An Easter Tradition

Original Hot Cross Buns

Original Hot Cross Buns

Easter is fast approaching as I see the chocolate bunnies and eggs  have invaded the store shelves. This means that Hot Cross Buns are not far behind. They have been around for centuries.  It is my understanding that they originated in a monastery’s bakery, when one day the  monk baker found he had an excess of bread dough.  He added dried fruit to the dough, formed small buns, and cut a cross on the top  of each bun. When they were baked, he gave them to the children as gifts for learning their studies and prayers. Like all tales,  the story  has likely changed many times over, so if you have heard a different one, it will probably have merit.

Hot cross buns have been made with marzipan crosses, pastry crosses , icing crosses and just plain cuts. Like most recipes; how these buns are made, depends on the century, the baker, the country and the available ingredients. I recall living in Germany in the late 1960s and looking for them in our military grocery store.  None were found.  Our military store bought locally rather than ship from North America and the German baker had never heard of them.  A group of women took my version of  my mother’s (1938) recipe to the baker and asked if he could produce this recipe in large quantities.  He did it after a few translation problems. We were selling them for charity over the three weekends prior to Easter.  He made the first batch of 50 dozen and we sold out in one hour.  The next two weekends  we sold  300 dozen each weekend.  We were so pleased that we were able to give a large donation to the charity we had chosen. The 1938 version is below with another spicier version closer to those found in stores today that can found here.

Recipe 1938 Original Recipe

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2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cake compressed yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup raisins

Scald the milk with half of the sugar, the butter and salt. When cooled to lukewarm add yeast which has been dissolved in the warm water. Add enough flour to make a sponge, and leave to rise in a warm place until light and spongy. Cover it well to protect from drafts. Blend the beaten egg yolks with the sugar that remains and the cinnamon. Add this to the sponge, add raisins, currants and flour to make a stiff dough. Knead until elastic. Place in buttered bowl and brush over the top with melted butter. Leave to rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Toss in a floured board knead down slightly and then roll out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with a round 3 inch cutter and place on greased pan to rise double in bulk. With a sharp knife cut a cross on the top of each bun or instead you may place a cross of pastry on the top. Bake in a hot oven at 400F for about 20 minutes. Brush over the top with a glaze of milk and sugar during the baking

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