Hot Cross Buns are a traditional part of Lent. In the past stores sold them only during the Lenten season.
Pat Pugh has provided a very interesting history of this traditional Lenten fare, and also provided a recipe for all of us to have a try at making them. She has also provided a beautiful picture of some which she has made.
It would be wonderful if others would like to do likewise and we could post the pictures on our webpage and Facebook page. You can e-mail pictures to the church at email@example.com or text them Rev. Stephen at 519-651-7022. We all share in our thanks to Pat for her talent and leadership in this.
Hot Cross Buns – History and Recipes
If there’s one thing that I’ve discovered, it’s that Anglicans like to eat. In 2020 we made Soul Cakes for All Saints’ Day, in 2021 it was Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and now we have Hot Cross Buns for Lent. But wait, isn’t Lent traditionally a season to give up delicious, sweet little cakes? Why then do we have Hot Cross Buns?
The hot cross bun is a sweet, yeasted, spiced bun usually containing currants or raisins, with a cross, cut or piped with flour paste or icing sugar, on its top. Traditions and superstitions abound around this comestible. Perhaps you remember this rhyme from your childhood.
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!
The rhyme mimics the cries of street vendors who hawked their wares on the streets of old England. A reference to “hot cross buns” appears in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1733. Before the 18th century they were simply referred to as cross cakes.
Cross cakes have been referenced in several Western civilizations including the Greeks, the Romans and the Saxons. The Saxons made their cakes to honour their goddess of spring, Eostre, from which we likely derive the name Easter. Early Christians had a habit of taking over existing pagan festivals and making them their own.
Let us explore a few of the Christian tales and superstitions about the cross cake.
One tradition has it that a 12th century Anglican monk put a cross on some buns made on Good Friday and the practice caught on. The city of St. Albans, England claims that Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a monk at the abbey, created the buns and distributed them to the poor beginning in 1361. His recipe is a closely guarded secret. Regardless of the secrecy of this recipe, cross buns became so popular that in 1592, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the sale of hot cross buns and other sweet cakes was banned except for Good Friday, Christmas and funerals. The decree likely had something to do with the political and religious unrest in England at the time. The bun ban was unenforceable and was eventually abandoned during the reign of James I.
Some of the superstitions surrounding Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday include:
They will not grow mouldy.
Hanging one from your rafters will protect your house from evil spirits and fires.
Carrying one aboard a ship will protect sailors from shipwreck
Sharing one with someone will ensure friendship for the coming year.
Some people considered the Good Friday Hot Cross Bun so holy, that a piece of it, ground up and mixed with water, would cure all manner of illness. Of course, the bun would have to be replaced yearly.
There are many recipes for Hot Cross Buns. My favourite one is from the 1976 paperback edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.
3 ½-4 c all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
½-1 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ c milk
½ c salad oil
1/3 c sugar
¾ tsp salt
2/3 c dried currants
1 egg white
Combine 2 c flour, yeast and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Heat milk, oil, sugar and salt just till warm. Add to dry mixture; add eggs. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for ½ minute, scraping bowl. Beat on high for 3 minutes. By hand, stir in currants and enough of the flour to make a soft dough. Shape into a ball. Place into a lightly greased bowl, turning once.
Cover; let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down; turn on floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 18 pieces; form into smooth balls. Place on greased baking sheet 1 ½ inches apart. Cover; let rise till double. Cut shallow cross on each; brush tops with lightly beaten egg white, reserving some. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Pipe on crosses with frosting.
Frosting: Combine approx. 1 ½ c icing sugar, reserved egg white, ¼ tsp vanilla and a dash of salt. Add milk if needed.
Why not make your own Hot Cross Buns, or for a change of pace try a Hot Cross Bunny.
If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the Hot Cross Bun and more recipes, try the following links: