Happy Easter

hot cross buns

Happy Easter!

I had something different planned for today, but when I went to Bread Ahead to buy my wholemeal sourdough bread this morning, the Hot Cross Buns literally jumped out and bit me! They looked so good (unlike the lackluster ones from supermarkets) having just come from the oven and today is Good Friday – the significant day for hot cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns date back to pagan times and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of dawn and fertility, Eostre – the cross represented the four phases of the moon. It’s not hard to see why the Christians adapted hot cross buns and Eostre for Easter.

It is said that Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas and for burials. Apparently, they were too good for other days. Good Friday stuck and until a couple of decades ago, when the supermarkets arrived, hot cross buns were only sold on that day. Personally, I believe that selling packets of inexpensive hot cross buns (from the week after Christmas) cheapens something special. I thoroughly approve of the fact that Bread Ahead only sell hot cross buns for the month before Easter …though a week would be better!

If you don’t live close enough to buy these special  hand made buns, here’s the Bread Ahead recipe:

To make 12 buns:

250g strong white bread flour
3g salt
40g caster sugar
6g mixed spice
3g nutmeg
30g unsalted butter
40g sultanas
25g mixed peel
30g peeled, cored and diced apple
8g fresh yeast (4 dried yeast)
140g full fat milk

The cross:

100g strong white flour
A pinch of caster sugar
A pinch of fine sea salt


100g caster sugar
50ml lemon juice
100g water

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl. Rub in the butter to make a dusty mass. Mix the yeast into lukewarm milk, add to the dry ingredients and combine. Turn out the dough and knead until it’s nice and smooth. Stretch out the dough into a circle and add the fruit to the centre, fold over. Roll and fold the dough until the fruit is evenly distributed. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the mixture on a lightly floured surface and cut into 12 pieces. Roll them into a smooth balls and place on the tray, leave plenty of room – they will spread out. Cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size.

While the buns prove make the cross mixture and the glaze. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and 100g water until you have a smooth paste, pour into a piping bag with a 4mm plain nozzle.

Put the sugar, lemon juice and 100g water into a small pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the temperature reaches 105°C, about five minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

When the buns have proved, pipe a cross on the top of them and bake for 14-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. After two minutes, brush with the bun glaze.

About Mad Dog

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12 Responses to Happy Easter

  1. Eha says:

    Tho’ I may not make the buns or indeed celebrate the holiday bar enjoy an extra hour’s sleep tomorrow morning as our Summer Daylight time comes to an end – may I sincerely wish you a healthy, peaceful few says . . . hopefully with good food, a glass or two of enjoyable coloured waters and possibly the presence of a friend or two . . . bestest . . .

  2. I’m lucky enough to have a branch of Bread Ahead 5 mins walk from my front door. I’m.a suckered for their jam doughnuts which are the best in London. I’ve not tried their Hot X buns but will nip and buy a couple for tea tomorrow. If I do decide to bake my own I’ll certainly use the recipe here. Happy Easter 🐣 MadDog

    • Mad Dog says:

      Happy Easter Sue!
      I remember a time, 40+ years ago, when Patisserie Valery was a unique tea shop on Old Compton Street, run by two old ladies. The cheapest item on the table cake stands was a custard doughnut, quite lowly in comparison to their beautiful French tarts. Interestingly no one else in London wanted to make them back then. I lament the demise of a very special shop, bought out and turned chain store, now gone bust by overreaching venture capitalists and I find it hard to believe that a cheap doughnut now costs as much as, if not more than, a beautifully made tart or gateaux. C’est la vie – let them eat doughnuts!

      • stefano says:

        I remember pat val about 1994… I guess the old ladies were gone by then, but it was still a fab place.. especially Sunday morning, in a desert soho. just one floor at the time, a rather imperious portuguese waitress, Maria I think, and excellent pastries and good coffee… that such an iconic place was forced to shut down says a lot about humans’ greed
        when they opened the upstairs lever, it was the beginning of the end

        • Mad Dog says:

          It was dark and gloomy, in a good way. They’d bring you a large pot of tea and the relevant number of cups, along with a cake stand. You helped yourself and paid at the end.
          Hopefully Maison Bertaux will weather the current storm.

  3. stefano says:

    Good post. I generally make my HCB, but without the cross…baking another batch right now actually. nice ritual.

  4. Karen says:

    I always enjoyed a hot cross bun and maybe they were special because you only had them once a year. Happy Easter Mad Dog.

  5. Ron says:

    Happy belated Easter MD. Hot Cross buns are not terribly popular at Easter here, but I remember enjoying them in my days living near Canada. But, I can totally relate to how a special dish becomes commercialized and the timing of consumption isn’t honored. Here we have semlor buns which by tradition should be consumed on or close to Fat Tuesday. But now they show up in early January and stay around for months.

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