Thursday, April 09, 2009

Honey-soaked hot cross buns

The first time I heard of hot cross buns was during a piano lesson. It was early in my (very short) musical career, so I could only play songs that had a few notes all hovering close to middle C. One day, my teacher opened my book to a song called “Hot Cross Buns,” and said, “This is easy. I’m sure you can handle this.” And I could.

Along with the song being easy to play, the lyrics were also simple:

“Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.”

But like most simple yet catchy songs, it stayed in my head and I wasn’t satisfied until a few years later when I finally convinced my mom to make them for our family.

Hot cross buns are a sweet roll served at Easter time. Traditionally, they’re sold and served on Good Friday (hence the song’s lyrics, which chronicle a hot-cross bun transaction in a more-kind economy). My family, however, also ate them also on Easter morning, which is where a bite of one always transports me.

Before we’d go to church, mom would pull out of the oven a pan of these soft buns sprinkled with raisins and cinnamon. After letting them cool for a few minutes, she’d cross the tops with icing and then we’d grab them while they were still warm to the touch.

I’m kind of a fallen Episcopalian, but I still enjoy following the liturgical calendar and observing some of the traditions that accompany each celebration. Of course, hot cross buns can’t be found in the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer, but nonetheless, eating them makes me feel like I’m observing Easter the way that I was raised.

Here is my mom's recipe for hot cross buns. They appear to be a holdover from her granola days when sugar was bad but honey was healthy. No matter, the honey makes them sweet, sticky and soft. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy hot cross buns. There’s evidence that these buns hark back to pagan times, but no matter your religious affiliation, you will agree that hot cross buns are indeed heavenly.

Honey-soaked hot cross buns, from my mom
Ingredients for buns:
1 package of dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water plus 2 tablespoons of water
3/4 cup of milk
½ cup of butter (one stick)
2 tablespoons of honey, plus more for glazing
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
3 eggs
2/3 cup raisins or currants
4 cups of flour (plus more if dough is too wet)

Ingredients for frosting:
1 cup confectioner sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of honey

Combine dry yeast and 1/4 cup warm water.
Warm over low the milk, butter, salt and 2 tablespoons of honey until the butter has melted. (Do not let it come to a boil!) Add to yeast mixture.

Whisk in cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs into the mixture. Add 2/3 cup raisins and slowly add the flour, one cup at a time.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for five minutes until the dough is smooth and resilient.

Let rise covered in greased bowl until double.Then punch down the dough and divide into 24 balls and place, sides touching, in a greased and floured 13x9x2 pan and let rise again. With a sharp knife, cut crosses into each bun.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Glaze with honey (as much or as little as you like) and bake five minutes more. Meanwhile, stir together the confectioner sugar, the honey and the two tablespoons of water to make the frosting. When you take the buns out of the oven, cool for 10 minutes, then cross each bun with the frosting.

Makes 24
(Notes: You can substitute the raisins or currants with dried blueberries, cherries or even chocolate chips. Chopped nuts also make a tasty addition. I also like to add lemon zest and a bit of vanilla to the frosting.

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Anonymous said...

Those look incredible!

I always wondered why a sweet breakfast like hot cross buns was served on Good Friday, which is historically a day of fasting and penance. Anyone know?

radish said...

this looks so good and comforting. wow... and i don't even celebrate easter... hope you have a great holiday!

Lickedspoon said...

These look lovely - I really like the idea of using honey. Few things smell better than hot cross buns when baking in the oven. In England, we usually make the cross from a paste of flour, sugar and milk so it's more like a pastry cross. After baking, I've taken to glazing them with a mixture of brown sugar and milk whisked together with a tablespoon of strained marmalade which makes them wonderfully glossy and sticky.

Vidya said...

What a coincidence! I have my very first batch of hot cross bun dough proving right now. Growing up in Australia, I was taught the "hot cross bun song" at school and we always bought them from our local bakery, but I'm making my own this year. I am not really a fan of the icing cross though - Australians almost always use the flour paste cross described by Lickedspoon - they're less sweet and you can pop them in the toaster as well for breakfast.

Kathleen said...

These sound wonderful. Anyone know about how long they'll take to rise each time? I want to be sure I have time to make them for brunch. Thank you!

lisaiscooking said...

These look incredible! I'm planning to make hot cross buns for the first time this weekend.

Adrienne said...

There are a ton of hot cross buns recipes kicking around the interwebs this week, but yours look by FAR the tastiest. I love the honey, and the song will now be stuck in my head all day. I remember playing it on the recorder in 3rd grade.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--That's a very good question. I think at one point that hot cross buns were made from the same flour as communion wafers, which had been blessed, and that's why it was OK to eat it on a high holy day when you were supposed to fast.

