Tuesday 26 April 2011

Hot Cross buns, one a penny, two a penny...

picture by Fotolibra

This Easter I wanted to try and make my own hot cross buns. This is a slightly spiced sweet bun made with raisins or sultanas and marked with a cross on the top. They are traditionally eaten on the Good Friday, at Easter - the cross on the bun being  a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus.

I looked up some traditional recipes in the books and on the net, and  I decided for one I saw on the historical foods website . As usual, I left everything for the last minute. When I started separating the ingredients, typically, the two main ingredients ran out and as I was feeling too lazy to go to the shop, I took the risk and  used some substitutes (oat milk instead of the whole cow’s milk and dates instead of the raisins/sultanas). I wasn’t very sure of the amount of the ingredients in the recipe either, but I went ahead with it. The result: a very yeasty and tasteless bun, with no oomph.  Changing fundamental ingredients in some recipes can be a culinary sacrilege...
Despite the disappointment, I wasn’t going to give up. After all, I promised my family I was going to make hot cross buns this year, instead of buying them. With the right ingredients this time, I tried another recipe and with some changes, I made my buns.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have them on Good Friday, as traditional, but I am glad to say that my second attempt worked well and we all enjoyed the buns two days later. Next year, I will make sure I’ll have the ingredients organised on time for the holiday.

As for the old buns, the birds were very happy to have them. At least they didn’t go to waste.

Hope you had a great Easter!

The ingredients for the dough
the egg wash, the paste for the cross and the jam for the glaze

My hot cross buns, rustic and tasty

Traditional Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12-16 (depending on the size you choose)

This bun is delicious eaten hot and with a slab of a good butter.


200ml organic whole milk, plus a little more for glazing
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
20g fresh yeast or 2 tbsp dried yeast
50g golden unrefined caster sugar
300g organic strong white flour (I use Doves organic)
150g organic wholemeal flour
100g organic butter at room temperature
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cinnamon powder
2 organic free-range eggs
100g organic sun-dried raisins
50g mixed peel (optional)

For the golden crust

1 organic free-range egg
A little of the milk

For the cross

3 tbsp organic plain flour
1tbsp unrefined caster sugar

For the glaze

Apricot jam or you can also use marmalade


Heat 200ml milk gently in a pan along with the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until just boiling, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Bring it back up to blood temperature. Strain the milk and mix with the yeast and 1 tsp sugar.

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and mix in the butter. Rub in with your fingertips, or in a food mixer, until well mixed, and then add the rest of the sugar and the salt, ginger and cinnamon. Beat together the eggs.

Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Stir, adding enough milk to make a soft dough – it shouldn't look at all dry or tough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then lightly grease another bowl, and put the dough into it. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this will probably take a couple of hours.

Tip it out on to a floured surface and knead for a minute or so, then flatten it out and scatter over the fruit. Knead again to spread the fruit around evenly, then divide into 12-16 equal pieces and roll these into bun shapes.

Put on a lightly greased baking tray, then cover and put in a warm place to  prove until doubled in size. Score a cross into the top of each.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and beat together the last egg with a little milk.

Mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and enough cold water to make a stiff paste. Paint the top of each bun with egg wash, and then, using a piping bag or teaspoon, draw a thick cross on the top. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. When the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the apricot jam before transferring to a rack to cool. Eat with lots of butter.

Some of the main ingredients and their healthy benefits

Cinnamon: previously mentioned here 

Cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum): In Ayuverda medicine, it is known to improve digestion and to help people suffering from stomach cramps, as it is very beneficial to relieve gas and flatulence. It has detoxifying properties and improves blood circulation to the lungs. Also according to the ayuverdas, cardamom is beneficial for those suffering from asthma or bronchitis. It can relieve acidity from the stomach. It is also used to relieve bad halitosis if you chew on their seeds. It adds a lovely flavour and aroma to dishes.

Raisin or dried grape (Vitus vinifera) contains very good amounts of antioxidants. It is also a great source of iron (necessary for the production of red blood cells), calcium, magnesium and boron (for bone health and prevention of arthritis). It contains high amounts of potassium, which regulates the balance of minerals and fluids in your body contributing to a healthy muscle function, digestion and blood pressure. According to Murray, Pizzorno and Pizzorno, ground up raisins can act as a natural preservative in foods like sodium nitrite does, but without the negative side effects. Raisin is a very good snack alternative with lots of fibre content.

The pale and tasteless buns for the birds

Till next week!

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