For my last recipe from “Holidays Around the World: Easter Edition,” I’m going way down under to Australia with Hot Cross Buns.
I actually had no idea what cross buns were, and it turns out that I’ve often seen them on bakery or grocery store shelves and never gave them a second thought. As it turns out, there’s a bit of history to this seemingly every day roll and, if you believe the legends, they harness much more power than merely satisfying hunger. Read on.
Hot Cross Buns are the second most popular Easter food in England, second only to the almighty egg. The buns were traditionally made and eaten on Good Friday. By baking them on this day, they supposedly brought the eater amazing luck, they never got moldy and could be kept for up to a year. Now, I love me some bread, but even I’d be skeptical about eating a year-old roll. These sweet treats, usually dotted with fruit and spices, are marked with a cross, either slashed into the dough before baking, or drizzled on in icing afterwards. Hence the name.
But why the cross? I found lots of theories about what this means. Some say that they date back to pagan times when the Saxons would offer these rolls to Eastre, the goddess of spring. Others contend that the cross was to represent the four quarters of the moon. Possibly, in later centuries, the Christian church, unable to stamp out ancient pagan traditions, decided instead to “Christianize” the buns by associating the cross with that of Jesus and the shape of the bun was said to represent the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb, while the spices were a reminder of those with which his body was buried.
With the colonization of Australia by England, it’s no surprise that these are as popular Down Under as they are in the motherland. From what it seems, the Ozzies are the ones that made them chocolate, rather just merely spiced, and for that, I give them credit. In my book…chocolate > fruit. Duh.
(Another interesting Ozzie tradition is that of the Easter Bilby. Apparently rabbits are considered pretty horrible parasites. Not native to Australia, they’ve taken over (breeding like rabbits…) and are endangering the natural fauna of the land. Instead, the Bilby has been put forth as the preferable Easter symbol. Oddly enough, it looks like a rabbit. You know, like a rabbit’s cousin.)
The recipe I found I adapted using Not Quite Nigella as a base, swapping out the fruit for chocolate and adding a bit of cocoa.
Makes 9 buns (to fit in an 8 x 8 pan)
1 TB instant dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup milk, lukewarm
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 TB butter, melted
½ tsp cinnamon
1 TB cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate chips
For the glaze:
2 TB sugar
2 TB hot water
For the crosses:
White chocolate chips, melted
1. Mix the yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl. Stir to remove lumps. Set aside for 15 minutes until frothy.
2. In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and mix the yeast mixture, butter, egg, cinnamon, and half of the chocolate chips.
3. Knead the dough for five minutes until elastic and place in a greased bowl covered in cling wrap in a warm area. Leave for about 1-1 ½ hours until doubled in size.
4. Using your fist, punch down the dough and add the remaining chocolate chips. Knead lightly and divide into 9 balls. Place close together on a lined baking tray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F.
5. Bake 20-30 minutes until done. While baking, make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in hot water in a small saucepan.
6. When the buns are cooked, brush with the glaze until it’s all used up.
7. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and spoon into piping bags fitted with a small nozzle. Pipe lines across the buns to make crosses. Serve with butter.
I thought these were only okay, to be honest. I thought they were going to be more like cinnamon rolls, but the dough was neither sweet nor buttery enough. They just sort of tasted like chocolate chip bread. Not bad, but not what I expected.
I leave you with a little ditty, a children’s rhyme for these special treats.
There’s is a children’s rhyme for these special treats:
Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns,
One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns
I have a lot going on this wee, so I’ll be taking a break, picking up with a return to some of my favorite places. It’s my six month roundup! Have a good week!