Radish--No need to celebrate Easter to enjoy these buns!

Lickedspoon--I love the idea of using a brown sugar glaze!

Vidya--Wonderful timing indeed! Enjoy your buns.

Kathleen--It all depends on the freshness of your yeast and the temperature of your kitchen, but mine took about an hour and a half for each rise (granted it was 35 degrees in NYC).

Lisaiscooking--Hope it goes well for you.

Adrienne--Awwww, that makes my day. THANK YOU!!! And I agree, it's the perfect song for the recorder, too--so simple.

Homesick Texan's Mom said...

I'd never thought to "cross" the buns before baking.
Certainly would help when the cross icing "melts" after a day or so.
You've taught me!

s. stockwell said...

Oh no!! We just decided to go on a mini diet? This looks so gooey good? we are saving this for later. thanks.

Anne said...

I played that song, too! Even now I can hear it in my head.

I've long wanted to try making hot cross buns, and your recipe just might get me to do it. They look delicious.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Mom--Thanks again for the recipe!

S. Stockwell--They'll still be good when you're done with your diet.

Anne--It is a catchy song, isn't it?

Monica said...

Memories from childhood indicate the theory was the bun reminds of the stone rolled away at the tomb and the cross for protection to the bakers for working on a Holy day/and of the Crucifixion. I have been unable to find that interpretation anywhere on line.

I found the full lyrics and a bit more of the history on these buns here:
Saw elsewhere a failed flour-paste cross attempt became a marzipan cross.

Lovely recipe!

Helene said...

What a great hot cross bun. I never tasted this. Looks really good.

Anne Stesney said...

I totally rocked that song on the recorder. Let's start a band!

I love the use of honey. I'm putting this on my Easter Sunday breakfast menu!

jaxieb said...

YUM. Thanks for posting this, right smack dab in the midst of my severe honey addiction. I attended a class w/the owner of Bee Raw Honey & I've now been eating it straight from the jar. NOTHING like it. I'm going to make this recipe tonight!!

catherine @ said...

That photo is a total drool! Great idea to use honey.

Katie Flanagan said...

I just made these!I only had 2 eggs (but they were biggies) and used maple syrup instead of honey in the dough. I also didn't score them because I didn't want to deflate them. I am just going to cross the cooled rolls with icing (marmalade, powdered sugar and water). I ate the roll from the corner and they are FAB!!!

Tommy said...

Thanks for the recipe. I too grew up with hotcross buns, but sadly, they were the commercial bakery variety and even then tasted vaguely like a hamburger bun with some raisins and spice. The "cross" was baked right in. Like a batter they squirted on the unbaked dough, after cooking it laid on top eerily.

I am going to see my Mom this weekend. Maybe I should humour her and make a batch of these babies and try and get her to guess what they are.

Memoria said...

I agree with Adrienne! These are best buns I've seen hehe! In fact, these are first photos that have tempted me to make them myself. Thanks to you and your mom!

Farmer Jen said...

Thank you for the recipe. I've always wanted to try these.

Kevin said...

Soaking the hot cross buns with honey sounds so good!

Cynthia said...

I just wanna lick that icing :)

Laura said...

The comments re: the honey cracked me up. These look terrific.

Lickedspoon said...

And on a side note, if by some miracle you have any left over,they make a delicious bread and butter pudding...

Denise said...

it would be awesome if you got the recipe for Capirotada!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Monica--Thanks for the link! And I'd never heard that about the tomb before--very interesting.

Helene--They're wonderful!

Anne--We can start a band, but I want to play drums, kay?

Jaxieb--Good thing honey is so good for you!

Katie--Awesome news! I'll let my mom know that you liked the recipe.

Tommy--You poor thing--that sounds dreadful. And you should definitely humour your mom with these!

Memoria--Thanks! If you make them, enjoy!

Farmer Jen--You're welcome. They're a cinch and so delicious.

Kevin--You would not believe how good it is!

Cynthia--It's calling your name!

Lickedspoon--That's good to know (on the off chance, indeed!).

Denise--Go visit Mattbites--he has one and it looks divine.

Rebecca said...

Oh, yum! It is HCB season! I'm a 'fallen' Catholic--but love this treat.

Donna-FFW said...

How in the world have I not found your blog before?? I must be living under a rock.. These look amazing. I LOVE them. Ill need a whole day just to sort through your blog. Nice to meet you.

Kalan said...

I love your blog, the recipes I find in here are always amazing! My mom and I tried to make the buns and I swear I followed your recipe to the T but they came out much denser than I imagine they're supposed to be. The yeast is brand new and worked well making other breads and the water I added was lukewarm, so I wanted to ask if the next time I should let the butter/milk/honey mix cool to room temperature before I pour it in the yeast? Would that affect the recipe too much?

