Every Easter I become very cross about hot cross buns. They appear in the stores far too early, I saw some for sale back in January and are never very good, the best I’ve found and they are just okay, are in our local Jewish bakery!
Bring back the Tudor law that prohibited the sale of spiced buns except on Good Friday, at Christmas and for burials. If the government is so keen to legislate fat and salt out of our lives they should do something useful like ban the sale of seasonal foods out of season.
The baking of special breads for Spring dates back to ancient Greeks and it was generally assumed that this custom was appropriated by Christians, like many pagan rites, who then added the cross to tie them to the crucifixion. Good Friday was the day to eat them –
“9 Apr. an. 1773 Being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him and cross-buns.” James Boswell in his Life of Johnson.
While always served hot that adjective was only added to the buns in the nineteenth century, the cross however, may have been there all along. The round bun represented the sun and the two right-angled lines divided it into four to represent the seasons.
I’d been thinking about making my own buns and then stumbled across this recipe by Elizabeth Baird.
Knowing her recipes to be solid I made some today. Yes I know its not Good Friday, but I’m not selling them. I didn’t have any currants so I used a mixture of dried fruits I had left from Christmas – Thompson raisins, mixed peel, I believe peel should be in hot cross buns, and some dried cranberries. Not what I’d normally reach for but they were there and they are colourful and I chopped the mixture to make everything currant-sized. I was pleased Elizabeth advised making the cross with a sharp knife I’ve never been a fan of piped or icing crosses. And do make those cuts deep, my crosses are a little hard to see. I did add a glaze made with icing sugar and lemon juice, just to make them shine.
Verdict? I just ate one with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Good, but still not as I remember from my childhood but no doubt that memory is better than the real bun. Try making some yourself and let me know what you think. And to make them hot again? Hot cross buns are always better toasted.