Is Easter, and I was wondering what kind of a sweet treat could I do during these days, since in Puerto Rico we do not have a traditional dessert for the Holy Week, as we call it. In our culture the tradition is more about abstaining from meat to honor the crucifixion of Jesus.
So I started to research about the traditional food during lent here in the US. I found out that in addition to the Easter cakes, carrot cakes and cookies, they have these golden buns full of raisin with a painted cross on top called the Hot Cross Buns. Seeing that cross on the bun appealed to my Christian self and I just thought: I have to try these buns!
So, what did I find about these Hot Cross Buns? Well, they are amazing! They have been made for centuries in Northern and Southern Europe to commemorate the lent season and thanks to the European immigrants we also have the same tradition here in US. But what really made these buns fascinating is that they have been surrounded by myths and superstitions, from solidifying friendships, to driving evil spirits away or that they stay fresh for a whole year. But what I love is their real meaning. The bread that Jesus shared with his disciples, the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger that represent the spices used to embalm His body, and the yeast representing that He has risen!
I think that the history of the food that we eat is what really makes them enjoyable and these buns are, not only full of history, but they are sweet, sticky and enchanted with the scent of spices that make them just a perfect bun for breakfast or brunch!
Original Recipe : Mary Bery’s Bible Baking Book
For the Dough
2 cup of flour
1 cup of lukewarm milk
¼ cup caster sugar
¼ butter, cut into pieces, (melted if you use the mixer)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1½ tsp. dried yeast
1 tsp. cinnamon (I use 2 tsp.)
½ tsp. nutmeg
2-3 pinches ground cloves
¼ tsp. pinches ground ginger
1/3 cup of raisins
¼ of sultanas, dates or dried fruits
1 tbs. of coconut oil
For the cross
75 g (3 oz) plain flour
4-5 tbsp water ( I use milk)
1 tbs. of sugar
For the glaze
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
- Add the yeast to the milk and stir. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
- Put the flour in a large bowl and sift in the spices. Add the salt and mix well.
- Rub the butter into the flour until you get a nice fluffy mixture. Add the sugar and mix well.
- Make a well in the center of the mixure. Add the beaten egg and the milk/yeast and fold to produce a sticky dough.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough for around 10 minutes. The dough should become tacky but not stick to your fingers.
- Note: If your will use a mixer for this recipe, melt the butter and mix together all of the dough ingredients except the fruits. Knead it until the dough is soft and elastic.
- Spread out the dough, pour on the raisins and dates and knead them into the dough for a couple of minutes.
- Place the dough in a lightly-greased bowl with the coconut oil, cover and put in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back. Re-shape into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover and allow to rise a second time in a warm place until it almost doubles in size.Turn the dough out once more and knock it back. Divide the dough into 12 pieces.
- Make each piece into a ball and place on a greased baking tray. Cover and leave in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
- Prepare the pastry for the cross by mixing the flour, sugar and water (I used milk). Add more water as needed to produce a slightly sloppy dough.
- Put the dough in a piping bag or syringe and pipe a cross onto each bun.
- Bake at 400°F in a conventional oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Prepare the glaze. You may need to heat the water slightly to get all the sugar to dissolve.
- When the buns are cooked, remove them from the oven and brush them liberally with the glaze while they are still hot. Place on a wire rack to cool, and enjoy this pinch of sugar!!