I grew up in an evangelical (many years before it became the 11-letter word it is today) Christian environment, one “free” of traditional church liturgy and that oppressive ancient church calendar. Phew! So many saints to honor and fete-who has time for that?! We celebrated Easter as the Resurrection of Christ, with a nod to Spring, enjoying Easter baskets and egg hunts. A staple on our Easter breakfast table were hot cross buns.
The Smithsonian magazine shared some interesting facts regarding hot cross buns just this morning. Perhaps because mythology ascribed the buns with special powers, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1592, declared the yummy baked goods could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas, or for burials. Not to be denied, people began baking the buns in their home kitchens, but if caught, had to surrender all the contraband to the poor.
Today is Good Friday, always such a poorly named day to me. As a child, I would have appreciated knowing that this particular use of the word “good” was an antiquated form of “holy”, as opposed to the answer of some tricky church father riddle, or irony gone wrong. What I did know then, however, hot cross buns were delicious. So, to honor this day, I hastily decided to bake a batch. The recipe I found, hastily, is from Epicurious, a site I often use. I made a few adaptations: 50/50 whole wheat/white unbleached flour, 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar, no raisins, and I skipped the pastry dough cross thingamajig. Here’s the process:
As an aside, I took this picture to show the difference (a little difficult to see with my lighting situation) between the 2 eggs from our backyard and the 1 egg (organic though it be) from a store. As an additional aside, since I decided hastily to make these buns, I read the ingredient list, measuring, cracking, etc, before reading through the entire method. One egg plus one yolk are for the dough, 1 egg is for the wash before baking. I removed a yolk and enough estimated white from this bowl.
When you want to stop kneading because it’s hurting your carpally wrist, keep going just a bit more and the magic happens: the dough will become smooth and elastic and tight and beautiful. It always does.
The dough takes a rest somewhere warm for about 1 1/2 hours, after which it should be doubled in size. The recipe instructed to divide the dough in half, forming each half into logs, 12 inches in length. Each of these were to be cut into 12 pieces, I did 10, then the pieces formed into rolls, placed on a baking sheet to proof/rise again for 45 minutes. Before going into the preheated 400F oven, each roll was egg washed, then some scored with a cross, while most were left alone to wear a cross of icing when served.
Stories of food seem quaint and sometimes funny to our modern sensibility. While I don’t hold any hope that these buns, per myth, will stay fresh and mold-free for an entire year, I do think these very tasty rolls could have some power to cement a friendship. If the person sharing a hot cross bun is gluten- and lactose-tolerant, non-paleo/primal, and an omnivore, a “strong friendship and bond” could be enjoyed for the coming year. I’d hang out with someone who fed me these and a hot cup of tea! Happy Easter!