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Not to be Forgotten

A Search for Hot Cross Buns


From The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Real Mother Goose
Illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright, 2004

I am intrigued by Hot Cross Buns. They look delicious. I cannot find a good recipe, however, for making them from scratch. Apparently, few people make them. A lot of childhood memories of them involve cardboard boxes from bakeries or supermarkets. I have a feeling, though, with my baker’s intuition, that the homemade kind would be worth the effort.

Granted I don’t participate in Good Friday traditions, and I only tasted the commercial version once, finding them

pleasant but lacking in depth. They still exert some inexplicable pull on me as an avid bread baker with a penchant for all things fresh from the oven, yeasty, risen, and flavored with spice. A plump raisin is a draw too, as most versions seem to have them. I am also curious how a recipe rich with milk and butter, even in the older recipes I’ve seen, becomes something associated with Lent.

I do have childhood memories of Easter, since my Jewish mother had an inexplicable fondness for the holiday. It was her guilty pleasure as a member of a synagogue and mother of two boys about to become bar mitzvah celebrants to give us Easter baskets that she snuck into our rooms while we slept the night before the holiday. We four kids left carrots and milk out for the (Yiddishe) Easter bunny.

So, coming from the ilk of baker who is likely to make a chocolate croissant from scratch, I am searching for a fabulous Hot Cross Bun recipe. I will be testing them in the weeks to come and posting the results here in future Not To Be Forgotten Posts.

Can you help find the best Hot Cross Buns recipe with a link, a family recipe or a cookbook recommendation? If so, use the comments link under the title of this post, above, or email me at nancy@nancygailring.com. In the meantime, check back soon when Laura will pick up this thread to post a history of Hot Cross Buns.

see also: How To Make Chocolate Croissants Without Taking An Entire Day

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Elizabeth David is always enlightening, authoritative, and amusing on English breads.  See her chapter on Yeast Buns and Small Tea Cakes, which includes hot cross buns, in English Bread and Yeast Cookery.  She characterizes them as rather low in sugar and fat - and they are traditional for Good Friday, not Lent, in any case.

    – LdeG (February 20 2010 at 1:42)

Hi Nancy.  Not a recipe but a couple of observations. In England where I grew up hot cross buns were not for Lent but for Easter Sunday breakfast.  A once a year treat, warm, cut in half, dripping with butter, and eaten with a boiled egg.

More or less any enriched dough recipe will do.  You need English mixed spice (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and all spice) perhaps a few raisins, and definitely some good bitter candied orange peel (that is, absolutely not the kind in round plastic boxes in American grocery stores) to cut the sweetness.


    – Rachel Laudan (February 20 2010 at 1:44)

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