Friday, March 21, 2008

Hot Cross Buns

Today is Good Friday. It is also the earliest Good Friday in living memory. Easter is set by the Jewish Passover celebration which in turn uses a lunar calender. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring. The Spring Equinox happened yesterday. The moon is full tonight. Easter can only be one day earlier and the last time that happened was 1818 or for those lovers of historicals, smack dab in the middle of the Regency period.
Easter like Christmas is always a time of special foods. Lent was a time of fasting and so Easter became a time when food was once again available. One of most familiar cries in Regency and Victorian London, according Henry Matthew's London Labor and Lon Poor 1851 was One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns are spiced currant buns with a cross cut on the top. Sometimes the cross is emphasised with a cross of pastry. I know in the US version, cut peel is often used, but not in the English version, according to Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery (1977) which is one of the definitive tomes on the subject.
Spiced buns start appearing in Tudor times and by Elizabeth I, decrees are being issued limiting bakers to making spiced cakes and buns only at Christmas and Easter. If you want such things at other times, the housewife has to make her own. This is the situation that pretty much exists up to the 20th century in Britain. And I will say that warm homemade hot cross buns taste far better than those in the shops.
This is the recipe that I have adapted from Elizabeth David. It makes about two dozen.
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 large eggs (free range if possible and as fresh as possible)
1 cup milk warmed
1 packet yeast
1 tsp each -- ground allspice, cinnamon, nut meg, cloves or use 1 tablespoon mixed pumpkin pie spice
1 cup currants (or in a pinch raisins)
Soften the yeast in the milk. Add butter to milk and allow to melt. Add well beaten eggs to yeast mixture.
Mix flour, brown sugar, salt and spices together. Add yeast mixture. Stir until well mixed. Add currants. Mix until well distributed. The dough should be quite stiff.
Cover and allow to rise until double. This takes about an hour (gives you time to read a romance novel).
Divide into 24 balls. Place in a greased tray, allow to rise again (time for more reading of romance), make a cross on top of each with a knife, brush with a little milk. You can emphasise the cross by putting a cross made from either strips of candied peel or strips of short crust pastry (pie dough). Bake in 375 F- 400 F oven for twenty minutes. (Set timer in case you become engrossed in romance novel!)They should be lovely and brown when they come out. You can glaze them if you want. Best eaten warm, but can be split and toasted.
I hope whatever you do this weekend that you have a wonderful time.
all the best,
Michelle Styles


Maureen said...

Happy Easter to everyone.

Lois said...

Oh geez, it's been a while since I've had a hot cross bun. . . guess this year's out. LOL And I'm not a cook, so that's out too. ;)

Happy Easter!


Laura Drewry said...

these sound yummy!! My MIL used to make them ever year. . .I'll have to guilt her into making them again. :) Your post made me think of something my highschool English teacher told us one day: Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. Weird, eh? :)

Happy Easter!!

Dina said...

They sound tasty.

Have a great Easter. :)

Pat Cochran said...

Happy Easter to all and don't overdo
on the chocolate! (That was the
mother in me coming out!)Have a great
day! I've never tried to make hot
cross buns, I think I'll try when I
won't be under the gun to get them
right. LOL.

Pat Cochran

Jane said...

Never had hot cross buns before, but I've been seeing them at the supermarket. Gonna give them a try. Happy Easter.

Estella said...

The buns sound delicious.
Happy Easter to everyone!

Cryna said...

Happy Easter everyone. The hot cross buns that are available at this time of the year are my favourite. Your recipe looks good, yummy!!

Gigi said...

I always wanted to know how they come up with the date for Easter Sunday.
Thanks so much for the info and the recipe for HOt Cross bunns. I enjoy baking and I just might have give these a go.

Happy Easter. May everyone's basket be overflowing.

Michelle Styles said...

Well, if you decide to make the recipe and it is not Easter, simply omit the crosses and call them tea cakes or spiced buns...
Just remember whether store bought or homemade, they taste best warm.
HappyEaster everyone.

Madeline said...

I make Hot Cross Buns every Easter. My kids would hang me if I didn't make them along with homemade chocolate eggs, and dyed hardboiled eggs.

Have a great Easter everyone.