Konditor Easter is coming by Ambernectar 13
Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!”

Sure, these are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but the sweet, tasty little buns are so darling that there’s no reason you shouldn’t eat them on Easter as well–or in September for that matter.

I’ve always been in love with the name “hot cross bun”. It just sounds so quintessentially English and makes me think of Beatrix Potter. These sticky, spicy treats are best known for their distinctive cross shape (cut into the top of the bun, traced in icing or a floury paste, or made with strips of pastry) that symbolizes the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on. It is a yeast bread studded with dried fruit and covered in a shiny glaze.

Hot Cross Buns by garryknight
Hot Cross Buns, a photo by garryknight on Flickr.

Some speculate that the hot cross bun reaches back to ancient Babylonian goddess-worship (a far-flung surmise, in my opinion), or Saxon fertility rites, and others will go so far as to attribute them to the Aztecs. But the first recorded use of the term “cross bun” is English, and doesn’t occur until 1733 (they weren’t called “hot” until the 19th century), so it’s likely that they are exactly what they purport to be–an English, Christian baked good.

Jan 29/12 Homemade Hot Cross Buns by Jude Doyland
Jan 29/12 Homemade Hot Cross Buns, a photo by Jude Doyland on Flickr.

According to PracticallyEdible.com, there is a great deal of lore surrounding these humble buns.

  • Baking them on Good Friday will ensure their longevity throughout the entire year to come (of course you’ll gobble them up long before then, so who’s to say?).
  • A hot cross bun will revive a sick person.
  • Bring a bun on the high seas and you’ll be safe from shipwreck!
  • There’s a pub in Bow, London called “The Widow’s Son” which carries on a tradition from long ago. Supposedly a widow once promised her only son, a sailor, to make him him hot cross buns every Good Friday until he returned home. Sadly, he never came back from the sea, but she kept making the buns and they are still being made today. Learn more about how the story lives on at ShadyOldLady.com.
  • Split a bun with your friend, say the magic words, “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be,” and your friendship is guaranteed for the next year. Then you’d better do it again, before the other person stabs you in the back.

So enough of history and literature, let’s get to the yeasty bit.

There’s a recipe at WildYeastBlog.com for traditional hot cross buns. This involves a pre-prepared yeast starter which you might find more trouble than it’s worth. In that case, check out this recipe from JoyOfBaking.com for the buns made in this video. And, if you’re the kind who’d rather salivate over photos than actually get your fingers dirty, you have to check out ThePioneerWoman.com to see her gorgeous food photography.

First Photo: Konditor Easter is coming, a photo by Ambernectar 13 on Flickr.


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Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

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