Hot Cross Buns are sweet rolls marked with a cross on the top. They are a very popular Lenten treat, especially on Good Friday. There are many myths and legends surrounding the history and significance of Hot Cross Buns, but I took a special liking to the ones that I learned about from the Smithsonian.
Due to the blessed cross on top, hot cross buns hung from the kitchen ceiling all year long are supposed to protect from evil spirits. They’re also said to prevent kitchen fires from breaking out, and ensure that all breads baked that year will turn out perfectly delicious!
Gratings from a preserved bun were mixed with water to provide a cure for the common cold.
Those who share a hot cross bun are supposed to enjoy a strong friendship and bond for the next year. A line from an old rhyme captures this lore: “Half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be.”
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.
SERVINGS: 1 dozen buns
COOK TIME: 25 mins
PREP TIME: 30 mins
READY IN: 3 hrs
1/2 cup water very warm, tap
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk(s), large
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract pure
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger ground
3 cups flour (13 oz)
1/2 cup raisins or currants (heaping)
1/2 cup citron
1 egg(s) beaten with a tablespoon of water
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk or as needed for a thick frosting
1 tsp vanilla extract pure, or almond extract
1 tsp oil
Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside.
To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min.
To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.