Hot Cross Buns for Easter - How to Make Them?
The Smell of Sweet Spices to Perfume your Spring Kitchen
As young girls my sister and I would often dash to open the front door whenever the door bell rang, slipping and sliding on the polished wooden hallway floor as we raced to be the one who would enquire about the business of the caller, before relaying the information to our mother. Usually an adult face would greet us from beyond the other side of the double glass doors that protected our small porch and we would have no qualms about politely grilling them to find out what they wanted.
Once a year, however, we would be caught out by the gruesome sight of a gangly group of nerdy little boys dressed in spiffy uniforms shuffling nervously, patiently waiting to deliver their important message. These were miniature Boy Scouts, collectively known as Cubs.
When met with a group of expectant faces nearer our own age and of the opposite sex no less, we would fast lose our usual nerve and bravado,
As she approached the door, we would each take position, behind a crack in the door or beyond the safety-net of a curtain, to watch as she made a deal. "I'll have a dozen" she'd say, as one of the boys scribbled some details on a notepad before scrabbling off our property as fast as their little high sock and short-adorned legs would carry them.
What my mother was doing was ordering Hot Cross Buns. In those days, you didn't buy a pack and then get one free at your local supermarket, oh no! On Good Friday morning (a public holiday in the UK), the Boy Scouts and Cubs would deliver freshly-baked Hot Cross Buns right to your front door.
I am ashamed to confess that because of my aversion to dried fruit I screwed up my little face until it was as wrinkled as the currants that dot the insides of a hot cross bun just at the mere thought of eating one. I watched jealously as my mother and sister toasted the halved yeasty morsels, before slathering them in salty butter and devouring them with sheer delight. The heady aroma of spices that marked the household was so alluring I would nevertheless sometimes secretly toast one for myself and try to pick out the currants.
Please explain: I really don't understand American Hot Cross Buns where the cross is piped from a sugar icing when the whole point of this once-a-year treat is to toast it until golden and indulge in the decadent consequences of doing so: Butter, aroma, then Heaven. I've never tried to put icing in the toaster and I am not going to start now.
But starting now, I have decided, just like that, to at once overcome my unjustifiable fear of the wee currants. Raisins - they are still on my hate list, where I hope they will stay, but this year I bravely insisted to myself that from now on, in moderation, currants are OK. It was the smell that drove me to taking this drastic move. I missed it. I needed it. It was imperative in 2007 that I should eat a hot cross bun.
I googled for a recipe and was presented with two stellar-sounding choices: Delia or the BBC, both of whom are usually stalwart sources when researching British recipes.
I read through them both a couple of times before deciding on the BBC version for a number of reasons:
1) The BBC uses fresh yeast, Delia uses dried. I prefer to work with fresh yeast which is 100s of times cheaper than the dried stuff. It also seems more real to me. It is alive.
2) Delia's version used milk. I never have milk in the house so it would have been a special purchase. Then I would have wasted the leftovers, no doubt. I didn't want to do that when instead the BBC version contained an egg. I always have an egg in the house, and good eggs at that.
3) Delia's version called for dried peel. Have you tried to get dried peel in California? No! Don't bother. The BBC recipe called for fresh lemon zest. How convenient, therefore, that I was recently given a bag full of Meyer lemon's from a colleague's tree.
4) Delia makes those perfectly formed crosses that look stuck on. I favour the BBC recipe where the cross is piped into place before being baked into the bun resulting in a much more natural, organic-looking product.
5) Delia goes to the palaver of making a sugar syrup glaze. Why bother when you can follow the BBC's suggestion and use the Golden Syrup you already have in your pantry?
BBC Hot Cross Bun Recipe Notes
- In Britain you can buy a jar of 'Mixed Spice' which is exactly what you would use in a Hot Cross Bun recipe. There is no such thing in the USA. I used a mix of ground ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and
- I used bread flour - the US equivalent of 'strong white flour'.
- After brushing the baked buns with warmed golden syrup they are gloriously sticky. By the next day however, most of the syrup has soaked in to the dough. This is probably just as well since you are about to pop it in the toaster.
- OK - currants are OK, but I don't love them like they are my new best friend. In my opinion the currants inside hot cross buns should be few and far between. Hence I reduced the amount suggested to just a couple of ounces. Perfect.
- I found scissors much easier than a knife for snipping the cross shape on the top of the bun.
- I served the Hot Cross Buns, toasted with freshly churned Spring Hill salted Jersey butter. 'Awesome' is what I think one of my colleagues emailed me after he'd partaken of the Hot Cross Bun ritual as instructed.
Are YOU going to make Hot Cross Buns this year?
PS I am really glad I went with the BBC version after just reading about this less successful Delia attempt over at Cooking for Engineers.
Other Resources & Further Reading
This post was produced as a dedication to my family for Waiter, there's something in my ... Easter basket! hosted by Johanna at The Passionate Cook.
+ For lots more Easter recipes from food bloggers check out this amazing list here.