Are you ready for a little baking history? Hot cross buns are often synonymous with Easter, but if you’re like me, you likely have no idea why. I did a little research to come up with the answer for you. We’ll start with the basics. A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion and the spices representing those used in the entombment of Jesus. However, the actual origin of these treats appears to be a little hazy. Google the term and you'll find a plethora of theories—that they go back to Roman times, that they are a Saxon thing, and even that they are a pagan rather than Christian item.
Still further references tie them only into the Easter tradition from the Elizabethan era. It is suggested that they were viewed with suspicion by some Protestants and that legal moves were made to restrict their consumption to Easter and some other festival periods. Who knew these buns had such a controversial past?!
With all these theories swirling about, I can’t give you the official origins of these buns—that’s for the historians to battle out. However, I can offer you this delicious recipe which I adapted from Cooking Light magazine. Typically these miniature buns run around are about 270 calories, but this revamped recipe clocks in at an impressive 180 calories per bun. It’s the perfect addition to your Easter meal.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Adapted from Cooking Light
Ingredients for Rolls
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup warm orange juice (120° to 130°)
19 ounces all-purpose flour (about 4 ¼ cups), divided
4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
1 package quick-rise yeast (about 2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 cup warm fat-free milk (120° to 130°)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg white
Ingredients for Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
To prepare rolls, combine the raisins, currants, and warm orange juice in a small bowl and let stand 10 minutes. Drain fruit in a colander over a bowl, reserving fruit and juice.
Weigh or lightly spoon 18.5 ounces (about 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour and pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, salt, and next 5 ingredients (through yeast) in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached; mix until combined.
Combine reserved orange juice, fat-free milk, honey, butter, and 2 eggs in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. With mixer on, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed 7 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add reserved fruit. Knead 2 minutes or until smooth and elastic; add enough of remaining 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking.
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm, dry place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide into 24 equal portions; roll each portion into a ball. Place rolls in muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 tablespoon water and egg white; stir with a whisk. Gently brush rolls with egg white mixture. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden, rotating pans once during baking. Remove from pans; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.
To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Microwave at HIGH 20 seconds or until warm. Spoon glaze into a piping bag and pipe a cross on top of each warm roll.
Heather’s Helpful Hints
Don’t despair if you don’t own a piping bag. Before you run off to the nearest baking store, try this quick fix. Spoon your glaze into a zip-lock plastic bag. Seal the bag and snip a tiny hole in one corner of bag. Voila, you have your own homemade piping bag!