Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter favourite and I want to share a recipe I have adapted that creates the most wonderfully moist and delicious apple and cinnamon hot cross buns.
History of the Hot Cross Buns
The first recorded mention of hot cross buns was in the 1733 Oxford English Dictionary. It was in the form of a traditional ditty ‘Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns.’
The fact that a ditty was composed around these little buns lends us to believe they must have been around a long time before. Some claim that they go back to Saxon and Pagon times and others to Roman times but there is little evidence to establish their exact origin or date of conception.
There is some debate as to the origin of the cross that appears on the hot cross bun. Traditional breads are often indented with a cross to ensure the middle cooks properly and to break easily. As in Irish sodabread which has a deep cross on top of the loaf to let the evil spirits escape. Maybe the cross on top appeared through the centuries on breads and buns to aid the cooking and this has developed into a Christian tradition or then again, maybe it was a 12th century monk who inscribed a cross on his buns. However the cross was established on the buns, they were readily adopted by the church as a traditional Easter treat. They were treated with some suspicious in by Elizabethan puritans who no doubt thought of them as sinful and quite decadently unnecessary. Thank goodness they can’t see Marks and Spencers Belgium chocolate ones!
Inevitably as hot cross buns have been around a long time there are a number of superstitious that have arisen.
– Hot cross buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil for one year. They are said to possess magical powers. I’ll test this and get back to you in a year’s time.
– They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday – although this seems somewhat strange for a day traditionally associated with fasting. Then there is a tenuous link between the spices in the bun representing the spices used to entomb Jesus’ body and the bread symbolising communion – I’m with the Puritans on this one.
– Sailors used to take hot cross buns as talismans to sea, to prevent a shipwreck.
– A hot cross bun baked on Good Friday and left to go hard can be grated and put in some warm milk to stop an upset tummy.
Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns
I have adapted this recipe from a Paul Hollywood classic hot cross bun recipe. All recipes are very similar but Paul proves his three times and it might seem tedious (it is tedious), but it is worth it.
Difficulty – Medium
300ml full fat milk plus a little extra incase the dough is too dry
50 grams unsalted butter chopped into cubes
500 grams strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
75 grams caster sugar
7 gram sachet of fast action yeast
1 lightly beaten egg
1 teabag of Lipton’s apple and cinnamon tea (or any brand – I’m just bias)
125 grams mixed dried fruit
1 finely chopped apple
zest 1 orange
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon sunflower oil to grease the clingfilm and bowl
For the cross
75g plain flour
For the glaze
4 tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
1. The day before you want to bake the hot cross buns soak your fruit in a strong cup of apple and cinnamon tea with the cinnamon and the nutmeg. You can do this for a few days, the flavour will only intensify.
2. Heat the milk up until it is warm – not hot.
3. Add the chopped up butter to melt.
4. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl. DONOT let the yeast and the salt touch each other in the bowl as the salt will attack the yeast and damage it’s ability to ferment.
5. Using a wooden spoon make a well in the centre of the flour and add the milk/butter mixture. Then add the egg and mix well until you have a sticky dough.
6. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 mins until smooth and elastic.
7. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
8. When the dough has risen add the soaked fruits, apple and zest and knead the dough in the dish and make sure everything is well distributed. Leave to prove for 1 hour more or until doubled in size. Cover with oiled cling film.
9. When ready roll the dough into 12 pieces weighing about 90 grams per piece. Roll each one on a lightly floured work surface and arrange on a greased tray. Leave room between each one for expansion.
10. Now for the third and final proving. Leave for 1 more hour! Nearly there and don’t forget they are worth it.
11. Pre-heat your oven to 220 conventional/200 fan/gas mark 7.
12. Mix up your paste for the crosses by mixing the flour with about 4 tablespoons of water until you have a thick paste.
13. With a long blunt knife or spatula indent a cross in the top of each bun and carefully drizzle the paste into the indentation.
14. Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown. Check them after 15 mins.
15. When ready remove from the oven and heat the apricot jam. While it is still warm brush over the top of the buns. This will instantly transform them into glistening buns of glory.
The basic hot cross bun dough can be adapted at the second stage to include almost anything. Maybe add some chocolate chips or cherries. Anything goes – give it a go and let me know how it went. I would love to hear about anyone’s adaptations.
Teacake note – The dough to make hot cross buns is the same as the traditional teacake. Just don’t add any spices and flatten your dough before cooking. Walla – teacakes.
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