The next time I'll try not to mess up another one of your wonderful recipes! Thank you.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rebecca--Aren't they wonderful?

Donna--Welcome! I look forward to seeing you again!

Kalan--Oh, no! I'm sorry they were too dense. I would definitely make sure that the milk, etc. is cooler, but it is a heavier dough so it might need a slower rise, if that makes sense. Maybe two or three hours instead of the usual one hour.

Anna said...

I just pulled these out of the oven and they were lovely. I used Manuka honey which gave a great flavour. In the past, I've found homemade hot cross buns to be too dense but these were quite light and definately fluffy. I didn't bother letting the milk mixture cool but I let them rise for almost 2 hours. Next time I'm going to add more spices. Delish!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate Easter. You cannot be a fallen's still on your mind, so it's still in your heart. The belief in Christ, how could you ever stop believing....if you ever let Jesus in your heart, He's still there, waiting for you. Happy Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed. Remember that?

Wendy said...

I just had to tell you, I made these on Friday and they were absolutely wonderful! The best hot cross buns I've ever had. This is definitely going to be my go-to recipe for Easter. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Mark Scarbrough said...

Oh, holy cow, I love hot cross buns. Having been reared a fundamentalist child in Texas, I didn't know what Lent was, much less that you got such yummy treats. (We called the Pope "the Beast" and anything liturgical would have been seen as the markings of the Antichrist--but that's a whole 'nother story.) I found and snagged some hot cross buns at Amy's last week. Man, they were good. But maybe, even with Lent over and gone, I can still whip up a batch this week.

Paula Maack said...

I love hot cross buns, and your honey saturated version is irresistibly beautiful. What sumptuous photos, Lisa!

My holiday menu was too full to include these, but I still look forward to trying your recipe, so I can enjoy them with my morning coffee all week long. Yum!

Brightest blessings!

~ Paula

Cakespy said...

It's funny because I have always felt like I've liked the idea and look of hot cross buns better than the taste. But these ones look like they might make me a believer! Yum.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anna--I think the longer rise is key--glad y'all enjoyed them!

Anon--My mom will happy to hear that!

Wendy--Yay! I'm so pleased that y'all enjoyed them!

Mark--I think they're good anytime!

Paula Maack--They're awesome with coffee!

Cakespy--These taste like honey, so if you like honey, you should enjoy these.

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

Mmm I LOVE honey! I bet these are fantastic!

Maris said...

I've never had these but so many people have been posting them - now I feel deprived!

I love your blog, I just found it through Food Blogga and I can't wait to look through your recipe index.

thecatskillkiwi said...

this is the first year i also made hot cross buns! very exciting, took me all afternoon, but i figured hey once a year... your recipe looks much easier!!

Bee said...

I think that we probably had the same piano primer!

I missed out on eating hot cross buns at Easter . . . but I can't wait to try these.

Josie said...

Delicious! Hot cross buns are a favorite in my household so I avoid making them too often, but I think my family deserves a little treat this weekend.


Jess @ My Sweet Gems said...

These look great! I was looking for something different to make for Easter that was more traditional and this is it! Your photo really makes you want to have one.

Anonymous said...

Hot Cross Buns are served on Good Friday because of the same name...they are GOOD; which, by the way, so is GOOD FRIDAY!

Lynn Sulackow said...

I grew up with Hot Cross Buns (I'm from SD and am Lutheran). My Mom always made them during Holy Week so we had them for Good Friday and also for Easter. I'd never made them until a few years ago. I'd find them in our grocery store bakery in Wisconsin.
I will be making your recipe this Saturday so I can bring them to dinner at my friends (they are Catholic). Thank you to you and your Mom for a great recipe.
I run a cheesecake shop/bakery and plan to have these for my customers this weekend.
Happy Easter! Lynn Sulackow

Anonymous said...

I made these this morning. My family really liked them. The bun itself is not really sweet except for the raisins. The sweetness comes from the honey glaze and icing cross.

I encountered problems with the measurements, however. 4 cups of flour wasn't nearly enough. I added at least another 2 cups while needing. Also I added a splash of vanilla to the icing which made it entirely too drippy. I had to add additional powdered sugar to compensate.

One tip -- you can make the cross with a scissors to make it easier.

All in all, the recipe was a winner since it came out as expected. If I get a chance I might try to post a photo. They look great.

Anonymous said...

Wow this recipe looks great! Just wondering whether you can use wholemeal flour and light brown sugar instead just to make it a bit different? Will it need extra time to rise or won't it be the same?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--I'm sure you could, though I've never tried it. Sugar should make it rise faster than honey.

Myrtle said...

I made these today (well yesterday now) for Good Friday treats to give away. They were INCREDIBLE. Thank you ever so much!

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