Hot cross buns!  Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,

Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

Do you remember this nursery rhyme from your childhood? Have you ever eaten a hot cross bun?  What exactly is a hot cross bun and why do we still hear about them at this time of year?

History is a bit sketchy on their origins, but tradition has it that a 14th century monk, Brother Thomas Rocliffe from St. Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire, England, would give spiced sweet rolls marked with a cross to the poor on Good Friday. The first recorded references appeared in the late 1700s as part of a London street merchant’s cry, one that sounded a lot like our nursery rhyme!

Today hot cross buns are often served on Good Friday or Easter, marking the end of the season of Lent, with the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the spices representing those used to embalm Jesus’ body at his burial.

Cookbooks from the 18th and 19th century regularly include recipes for hot cross buns.  Here’s Fanny Farmer’s version from her famous 1896 cookbook:

Hot Cross Buns

1 cup scalded milk
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup raisins, stoned and quartered, or ¼ cup currants
½ yeast cake dissolved in ¼ cup lukewarm water

Add butter, sugar and salt to milk; when lukewarm, add dissolved yeast cake, cinnamon, flour, and egg well beaten; when thoroughly mixed, add raisins, cover, and let rise overnight.  In morning, shape in forms of large biscuits, place in pan one inch apart, let rise, brush over with beaten egg, and bake 20 minutes; cool, and with ornamental frosting make a cross on top of each bun.

To adapt this recipe for today, you will probably need to substitute dry yeast, since cake yeast is difficult to find.  Add one package of dry yeast (do not dissolve it in lukewarm water) directly to the milk mixture while the milk is still hot.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and bake 12-14 minutes.  You can also simply cut a cross in the dough before baking instead of adding a frosting cross after baking.  Enjoy!

Wishing you and your family and beautiful and blessed Easter.  Christ is risen!