Hot Cross Buns

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Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a traditional Good Friday treat in England. These buns consist of sweetened bread dough enhanced with spices, citrus peel, and currants or raisins. After baking, the cooled buns are decorated with a cross made from sugar icing.

Among the English a preference for eating hot cross buns on Good Friday can be traced back at least as far as the eighteenth century. In 1733 Poor Robin's Almanack printed the following verse:

Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs With one or two a penny hot cross-buns Whose virtue is, if you believe what's said, They'll not grow mouldy like the common bread.

In the nineteenth century researchers recorded many English folk beliefs concerning hot cross buns. According to these beliefs, these small loaves of bread would neither mold nor decay. Moreover they had the power to cure disease, especially intestinal disease. Some people hung hot cross buns in their homes all year long as a means of protecting the household against illness, lightning, fire, and other misfortunes. Street vendors sold dozens of these popular delicacies on Good Friday, attracting customers with ditties like the following:

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns. If your daughters won't eat them, Give them to your sons; But if you have none of those little elves Then you must eat them all yourselves. (Weiser, 129)

Some researchers suspect that convictions concerning the power of bread stamped with a cross and baked on Good Friday can be traced back to the Middle Ages. During this era, bread baked for distribution during the Eucharist was imprinted with a cross. Some writers assert that in the late fourteenth century the monks of St. Alban's Abbey began promoting the consumption of hot cross buns on Good Friday by distributing buns stamped with a cross to the poor on that day. Moreover, throughout the latter half of the Middle Ages the Eucharist was placed in a special shrine called the holy sepulchre on Good Friday so that worshipers could pray and meditate on Christ's sacrificial death. After the Reformation, a sixteenth-century religious reform movement, this devotional practice declined in popularity. Some researchers suggest that nineteenth-century folk beliefs concerning the virtues of hot cross buns represent a remnant of earlier religious customs such as these.

By the twentieth century English bakeries began to produce hot cross buns throughout Lent. Today the buns can also be found in the United States and other countries to which the English have immigrated.

Further Reading

Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. Lord, Priscilla Sawyer, and Daniel J. Foley. Easter the World Over. Philadelphia, PA: Chilton Book Company, 1971. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.

Web Site

"One a Penny Poker," an article on hot cross buns posted in Devon Life Online, an electronic magazine about life in the English county of Devon:
References in periodicals archive ?
Being a devout atheist, I'm simply quite happy to go along with all this, if it means being able to split a lovely, soft hot cross bun, coax it into life under the grill, and slather it with soft butter .
"I needed something to act as a cushion to put under his neck so I grabbed a pack of six hot cross buns that had come out of his shopping and lifted his head to put it under.
For more details visit the website at or email GUINNESS HOT CROSS BUNS (Makes 26) 440ml tin of Guinness 7g mixed spice 7g dried instant yeast (1 sachet ) 750g strong white flour 125g spelt flour or wholemeal flour 325g sultanas 175g mixed peel 200ml strong hot tea 1 large egg 50g melted butter 50g caster sugar 7g salt Crossing paste Mix 50g plain flour, 50g water, 5g vegetable oil and 1g baking powder.
It adds: ``Where council catering managers are quoted as saying that hot cross buns were not being served,for whatever reason, this was not as a consequence of any council policy.''
If your Easter egg isn't enough to satisfy your chocolate cravings, Aldi's indulgent and rich Belgian Dark Chocolate and Cornish Clotted Cream Toffee Fudge Hot Cross Buns will do the job.
In Liverpool a number of bakers contemplate baking hot cross buns.
COULD this be the North East's oldest hot cross bun? The Rev Francis Wood told readers of his Chronicle column on Monday that the tasty Easter treats are reputed not to go mouldy if baked on Good Friday.
Customers at Sainsbury's in Eltham, South East London, found Cadbury's Caramel Bunnies and MaltEaster Mini Bunnies on the shelves along with hot cross buns in the bakery.
Cherry berry hot cross buns Dry* 500g strong white flour * 180g brown bread flour * 2 sachets dried yeast * Pinch of salt * 80g caster sugar * Tsp Cinnamon * Tsp mixed spice * 150g mixed cherry berries ( or raisins, apricots, prunes, or a mixture of your choice) * Zest of one large lemon * Zest of one large orange Wet* 80g melted butter * 175ml warm milk * 175ml warm water * 1 free range egg To make the crosses * 100g strong white flour * Pinch of salt * 25g melted butter * 125ml of warm water The sticky glaze * 75ml water * 1 tbs caster sugar * Pinch of cinnamon Method: * To make the buns, combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Other best sellers included hot cross buns and luxury toiletries such as ranges from Cath Kidston and Neal's Yard.
Every Easter, I'm the one who ensures we get our hot cross buns just right, adding the finishing cross on the top."