April 22nd, 2011
I went to the St. John last Friday, for my usual loaf of brown sourdough bread. I must have been going there once or twice a week for a couple of years, so all the staff are very friendly. Last week one of the girls spent 5 minutes or so telling me how amazing the hot cross buns are and how they take 2 days to make! I’m not big on sweet things, so I bought my bread and headed for home. However, the enthusiasm shown for the hot cross buns stayed with me, so when I went back the following Monday – I was ready to buy one.
The hot crossed buns were all laid out, ready for the oven. I asked for my bread and inquired about the price of the buns. When I was told that the buns cost £2, my jaw dropped, but my nerve held and I asked for a bun, only to be told they hadn’t been baked yet! So I went home, bunless yet again and at home, checked Fergus’ recipe books, to see if there was a hint of a recipe. Of course there wasn’t, but I found a blog with a St. John, hot cross bun review, which shone so brightly I had to try harder.
So, yesterday I went back again and finally got my hot cross bun. Was it worth it? Yes definitely. The bun was heavy and twice the size of supermarket fare. I watched them piping icing on, for the cross – it was thick, the bun was sticky and made of wholemeal flour. I toasted the bun (which is what I’d normally do) and spread butter on it. There as a distinct taste of cinnamon and ginger, but somehow it still tasted like a hot cross bun. The fruit was particularly fruity, and by that I mean it was still slightly moist and nothing like the dried up supermarket rat dropping currants. The bun itself was almost “meaty”, meaning it was heavy and had substance – I don’t now what they put in it, but I felt quite blissful afterwards. Perhaps there was a touch lard in there somewhere (there certainly would have been in the old days).
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and the cross is symbolic of the crucifixion of Christ. There’s also a belief that buns marked with a cross predate Christianity and possibly date back to ancient Greece. The buns themselves, are traditionally, a symbol of good fortune and protection. I read an article recently, where a 61 year old baker (Mick Darlow) mentions that, as a child, his father used to nail the last baked hot cross bun to a wooden beam for good luck.
The St. John is at 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY – Google Map
All the above brings to mind the Tiger Lilies and “Banging in the Nails“.