Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns
One a Penny
Two a Penny
Hot Cross Buns
One of the things I love most about Easter is Hot Cross Buns. These were always an Easter tradition for me back in Canada, a commonwealth country, and it's pretty wonderful to be able to partake of them over here in the UK. The grocery shop shelves begin lining themselves with them soon after Valentines day and I have to say I just can't get enough of them!
A hot cross bun, or cross-bun, is a type of sweet spiced bun made with currants or raisins and leavened with yeast. It has a cross marked on the top which might be effected in one of a variety of ways including: pastry, flour and water mixture, rice paper, icing, or intersecting cuts. Back in Canada the cross was almost always made with icing, but over here in the UK, it is generally made with a flour and water mixture.
In many Christian countries Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, the cross adorned tops representing Christ's crucifixion. According to cookery writer Elizabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, being baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns by bakers but they were too popular, and instead Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas. Nowadays they are generally only seen around Easter.
English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.
Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and insure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
All superstitions and folklore aside, Hot Cross Buns are just plain good eating! I scooped this delicious recipe from the BBC Good Food site. They're really scrummy!
*Hot Cross Buns*
Spicy, stogged full of delicious fruit and decorated with pastry crosses these are just wonderful!
For the ferment starter
1 large free-range egg, beaten
215ml/7½fl oz warm water
15g/½oz fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
55g/2oz strong white flour
For the dough
450g/1lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
85g/3oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
1 lemon, zest only
170g/6oz mixed dried fruit
For the topping
2 tbsp plain flour
vegetable oil, for greasing
1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing
For the ferment starter, mix the beaten egg with enough warm water to make up approximately 290ml/½ pint of liquid. Whisk in the yeast, sugar and flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined, then cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
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 to the well and pour in the ferment starter. Using your hands, gradually draw the flour at the edges of the bowl into the well in the centre, mixing well with the ferment starter, until the mixture comes together as a dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly until smooth and elastic. Work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined.
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. Cut a cross in each bun, almost cutting all the way through the dough, so that each bun is almost cut into quarters. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then cover completely with plastic cling film (or place in a large plastic bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in.) Set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.
Preheat the oven to 240*C/475*F.
For the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with two 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 over the cuts in each bun. Place the buns in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until risen and 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.
Enjoy! We like to split and toast them and then spread them with some softened butter.
Please note that I copied some of the facts and folklore from Wikepedia as I am not a walking encyclopedia. If that offends you, I am sorry. :-)