Hot Cross Buns celebrate Easter’s new life
This Sunday Christians around the world will be celebrating Easter, the cornerstone of their faith. Most will gather at services beginning at dawn to recognize and honor the resurrection of Jesus and take hope from the promise of eternal life for all who believe. New life is the essence of Easter.
Later, everyone will gather at the dinner table for a sumptuous feast but first, we need to eat breakfast. During the Lenten season, Hot Cross Buns are a tradition in many Christian homes. Typically they are readily picked up at a bakery and served on Good Friday but homemade is best.
The origin of the buns, like Easter’s chocolate covered bunnies and eggs, is mixed with early pagan roots. But I like the story dating the origin of Hot Cross Buns back to the 12th century when an Anglican monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honor Good Friday, known at that time as the “Day of the Cross.”
As a cook, food columnist and Christian, my point is that Hot Cross Buns and a plate of scrambled eggs make a tasty and symbolic Easter Sunday breakfast before everyone heads off to church. The buns can be made the day before, heated up and served with a pat of butter or a dollop of Lemon Curd. Your family will love them. Enjoy!
For the Buns:
1/2 cup warm milk (105°F–115°F)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon PLUS 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour (and 1/4 cup extra flour as needed for kneading)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (golden) raisins or currants
2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon zest
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg white or yolk, beaten
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
Icing for the Crosses:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. milk or cream
Instructions for the Buns:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the milk, yeast and the 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cups flour, the allspice, cinnamon, salt and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Add half of the flour mixture to the milk mixture. Using the flat beater, beat until combined. Add the butter and egg and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until soft dough forms.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If needed, add extra flour 1 tbsp. at a time (up to 1/4 cup) to keep the dough from being too sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and knead in the raisins and grated orange zest. Shape the dough into a 12-inch log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Cover with clean plastic wrap and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing the buns 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Egg wash: In a small bowl, mix together the beaten egg white/yolk with the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Brush the buns with the glaze.
Bake buns in preheated 400 degree F. oven for 12 minutes. Remove buns from oven and transfer to wire rack. Cool buns for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the icing for the crosses.
Icing for the Crosses:
Combine all the icing ingredients in a small bowl and beat until thick. Use a pastry bag and tip to pipe thick crosses onto the buns. (Or fill a sturdy plastic bag with the icing, squeezing it down into one corner. Snip the tip of the bag off, and squeeze the icing onto the buns).
Serve with lemon curd (recipe follows) for a delicious Good Friday or Easter treat. Makes 12 buns.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer; about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170° F. on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture boil.
Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Cover tightly; it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.
Note: Divide into 3 small jelly jars to give as gifts. Keep refrigerated.