Sunday, 24 March 2013

Traditional Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns,
Hot Cross Buns,
Hot Cross Buns.

The tune to this little ditty was one of the first things I learnt to play on my recorder at primary school! I went to a local C of E school and so the links between hot cross buns and Christianity have never been in doubt in my mind...until now!
Any good Christian family will teach their children that the cross on top of a hot cross bun is directly linked to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. As long as I can remember before heading to church on Good Friday morning, for the stations of the cross, we would all gather on Mum and Dad’s bed for a breakfast of hot cross buns. But, as I started looking around the internet for a recipe this year I found a few things out about the hot cross bun that I didn’t know...

Although there seems no doubt that hot cross buns are English in origin, they may have been around long before this country became Christian. In fact, it seems they might be another example of a pagan tradition that Christianity took over. There is some suggesting that the spiced buns were eaten when celebrating the goddess Eostre. Now even I can see (or hear) that Eostre sounds a lot like Easter... coincidence I think not!!!
Regardless of whether they are Christian or not, there are also some rather cool superstitions surrounding the hot cross bun. So the story goes...if you bake hot cross buns on Good Friday they will not spoil or go mouldy!!! I’m actually quite tempted to try this one out. Another superstition is that hot cross buns can protect sailors from shipwrecks. I’m afraid I can’t test this one so we’ll just have to trust the internet!

After spending just 20mins surfing the internet, I soon realised that the origins of the humble hot cross buns weren’t quite as straight forward as I originally thought! I just hoped that baking them would be easy.
The fact that they have been around for hundreds of years also brings its own challenges. Do you know just how many varieties of hot cross bun you can get now? I’m talking chocolate, toffee, apple, cinnamon, earl grey, orange blossom – you name it, a supermarket makes it! I’m particularly a fan of the GIANT hot cross bun loaf that Asda do but that’s a whole other ball game!

I decided to begin with I would try a traditional recipe from none other than Mrs Beeton. I’m not a big bread baker as I find no matter what tip or trick I use to kick start my yeast into gear I never quite get it right. BUT by just tweaking the traditional recipe a little bit I was able to SUCCESSFULLY bake my first batch of traditional hot cross buns!!!
The spice balance really is quite a personal thing so feel free to adjust this to your taste: I used a little less than Mrs Beeton calls for and also adjusted the dried fruit used.

Now that I’ve managed to master this traditional version next I will have to take on the supermarkets and attempt a twist on this classic.

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