot cross bun with a friend, it would ensure a strong friendship all year long–so share away!!

I hope you all have some fun Easter plans and traditions!
<3 Sarah