Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Means Hot Cross Buns!

Hot Cross buns have long been a symbol of Good Friday. They are commonly sold in bakeries and supermarkets throughout the Easter season. Each bun has an icing cross on top to signify the crucifixion.
Although they have been a Lenten and Good Friday tradition for centuries, Hot Cross Buns were not always associated with Christianity. Their origins lie in pagan traditions of ancient cultures, with the cross representing the four quarters of the moon. During early missionary efforts, the Christian church adopted the buns and re-interpreted the icing cross. In 1361, a monk named Father Thomas began a tradition of giving Hot Cross Buns to the poor of St Albans on Good Friday.
In years that followed, many customs, traditions, superstitions, and claims of healing and protection from evil and were associated with the buns. In the 16th century, Roman Catholicism was banned in England, but the popularity of Hot Cross buns continued. Queen Elizabeth I passed a law banning the consumption of Hot Cross Buns except during festivals such as Easter, Christmas and funerals.
I actually love Hot Cross Buns... what yeast bread isn't delicious! (although, when I make them, I omit the currants) Here's a recipe to make your own Hot Cross Buns!

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
8 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups currants (I prefer raisins)
Scald milk; add shortening and butter and stir until melted. Cool.Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add cooled milk mixture, the sugar, and vanilla. Dissolve yeast in warm water; add to mixture. Sift together flour and spices. Stir in sifted ingredients, a little at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Stir in currants. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a buttered bowl; turn to butter both sides. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Turn out onto floured board and knead a few times. Shape into smooth balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place balls on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled in bulk. Just before baking, make a cross in top of each bun by snipping dough with scissors. Bake at 400° for about 15 minutes, or until browned. Makes about 3 to 4 dozen buns. Drizzle with Vanilla Icing or Glaze following the cross mark.

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