Hot Cross Buns Walter Crane



Recognize this from your childhood?

In England, hot cross buns were  typically eaten on Good Friday and during Lent.

Some say that the origin of Hot Cross Buns dates back to the 12th century, when an Angelican monk was said to have placed the sign of the cross on the buns, to honor Good Friday, a Christian holiday also known as the Day of the Cross. Supposedly, this pastry was the only thing Christians were allowed to eat on this day. As much as I like breads, this would definitely work for me.

Other accounts talk of an English widow, who’s son went off to sea.  She vowed to bake him a bun every Good Friday.  When he didn’t return she continued to bake a hot
cross bun for him each year and hung it in the bakery window in good faith that he would some day return to her.  The English people kept the tradition for her even after she passed away.

In the 16th century,  bakers were limited by law to occasions when these special doughs could be made. Good Friday was one; “cross buns” marked this holy day towards the end of the Lent fast. In their time, both Queen Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell tried to ban the bun, because of their religious associations, but the will of the people prevailed.

Fast fowarding to the 18th century, the rhyme “one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns” recalls the habit of selling them warm from baking. In the 18th century, huge quantities were produced by the Chelsea Bun House , causing large crowds to gather . The Chelsea Bun House was in business for the best part of a century; eventually closing it’s doors in 1839. At the height of its success in the 18th century it was frequented by high society, including Kings George II and III, who apparently would call in for a bun en route to the nearby Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens. The Bun House was also noted for its hot-cross buns. Legend has it that on Good Friday in 1829, 240,000 hot-cross buns were sold, and crowds of over 50,000 thronged outside the shop in anticipation of delicious buns hot from the kitchen’s ovens.

I made Hot Cross buns last night and all Ican say is YUM, YUM, GOOD!

Recipe from The Art Of Cookery, By Hannah Glasse, Published 1740

To make Buns. TAKE two pounds of fine flour, a pint of good ale-yeast, put a little sack [white wine] in the yeast, and three eggs beaten, knead all these together with a little warm milk, a little nutmeg, and a little salt; and lay it before the fire till it rises very light, then knead in a pound of fresh butter, a pound of rough carraway comfits, and bake them in a quick oven, in what shape you please, on floured paper.
 (No, I didn’t make them like this. I made traditional buns from the following source:    )

(I like to weigh bread recipes. I find that it makes for lighter doughs)

Prep Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 22 minutes
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ fl oz warm water
  • ½ oz fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2oz strong white bread flour
  • 1lb   white, bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 3oz butter, cubed
  • 3oz  sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 6oz  mixed dried fruit (currants if you don’t have mixed)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose/plain flour
  • Oil, for greasing
  • Make the yeast starter for the dough by mixing the beaten egg with the warm water. Crumble the yeast and add to the water and egg. Add the sugar and flour, cover and keep in a warm (but not hot) place for 30 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
  • Make the Dough Sieve the flour, salt and spice into a large baking bowl, add the butter and using your fingertips, rub it into the flour until it resembles coarse sand. Make a well in the center and fill with the sugar and lemon zest and the yeast starter mix.
  • Slowly add the the flour into the center as well and mix quickly using a wooden spoon until a dough is formed, don’t worry if it is lumpy. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a floured worktop until you have a smooth, elastic dough (about 10 minutes).
  • Gently flatten the dough, sprinkle the mixed dried fruit over the surface then reform the dough into a ball and knead until the fruit is evenly incorporated into the dough. Place the dough into a warm, greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  • Place the dough on the worktop and knead again for a few minutes. Shape it back into a ball again, put back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Place back on the board again and divide into 12 even pieces. Roll them into buns and leave to rest for a few minutes on the work surface covered with a cloth.
  • Place the buns on a lightly greased baking sheet. Slightly flatten each bun and then cut almost through dough to form a cross.
  • Grease a large plastic bag and place the tray with the buns in it tying the end together. Leave to rise for 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8. Make a paste for the crosses on the buns with the plain flour and 2 tbsp cold water. Mix until it is soft enough to pipe through a nozzle.
  • Remove the polythene bag and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake the buns for 8 -12 minutes or until risen and golden. Brush the buns with the jam as soon as they are ready. Cool on a wire rack