Hot Cross Buns

Apr 12th, 2010 by Gemma

Hot cross Buns, hot cross buns
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny
Hot cross buns
If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny
Hot cross buns

The eternal dirge of primary school children everywhere. In the UK it is common for children to be taught the recorder in the first few years of school (in my school it was mandatory). And what’s the first song they learn? You guessed it – Hot Cross Buns.

The practice of eating special small cakes at the time of the Spring festival seems to date back at least to the ancient Greeks, but the English custom of eating spiced buns on Good Friday was institutionalised in Tudor times, when a London by-law was introduced forbidding the sale of such buns except on Good Friday, at Christmas, and at burials. Of course, it was claimed the cross on top (at that time just scored into the dough rather than piped on) was for remembrance of Jesus. It became popular to eat them on Good Friday thanks to the monks at St Albans who from the end of the fourteenth century, would bake buns with a cross marked on them and distribute them to the poor.

The history of the Hot Cross Bun can be found to go further back than that, to (surprise, surprise) Pagan festivals. Pagans worshipped the Goddess Eostre by serving tiny cakes – round to symbolise the moon, and with a cross cut into it to symbolise the 4 quarters of the moon.

There are a lot of superstitions attached to Hot Cross Buns, particularly those baked on Good Friday. Some say buns baked on that day will never go stale or moldy. Or that hanging a bun made on Good Friday in your kitchen will bring good luck and enable all your doughs to rise. Sharing a bun is said to bring luck for the coming year. Some sailors even took them on board to protect them against shipwreck.

I got this recipe from Karen over at Citrus and Candy, it’s by far the best recipe I’ve tried and I will be making this one again. I think next time I need to make a few tweaks.. Mostly in the amount of spices, I wouldn’t mind a bit more flavour on that front.

I apologise for the limited photos, especially near the end of the process, and finished shots. While trying to get that perfect shot of piping the crosses on my camera took a flying leap from the table and smashed itself to bits. I had to finish up with an old camera of Michael’s that had a broken screen so I could barely see what I was taking photos of! This is also my explanation for why this post is a week after Easter, it took a while for me to be able to get the photos off of the card. But, my funky new camera has arrived now, so I will be having great deals of fun learning all the new functions.

Anyway, hot cross buns.. this’ll make 12 decent sized buns.

Whisk together the yeast, milk and sugar. The yeast will have a tendency to float to the top, don’t worry.

Set aside for 10 minutes, until it’s is frothy. While you’re waiting you can scale everything out!

Mix the flour, salt and spices in a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the centre and add the yeast, stir until starting to combine, then add in the eggs.

Knead until a smooth dough is formed, when it’s almost there add in the dried fruit, I went for raisins, sultanas and currants (which are all essentially the same thing just from different grapes – currants are from the Black Corinth grape and bear no resemblance at all to blackcurrants or redcurrants).

Place into a greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave until doubled in size (45 mintues to an hour). You can see from my photos that the dough is a little sticky, enough to just coat my finger when pressed in, but not horribly so. If your dough doesn’t look like this add a touch of water while you’re mixing. Only a little at a time, it will take less than you think.

When it’s ready turn out onto a floured surface and knock down gently. Divide into 12 pieces (approx 4.25oz each) and round each one. Place on a greased baking tray and press down to flatten a little.

Cover and leave to double in size again (about 30 minutes). I like to place them so they’ll just be touching.

Mix a smooth paste with flour and water. It should pipe easily and be rather wet, not dry or doughy at all. Pipe a cross on the top of each bun.

Bake at 390F for 10 minutes, then turn down to 325F for a further 15 minutes. They should reach an internal temperature of 195F.

While warm brush with warmed apricot jam to glaze (I added a touch of water to my jam to thin it out).

I enjoy them best either warm out the oven, or split in half and toasted with butter on.


310ml Warm Milk (100F)
60g Sugar
16g Instant Yeast
600g AP Flour
1tsp Salt
1.5tsp Ground Cinnamon
1tsp Ground Allspice
1/2tsp Ground Nutmeg
60g Butter
260g Dried Fruit
2 Eggs

60g AP Flour
60ml Water (adjust as necessary)
2Tbsp Apricot Jam, warmed


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