MY HOT CROSS BUN STORY
Originally known by many other names such as Good Friday Buns or One a Penny Buns, these buns have been traced back to Anglo-Saxon days, early 1600’s and mid 1700’s, during which time a popular rhyme emerged when sellers started selling them on the streets of England. It is believed that through this rhyme the name of Hot Cross Buns became the moniker.
My acquaintance with these delicious little puffs of sweetness only dates back to the 1940’s.
There was a neighborhood bake shop a few blocks away called Hanscom or maybe Hanscom Bake Shop. There was one near Grand Central and one closer to our house on 2nd Avenue near 42nd Street. We didn’t get to shop there very often. However, the two things that I do remember buying there on Sunday morning after Mass were Crumb Buns and Hot Cross Buns.
Crumb Buns were available all year long but Hot Cross buns were only available during Lent. Sitting through Mass on an empty stomach, aware of the coins in my pocket to go and buy six Hot Cross Buns was torture. I admit to running my finger over the icing on a bun or two to lick as I skipped merrily home.
Certainly there are buns that were more enticing and tastier and sweeter than these buns. So I think my love for them was magnified by the hard cold truth that back then Hot Cross Buns were only available during Lent and after Easter I would have to wait almost a year for them to appear again. Not so now which spoils any anticipation. I think they are readily available all year long and probably even can be purchased frozen. But nothing can compare to those Hot Cross Buns from Hanscom!
Over the years I have adapted many Hot Cross Bun recipes for my family to enjoy during Lent. This is our favorite. Enjoy.
HOT CROSS BUNS
½ Cup Water
½ Cup Whole Milk
½ Cup Sugar
2 ¼ oz. Pkgs Yeast
1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter
more if needed
1 Large Egg Yolk
1 ½ tsps. Vanilla
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ tsp Salt
½ tsp Nutmeg – or a little more to your taste
½ tsp Cinnamon – or a little more to your taste
½ Cup Currants – plumped in
microwave and cooled (raisins, golden raisins)
1 Egg – beaten for brushing
2 Cups Confectioners’ Sugar – sifted
2 Tbs Whole Milk
1 ½ tsps. Vanilla – or more to your taste
Combine the water and milk in a saucepan and warm over low heat
until it reaches 100^ but no more than 110^. Remove from the heat
and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface of the
liquid. Set aside without stirring until the mixture becomes foamy and rising
up the sides of the pan. This will be about 10-12 minutes.
Whisk the butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture.
Whisk the flour, remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden
spoon to make a thick, slightly sticky dough. Stir in the currants. Turn the dough onto a lightly
floured work surface and knead until it becomes soft and elastic – about 8 minutes.
Then shape into a ball.
Brush the inside of a bowl with butter. Put the dough ball into the bowl and turn it
around so that it all gets covered slightly with the butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let it
rise free from drafts in a warm place until it doubles in size – about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
FORMING THE BUNS
Preheat oven to 375^.
Butter a 9 X 14” baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured
surface and pat into a 16 X 8” rectangle. Divide it into 12 equal balls each about 2 oz. Make round balls by tucking any rough edges under and place the balls seam side down
on the prepared pan. Leave space between each ball so that they are not touching.
Cover the pan with buttered plastic wrap and set in a warm place until the balls have
more than doubled in size – about 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the balls with the beaten egg.
Bake until golden brown and puffy, and a thermometer inserted in center reads 190^ –
about 25 minutes.
FOR THE GLAZE
Stir together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth.
Transfer the icing to a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a small slit in one corner.
Ice the buns in a very thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.
Delicious when served warm, split and slathered with butter. As my two youngest Granddaughters, Gianna and Olivia will tell you, much to the horror of their Mother, “Everything tastes better with Butter”. Enjoy!