Easter Hot Cross Buns: When I think of Easter and the foods we serve, several immediately come to mind. Hot Cross Buns are always on that list!
Ham always makes the list, but so does this fruited rice pilaf. Hard-boiled eggs are a must, along with a traditional coconut bunny cake, and chocolate Easter eggs.
But Hot Cross Buns… It wouldn’t be Easter without them.
History of Hot Cross Buns
While the exact origins of hot cross buns are unclear, it is generally agreed they go back to a 12th-century Anglican monk. Who baked sweet buns for the poor on Good Friday, and etched a cross in each bun to celebrate the Easter holiday.
The first definite record of hot cross buns, however, comes from a 16th and 17th-century text stating:
“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs,
with one or two a penny hot cross buns.”
Hot Cross Buns and Queen Elizabeth
Centuries later, Queen Elizabeth I limited the sale of sweet buns to 3 specific occasions.
The reason, Smithsonian Magazines says, “They’re too sacred to eat any old day.”
They continue: “In 1592, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns could no longer be sold on any day except for Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. They were simply too special to be eaten any other day. To get around this, FoodTimeline explains that people baked the buns in their own kitchens—although if they were caught they had to give up all of the illegal buns on their premises to the poor.”
Ancient Records of Hot Cross Buns Recipe
A fascinating mention of an earlier origin in Sue Ellen Thompson’s Holiday Symbols and Customs:
“When archaeologists excavated the ancient city of Herculaneum in southwestern Italy, which had been buried under volcanic ash and lava since 79 C.E., they found two small loaves, each with a cross on it, among the ruins.”
An early hot cross bun?
Here’s how to make your own…
Two Ways to Make the Cross in Hot Cross Buns
The distinctive cross on hot cross buns can be made in two ways.
The easiest of the two crosses. By making a simple icing, a piped cross can be added after the buns are baked.
Roll out store-bought pastry very thinly (about 1/8-inch thick) and cut into narrow strips. Apply the egg wash to the buns just before baking and place two strips on each bun to form a cross. Bake.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
- 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or fast-action yeast
- 1 cup warm whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
- Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl or stand mixer base. Then stir in the warm milk, melted butter, sugar, and salt.
- To the bowl, add 2 cups of the flour along with the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg, raisins, and orange zest. Beat until smooth.
- Stir in enough remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle.
- Knead the Dough: Knead the dough in the stand mixer for 3 to 4 minutes, or knead by hand for about 5 minutes. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic
- First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease the top. Cover and let rise until dough doubles (about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours).
- Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and shape into equal size logs, about 6 inches. Cut each log crosswise into 6 equal pieces and shape it into a smooth ball. Place each ball in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled; about one hour more.
- When ready to bake: preheat the oven to 375-degrees.
- Pastry Crosses: While the dough is rising for the second time, roll out the ready-made pastry very thinly (about 1/8 inch thick) and cut into thin strips. Just before baking, brush buns with the egg wash and arrange two strips of pastry on each bun top to form a cross; trim the ends with the bottoms of the buns. If you're making an icing cross, skip this step but do brush the buns with egg wash before baking.
- Egg Wash: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white, water, and sugar. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each bun with the egg wash.
- Bake: Bake the buns in the center of the preheated oven for 18 to 24 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Do not over-bake. Transfer buns to a rack to cool.
- Icing Crosses: Whisk the ingredients together until smooth. Transfer the icing to a pastry bag (or a sandwich baggie with a very small tip cut in the corner) and pipe an “X” on each cooled bun
- If making pastry crosses: While the dough is rising for the second time, roll out 1 9-inch store-bought pie crus until thin, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into thin strips. Just before baking, brush buns with the egg wash and arrange two strips of pastry on each bun top to form a cross; trim the ends at the bottom of each bun. If you're making an icing cross, skip this step but do brush the buns with egg wash before baking.
- The easiest of the two crosses. By making a simple icing, a piped cross can be added after the buns are baked. Combine 2 cups of confectioners' sugar, and 2 tablespoons milk and adjust as necessary for consistency.
To Make Ahead:
- These Hot Cross Buns are easy to freeze. When cool, and before piping icing, wrap in plastic wrap and then foil; store in the freezer. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and reheat foil-wrapped buns in a 325-degree oven until warm. If icing, follow the directions above before serving.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 ½ tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
Using a mixer, whip butter, and honey together until smooth. Fold salt in gently with a rubber spatula. Serve soft or at room temperature.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 130mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 2g
More Easter Recipes You Might Like:
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- Spring Favorite: Cream of Asparagus Soup
- 26 Simple and Easy Easter Breakfast Recipes
- 7 Favorite Easter Bread Recipes from Around the World