Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One a penny, Two a penny...

One a penny, two a penny….

Hot Cross Buns!

The hot cross bun is another English culinary icon for Lent. The English word “bun” comes from the old French bugne, meaning “swelling,” a reference to the sweet’s bulging shape, according to The Oxford Companion to Food. Made from buttery dough seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves, hot cross buns get their name from the mark that’s scored on them before they’re baked or squiggled on them with fondant icing once they come out of the oven. In the United States, bakers start selling hot cross buns on Ash Wednesday.

England they’ve traditionally been served on Good Friday ever since 1361, when the monks of St. Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire, north of London, began sharing them with the poor in commemoration of that holy day. Some hold that the dried fruit enfolded in the yeast-based dough represents the nails of the Crucifixion. Street cries were commonly heard on Good Friday;

Hot Cross buns, Hot Cross buns,
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot Cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons,
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

Personally we’ve seen these buns for many weeks now in our local bakeries, and over the years as I mentioned in the homemade pretzel blog earlier last week, we have always made our own from scratch here, reserved for Good Friday’s afternoon small meal and tea time. There’s something so heavenly about the smell permeating throughout the house in anticipation of these wonderful aromatic buns.

This year we purchased a few of these delicious buns, opening the package to allow the scent to fill the air in the kitchen beforehand. Perhaps I’m just bias but I feel our homemade hot cross buns top all bakery fresh ones, just my thoughts over here and I’m certain the children (and my mother) would agree…smile.

Surely, this is one more way to keep up family traditions over the years, and of course, it’s still something we think our family must have within Lent at some point around our pretzels. Slice up a plate of varied cheeses and fruits, perhaps a salad too, and voila, our simple meal to commemorate the sacredness of Good Friday.

Store bought just doesn't suffice,
but it's okay for this year.

Here’s our recipe for the BEST there is;

English Hot Cross Buns

3 ½ - 4 cups of flour
¾ c. lukewarm milk
½ c. lukewarm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast (1 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ c. melted butter
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
2/3 c. raisins (we plump them up by sitting them in hot water for a bit first)
¼ c. diced citron or orange peel)
(skins from a large lemon)

Egg glaze

Lemon glaze


  • In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, milk, water, yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar. Beat well. Set in a warm place until frothy.
  • Melt butter; cool.
  • To the yeast sponge, add remaining sugar, salt, melted butter and spices; beat in eggs, one at a time. Add 1 cup of flour and beat 5 minutes with electric mixer. Gradually add the remaining flour, raisings and citron.
  • Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes)
  • Place into a greased bowl, turning all around inside of it to grease the top of the dough too. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in bulk
  • Punch down.
  • Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead lightly for 2 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 24 equal parts and shape into buns.
  • Place well apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover, let rise again until almost doubled in size (30 minutes).
  • Make a cross on top of each bun with a sharp knife. Brush with egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. of water.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy the VERY BEST hot cross buns you’ll ever eat, I promise! And, if I dig out the pictures of our own buns in our photo archives, I'll post them for you to see how tempting they really are.