Hot Cross Buns—these doughy, freshly spiced, raisin-studded palate charmers—are traditionally eaten during Lent, especially on Good Friday. Sometimes marked with an icing cross or traditionally with a cross cut on top, they’ve been an Easter holiday staple for centuries. With such a long history, legends and superstitions have abounded.
English folklore has it that Hot Cross Buns baked and served on Good Friday would never spoil throughout the following year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone ill is said to help them recover. Some bakers believed that holding on to one Hot Cross Bun and hanging it in the rafters of the kitchen meant that all baked goods in the coming year would rise successfully and the kitchen protected from fire. (The bun is replaced every year on Good Friday) Some sailors took Hot Cross Buns on their voyages to ensure their safe passage on the seas. And friends who gift one another with Hot Cross Buns every year are said to remain friends for life.
The most famous story says the origins of the Hot Cross Bun dates to the 12th century when an English monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honor Good Friday.
This recipe first appeared in the Birmingham News in the late 50’s. I can’t tell you what issue or who the author was, sadly. All I can tell you is that they are delish, part of our family’s continuing Easter holiday traditions and well they’re simple. Try my family recipe. You won’t be disappointed!
- ¼ cup rum (you can substitute apple juice)
- ½ cup mixed dried fruit
- ½ cup dried currants or raisins
- 1¼ cups whole milk, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, 1 separated
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4½ cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 large egg white, from above separated egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons 10X confectioners' sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing
- Lightly grease a 10" square pan or 9" x 13" pan.
- Mix the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins in a medium saucepan over medium heat, just till the fruit and liquid are very warm not boiling.
- Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, till the dough is soft and elastic.
- Mix in the fruit and any liquid not absorbed.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.
- Divide the dough into pool ball-sized pieces (if you have a scale about 3¾ ounces each).
- Use your greased hands to round them into balls.
- Arrange them in the prepared pan.
- Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up and are touching one another.
- while the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Mark your buns with a knife cut into the risen dough forming a cross.
- Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns before placing into oven.
- Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they're golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
- ** Optionally Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.