It’s almost Easter. That also means it’s almost time to make my Good Friday Hot Cross Buns. My family looks forward to these all year because I only make them on Good Friday. Not before and never after.
These seasonal buns are delicately sticky-sweet and beautifully golden on the outside, the warm inside is gently scented with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and studded with dried cranberries, orange rind (optional) and golden raisins – all of which are reasons enough to love them, though I’ve always been most captivated by their legend and lore.
In the days of old, a Hot Cross Bun baked on Good Friday was believed to last the entire year, never to spoil. Bakers hung a cross bun in the kitchen to bring a successful rise to their yeast products. Families hung one in their kitchen to ward off evil spirits, and if a loved one fell ill, a part of the hanging bun was ground and mixed with water as medicine. Sailors took the buns on their voyages to protect them from shipwreck. And friends who gifted one another with Hot Cross Buns every year were said to remain friends for life. So much responsibility for these little cross buns!
While I only ever make these on Good Friday, I’ve made them this week so I could share them with you. This would have been deemed unlawful if we lived under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1592). Since Hot Cross Buns were considered divinely powerful, decrees were created against any possible abuse of their power. I would’ve had to secretly make these at home, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to share them with you today – for any promotion of these buns, on any day other than Good Friday, Christmas or a burial, would have been grounds for punishment and all the forbidden buns would have been taken away from me to be given to the poor. Ah, the intrigue of Hot Cross Buns.
I’m not entirely sure that these cross buns possess super powers, but I do enjoy their storied past, and tasting one hot from the oven, cut in half, with a nice slab of salted butter does border on divine in my opinion, so maybe there is something to it. 🙂
For most people though, Hot Cross Buns will forever live and reign in the popular children’s nursery rhyme and song. Although, it was first documented as a London street cry and it originally went like this:
Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs,
with one or two a penny hot cross buns.
Reading that isn’t without consequence either… if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself humming it all day!
There are plenty of recipes for Hot Cross Buns, just do a google or Pinterest search and you’ll see. Over the years I have tried some of them purely out of curiosity, and have never found one that I’ve liked better than my own. Some Hot Cross Buns are overly spiced, others are too dry, some are very sweet. Many are made with chocolate and brown sugar and while they certainly sound delicious, they are hardly a traditional Hot Cross Bun.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is steeped in tradition and the sweet and savory flavors are balanced. I’ll also show you the old-fashioned way to pipe the cross using a flour paste that’s been slightly hinted with vanilla.
While the Hot Cross Buns are cooling, you’ll want to brush the top with a simple syrup glaze (equal parts sugar and water). This creates the subtle sticky-sweetness to the outside, as well as a beautiful sheen.
Do you make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, too? Have you ever dared to hang one in your kitchen for an entire year?! Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know!
Disclosure: Below is an affiliate link which means that I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, thereby allowing me to continue making a mess in the kitchen! Thank you for supporting my blog.
Join the Conversation!
If you made this recipe, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you! Don’t forget to tag a photo #chasingtheseasons on Instagram. Happy Baking!
Hot Cross Buns
*There are several rise times for the dough. Overall process takes a few hours to make.
1 cup warm water
3 teaspoons dry active yeast
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.5 – 3 cups all-purpose flour divided (this is a wet dough) plus extra for dusting your work surface
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup dried cranberries and golden raisins (this makes for a subtle amount of dried fruit in each cross bun, add 1 full cup if you desire more)
1 tablespoon orange rinds (optional)
FOR THE CROSS:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE GLAZE:
1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup sugar
NOTE: Lightly oil a large mixing bowl with olive oil, set aside. Prepare a baking tray by dusting with flour or by use of a silicone mat, set aside.
- In a medium bowl (not the oiled bowl that has been set aside) combine warm water and yeast. Mix very briefly to dissolve. Wait for yeast to activate, about 5-10 minutes. If it doesn’t bloom and create a thick froth, discard. It means the yeast is dead and your Hot Cross Buns will not rise;
- Add the sugar and egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla to yeast mixture and whisk until combined;
- Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well until it appears smooth. Note that it will still be very wet;
- Cover and let rest for 30 minutes in a draft-free spot;
- After 30 minutes it should look bubbly and still very wet. Add the olive oil and salt and fold through with a spatula;
- Add the remaining flour and mix well. Form it into a ball. Transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment and add the spices and orange rinds (optional). If the dough still appears a little wet, add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until it starts to firm up. Don’t overdo it. It should be soft and pliable, and still sticky, but not too sticky. If you add too much flour, the cross buns run the risk of being too dry;
- Add the cranberries and raisins and mix the dough on low-speed for 5 minutes;
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form the dough into a ball. Place the dough into the lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rest for about another 30 minutes in a draft-free spot;
- After 30 minutes the dough should have doubled in size, knock all of the air out of it and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into small balls;
- Place the 12 dough balls onto the prepared baking tray in 3 rows of 4, set them close together but not touching;
- Cover with a clean towel and let it rise for another hour or until the buns have started to touch on the baking tray;
- While they are rising make the mixture for the cross. Mix the water, vanilla and flour together to form a sort of paste, thin with a little more water if necessary (consistency should be thin enough to pipe easily, but thick enough that it isn’t runny – make sure it is smooth, no lumps);
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F;
- Once the buns are ready for the oven, using a piping bag or zip lock bag with the corner snipped off, squeeze the paste mixture across the buns in both directions to form the cross;
- Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes;
- In the meantime, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pot. Simmer until reduced by about half and a simple syrup has formed;
- Brush the glaze on the buns while they are still piping hot from the oven and let them cool. Best served the same day.
Adjust the spices to your taste.