Hot Cross Buns are now sold almost since Christmas ends, which I think is a shame, but traditionally Good Friday was the day to bake and eat them. They were reminders of Christ's death upon the Cross, and an ending of Lent.
The traditional rhyme goes:
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If your daughters do not like them
Give them to your sons;
But if you haven't any of these pretty little elves
You cannot do better than eat them yourselves.
The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes notes that:
This was formerly a street cry, as mentioned, for instance, in Poor Robin'sAlmanack for 1733:
Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns.
Hence it became a calendar folk-chant, customarily sung by children on Good Friday, when the hot cross buns are eaten for breakfast. The song is now remembered in the nursery throughout the year, and often accompanies the game in which the hands are placed flat in a pile, and the lowest removed and placed on the top, and so on.
Here is a recipe from San Francisco Baker Fran Gage, for hot cross buns with fresh orange fragrance and spice overtones. You'll need to prepare the fresh candied orange a few days before baking.
Hot Cross Buns
3/4 cup candied orange (recipe follows)
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 |degrees~)
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and cloves
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1/3 cup dried currants or raisins
Prepare candied orange 24 hours to 2 weeks ahead according to recipe instructions, following.
In large bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, or in another bowl, sprinkle yeast over water; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
In another bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside.
To yeast mixture, add milk, egg, and butter. Gradually add 2 cups of the flour mixture. Beat with a mixer until stretchy, or by hand with a heavy spoon until dough is thoroughly moistened and stretchy, about 5 minutes.
To knead with a dough hook. Add 1 more cup of the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until incorporated; then beat on high speed about 5 minutes. Add remainin flour mixture, candied orange, and currants. Mix on low speed until fruits are worked into dough, about 2 minutes (use a rubber spatula to mix fruit into doug if necessary). Remove hook; leave dough in bowl.
To knead by hand. Before kneading, add remaining flour mixture, candied orange, and currants to bowl; stir until dough is evenly moistened. Scrape dough onto a floured board; coat lightly with flour. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding just enough flour to prevent sticking, about 8 minutes. Return dough to bowl.
After kneading, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled about 2 hours.
Punch down dough; spoon onto a floured board. Add flour as needed to knead doug into a soft rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each rectangle into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, pulling dough to bottom to form a smooth top. Place on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets (each 12-by 15-in.). Loosely cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 30 minutes.
Bake in a 400 |degrees~ oven until buns are browned and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom, about 20 minutes (switch pan positions halfway through baking). Cool on a wire rack. When just warm to touch, cross each bun with desired topping (directions follow). Serve warm or cool.
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