For many Christians around the globe, it's a time-honored tradition to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday. Various histories I've read claim the rolls date back hundreds of years, perhaps even to pagan times when their significance had an entirely different meaning.
The spicy rolls packed with dried fruit are either topped with a cross of white frosting or emblazoned with a cross cut into the roll just prior to baking. The cross is meant to remind Christians of Christ's crucifixion.
Various folklore claims the rolls can fight off illness and evil and will never get moldy because of the protection of the cross.
Hot cross buns were not a tradition for my family when I was growing up, and I've only had them a few times, including several years back when I made a batch myself.
Last year, newspaper publisher Morgan Dickerman shared a delicious shipment of hot cross buns from a bakery in Colorado with our staff. The rolls were delicious and had special meaning because we ate them on Good Friday. I decided right then that I wanted to share a recipe for hot cross buns in my food column for this Easter.
I read many recipes over the last few weeks before deciding on the ingredients for my hot cross buns. My first decision involved the dried fruit to use. Most recipes call for currants, some for raisins, others for a mixture of dried fruits. I opted for golden raisins for my buns. The golden raisins had such a variety of pretty gold tones and added a nice touch of color to the rolls. They also aren't as obvious as their darker counterpart, which is a good thing for me because I really don't like raisins!
Then I had to decide on spices. The first recipe I read only used cinnamon. But I saw a number of other recipes that use a combination of spices including cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. I love cloves, but I was afraid the spicy taste might overtake the rolls. So I ended up using a teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 teaspoon of both allspice and nutmeg. I measured out the spices and put them in a small container, stirred them up and smelled them before adding them to my flour. The aroma was wonderful and not too over-powering, so that's what I went with.
Since I had only used one dried fruit, I opted to put the zest of both a lemon and an orange in my rolls. The faint hint of citrus added a nice touch.
I cut a cross into about half of my rolls before baking. I experimented with scissors, a straight-edge knife and a serrated knife. I had the best luck with the serrated knife.
After the rolls had baked and cooled, I put a sugary glaze cross on each one. The rolls with the cross cut into them definitely had the neater cross.
My hot cross buns were absolutely a hit at my house. They were delicious the day I made them and equally good the next day, cut in half and toasted.
If you'd like to start a new tradition at your house to mark the significance of Good Friday, give these rolls a try.
Hot Cross Buns
- 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon bread machine yeast
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoons allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3/4 to 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 egg white
- Splash of milk
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons milk
If your machine has a timer for adding nuts or other ingredients, add the raisins when the timer beeps, otherwise, add the raisins in the last few minutes of the final knead cycle.
When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then in half again to have four pieces. Roll each quarter into a log shape and divide into thirds to form your rolls.
Place rolls in 9x13 pan that has been prepared with butter. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes. (When I am rising dough, I put a cut of boiling water in my cold oven to create warmth and steam before putting in my pan of dough.)
After they have doubled in size, cut a cross into the top of each bun. Then whisk one egg white with a splash of milk and brush on rolls.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Mix glaze ingredients and pipe or brush on a cross shape.