There’s a book I own that sits on the nightstand near my bed…one my mother gave to me when I was a child. The binding is tattered and the corners are torn, but I never mind that…the book means the world to me.
Behind the faded cover is a collection of poems known as Mother Goose Rhymes and one of my favourites is called Hot Cross Buns. Of course you know the poem:
Hot cross buns, hot cross buns.
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.
In my youth and innocence, I had no idea what a hot cross bun was: I’d never seen one, let alone tasted one. Looking back, I’m not even sure I knew what a “bun” was. In America a bun is an updo-hairstyle worn by a ballerina.
What I knew for sure was the woman in the illustration looked happy and the image of the village and the pretty children was very romantic and that appealed to my young heart. It wasn’t until many years later when I was living in Ireland that I finally saw and ate my first hot cross bun.
Soft, light, sweet and delicious when served warm from the oven with a pad of butter, they are perfect with a cup of tea. In the weeks between St. Patrick’s Day and Good Friday, hot cross buns are readily available. Some are better than others however, so buyer beware. To make them from scratch is easy enough…it’s just the rising time that makes them a bit of a bother.
Hot Cross Buns are very much a part of the Irish Easter tradition: specifically Good Friday, when they were once served to commemorate Christ’s suffering on the cross (hence the cross marking on the bun). Today they are common place and most young ones wouldn’t know anything about the religious or secular traditions they are steeped in.
One of those traditions, from my mother-in-law’s day, is that you would break a Good Friday Black Fast (drinking only water or tea during the day) with a hot cross bun. Two others I know are: if you hung a bun from the kitchen ceiling you could ward off evil spirits; and gratings from a preserved bun, mixed with water, would cure a common cold. Oh, if only it were only that easy!
In our Irish home, hot cross buns are a Good Friday treat. We’re enjoying them today just as much as we’re enjoying the lovely sunshine that we’ve been blessed with. We’re off to do the
Stations of the Cross Passion in a few hours time and then finishing the day with a bowl of velvety leek and potato soup and some homemade brown bread. In some ways you could say we’re a bit old-fashioned but then that’s just the way it is for us. I wonder what it’s like for you?
Lent is coming to an end, finally. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes I’ve been posting these past six weeks and, likewise, I hope you’ve made it through your Lenten promise without having to hit the reset button too often. I slipped up a few times myself, but overall am quite pleased with my staying power!
I wish you and yours a very happy Easter and, if by chance you’re partaking in a hot cross bun today, I offer you the following poem of friendship: “half for you and half for me…between us two…good luck shall be!”
All the best.
Odlum’s Hot Cross Buns
Makes One Full Baking Tray
Ingredients for the Buns
625g/ 1lb 4 oz Odlums Strong White Flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
50g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
Rind of 1 lemon
1 sachet fast-action yeast (7g)
275ml/10fl oz tepid milk
125g/4oz Shamrock Fruit Mix (or raisins)
Ingredients for the Topping
2 tbsp Odlums Cream Plain Flour
Vegetable Oil (for greasing)
1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing
For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.
Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.
Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then place inside a large polythene bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.
Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8.
Meanwhile, for the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with 2 tablespoons of cold water.
When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.