Recipe: Hot Cross Buns to “kiss over” and “protect against shipwreck”…?!!

One of the things I miss most living in Italy are bread-based cakes like Hot cross Buns, Tea cakes, Muffins, Crumpets, Iced buns, Scones and the like. You just can’t find anything like them here. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth so I love these alternatives to cakes as they can be eaten hot or cold, with lashings of butter and jam or even as savoury snack. Many is the time I’ve wandered into a panificio or patisseria in search of something to satisfy a craving only to come out empty handed.

Hot Cross Buns are classic Easter treats and our British version, if you like, of the Italian Colomba. I’ve personally never tried to make them as the offers in the supermarkets are so good that there is little incentive to slave away in the kitchen but as at Christmas when I made my own puff pastry for mincemeat pies I’ve decided to try my hand at hot cross buns.

Traditionally baked on Good Friday, the cross is a symbol of the cruxifixion of Christ but perhaps more curiously hot cross buns have many superstitions surrounding them;

  1. Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time.
  2. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten.
  3. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck.
  4. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.

I cannot guarantee that these things will come true if you try your hand at baking them but I am up for the challenge!

Ingredients: 450g Manitoba flour (or strong white bread flour), 50g Caster sugar, 250g whole milk, 30g unsalted butter, 25g cube of fresh yeast (and small amount of water to mix) or 7g sachet dried yeast, zest of 1 orange, 120g raisins, 1 large egg, 2-3 tsps mixed spices incl. cinnamon, nutmeg, pinch of salt. For the cross 50g Plain 0 /00 flour and water,  2 tbsps golden syrup or honey, oil for greasing

Preparation: 30-40 mins + 2 hrs Lievitation and 25-30 mins cooking

1. Prepare a clean worksurface with a dusting of flour for kneading.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the manitoba flour, spices and sugar (If using dried yeast, add at this stage).
3. Heat the milk and butter in a pan (or microwave in a bowl) until melted and combine in a second bowl with the raisins and orange zest, then leave to cool before beating in the egg. In a small glass prepare your live yeast with a small amount of water.
4. Combine the liquid yeast mix and the fruit mix to the flour and mix together to form a dough. Finally add in a pinch of salt as the dough is starting to stick together. (It’s important to leave the salt for last as it acts against the yeast).

5. Tip your dough mix out onto your work surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Roll into one big ball and put it back in the original mixing bowl to rise for an hour. Use the oil to lightly coat the bowl before putting the dough in so that it doesn’t stick and then cover with cling film whilst it rises.

6. Your dough should double in size during the hour. Once risen tip back out onto your floured work surface and flatten your dough to knock some air out. Divide into 9-12 pieces depending on the size of hot cross bun you’d like and roll each one into a ball.

7. Prepare a baking tray with some oven paper and place your buns on top c. 3cm apart.

8. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise for a further 40 minutes.

9. Preheat your oven to 200C and then prepare the crosses.

10. Mix the 50g plain flour with c. 5tbsps of cold water to form a thich paste and using an icing nozzle or food bag with the end snipped, pipe your crosses on to the top of each bun.

11. Bake for 20-30 mins or until golden.

12. Take a 2 tbsp of golden syrup or honey and microwave in a cup to act as glaze for your buns. use a pastry brush (or small spoon) to cover the top of your buns.

13. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Happy Easter!

One Response to “Recipe: Hot Cross Buns to “kiss over” and “protect against shipwreck”…?!!”
  1. Beautiful photos and hot cross buns. Italy does have beautiful pastries though! An Italian family just opened up a cafe where I live that sells traditional Italian treats – it’s AMAZING. Plus the coffee there is so much better!

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