Why we make Hot Cross Buns at Easter
Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Easter treat enjoyed world-wide. They are a yeasted bread bun made with raisins or sultanas, spices and marked with a symbolic cross on the top. Hot Cross Buns were traditionally baked and eaten on Good Friday. They mark the end of Lent, a time of fasting and sacrifice for Christians. It is said that the cross on top represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Illegal Hot Cross Buns
Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Brits were banned from selling Hot Cross Buns prior to Good Friday. Clever citizens got around this rule by baking them in their homes. Eventually this decree became too hard to police and people started making and selling them year-round.
In recent years, Hot Cross Buns have been made available all-year round. Supermarket chains have received a bad reputation in Australia for selling them as early as Boxing Day (26 December)! This led to the emergence of the ‘Not Cross Bun’, which was made without the cross decoration. On this variation, the cross was replaced with a smiley face!
English folklore refers to several superstitions associated with Hot Cross Buns. They are said to protect sailors from shipwreck if taken on sea voyages. They are also supposed to protect against fire and ensure breads turn out perfectly, if hung in a kitchen.
Variations on the traditional Hot Cross Bun
Over the years, various spins on the Hot Cross Bun have emerged, including toffee, orange and cranberry, sticky-date, caramel and apple-cinnamon. In Australia, bakers replaced the fruit with chocolate and these became really popular. Mini versions of the traditional bun have also been a hit with some supermarket chains.
Make your own Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns are relatively easy to make. What could be better than eating one fresh from the oven? Try our recipe below and impress your family and friends this Easter.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Yield: 12 buns.
Difficulty level: moderate.
3 ¼ cups baker’s flour.
2 tablespoons orange peel, finely chopped.
2 tablespoons caster sugar.
1 teaspoon dry yeast.
1 teaspoon mixed spice.
1 teaspoon dried cinnamon.
A pinch of salt.
1 cup milk.
Oil spray or butter.
¼ cup plain flour.
2 tablespoons cold water.
Sugar Syrup (Glaze)
1/3 cup caster sugar.
1/3 cup cold water.
Large baking tray.
Large mixing bowl.
Damp tea towel.
Piping bag with 2mm nozzle, or a small zip-lock bag.
Grease tray and set aside.
Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl or jug in microwave, being careful not to burn – do this 10 seconds at a time. Allow to cool.
In a small bowl crack the egg and lightly whisk. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients and stir. Stir in the salt.
Make a well in the centre of the bowl of dry ingredients.
Pour the milk, egg and melted butter into the well in the centre.
Use wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Be careful not to over beat the mixture.
Using your hands, bring the remainder of the dough together (in the bowl)
Flour a clean work surface (bench top) and turn the mixture out onto the floured surface.
Knead for 10-15 minutes of until smooth and elastic.
Prooving and kneading
Oil a large bowl lightly with oil spray (or use butter and pastry brush) and place the dough in to bowl, turning it over once to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with the damp tea towel. Place in a warm place where there is no draught. Leave for 1 ½ hours for the dough to prove. The dough should double in size.
Preheat your oven to 200⁰C. Push down the centre of the dough, using your fist. This works well if you punch it!
Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out.
Knead for about 3 minutes or until smooth and elastic. By the you are finished kneading the dough should have returned to it’s original size prior to proving.
Divide the dough into 12 even portions and shape into balls.
Place the balls of dough on the tray, side by side so they are almost touching.
Leave the tray in a warm, draught-free location for 30 minutes. The dough should rise another 1.5 – 2cm.
In a small bowl, combine flour and water, mixing well so there are no lumps, and so that you have a thick, smooth paste.
Transfer the paste to a piping bag fitted with a 2mm nozzle. If you don’t have a piping bag, never fear – make your own using a zip seal bag and create a ‘nozzle’ by cutting off one of the bottom corners of the bag. Just make sure you remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing and cutting out the nozzle.
Pipe the crosses on to each of the buns.
Bake your Hot Cross Buns for 20 minutes or until golden. You will know they are ready if they make a hollow sound when tapped on the base.
This step is optional but if you can be bothered to take the time, the glaze will take your Hot Cross Buns next-level and make them look very professional!
To make the glaze, simply place sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook uncovered over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. The mixture should thicken slightly. Do not leave the sugar syrup unattended, keep an eye on it at all times so that you avoid burning it.
Once the buns are cooked, glaze them with the sugar syrup, using your pastry brush.
Serve and enjoy!
Enjoy while still warm from the oven, smothered in butter. Delicious!
Easter at The Westport Club
If you’re not much of a cook or would prefer to let someone else do the baking for you – never fear! The Westport Club bakery will be abuzz with busy bakers from Monday 26 March, because we will be serving up Hot Cross Buns all week!