Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns have been associated with the Christian holiday of Good Friday for hundreds of years, although some people believe they have been baked since long before that and were simply adopted by Christians. Christian or not, the lore surrounding this simple confection is fascinating, and the buns themselves are delicious.  Traditionally containing currants or other dried fruit, Cinnamon and spices, topped with icing, these buns are supposed to ensure friendship throughout the year with anyone you share them with, and once you try one you will see why.

The oldest Christian lore surrounding hot cross buns states that sometime in the 12th century an Anglican monk placed the cross on the buns to celebrate Good Friday, which at that time was called "The Day of the Cross".   The actual recipe is said to pre-date this however, it is believed that the Saxons ate buns marked with a cross to honor the goddess Eostre.  It's thought that worship of the pagan goddess was so firmly rooted that early Christian missionaries adopted "Easter", hot cross buns and many other pagan traditions into their own yearly celebrations.   Hot cross buns came to be made of the same dough used to make communion bread.   Because of this, they were believed to have special healing powers and to bring good luck.   Some traditions say that a hot cross bun baked on Good Friday and hung from the kitchen ceiling can bring luck to your household, ensure all your bread rises, and ward off fires.   There is a popular saying, "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be".  If you share a hot cross bun with a friend it will ensure good relations between you for the rest of the year.   In the 16th century, early Protestant monarchs saw the buns as a hold-over from Catholic rule in England and attempted to ban them.  Their overwhelming popularity made this impossible, and Queen Elizabeth I passed a law allowing them to be baked only at Easter and Christmas. 

Recipe from Pioneer Woman

Ingredients (makes approx 18):

  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Salt

  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Spices: Cardamom, Nutmeg, Allspice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Raisins

  • 1 whole Egg White
  • Splash Of Milk

  • 1 whole Egg White
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Splash Of Milk

Combine 2 cups milk, canola oil, and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir and heat until very warm but not boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool until mixture is still warm, but not hot--about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Add 4 cups of flour and stir to combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and set aside for 1 hour.
Add 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir till combined.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon and whatever other spices you want to use.
Lightly flour surface. Press to slightly flatten dough. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle on about a third of the raisins. Then fold the dough over on itself and flatten again so the dough is "plain" again. Repeat the sugar/raisin process, then fold the dough again. Repeat a third time until all the raisins are used. (You won't use all the sugar/cinnamon mixture.)
Pinch off ping pong or golf ball-size bunches of dough. With floured hands, quickly roll it into a ball, then turn the edges under themselves slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 hour-plus is better.
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400F degrees
Mix 1 egg white with a splash of milk. Brush onto each roll.
Bake for 20 minutes, give or take, or until tops of buns have turned nice and golden brown.
Remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Mix 1 egg white with enough powdered sugar for icing to be very thick. Splash in milk as needed for consistency.
Add icing to a small Ziploc bag and snip the corner. Make icing crosses on each roll, making sure they're completely cooled first.

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