Hot Cross Buns , Hot cross Buns – the nursery rhyme and the beginning
I was writing another article on Easter when I tumbled upon this. I came upon these lines and floodgates of memories opened up, drowning me in emotions.
Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!
I am speaking of a time when LP record players were slowly fading into oblivion. There was a looming threat of technological advancement on cassette players or tape recorders, as we used to call them popularly. We also had one. A much treasured one. A National Panasonic cassette player with recording facility and my enthusiastic Baba had got a mike for recording too. When I was 4 or 5, this was one of the poems which I had learnt and Baba had recorded it. It was only half spoken words, with almost no understanding of the meaning but a lyrical recitation. For ages, the cassette stood proudly amongst Debabrata Biswas, Suchitra Mitra, Kishore Kumar and other stalwarts. Till I was ten or eleven, Baba Ma used to play this cassette at times, reminding me of my childhood and how sweet I was. None of the relatives were spared too. With time and advancement of technology, the cassette recorder found its place in the storage room by the side of the LP player, who had a smirk on its face towards it. Who had said Life is a complete cycle? The cassettes became meaningless. Eventually I threw them off. I threw them off as a son. Now, as a father, I realise what sentiments it had to Baba. We archive Tugga and Brishti’s recordings on cloud. Will cloud also give in to something else someday?
Hot Cross Buns and back to baking
I was writing about Bengali food last week and had a memorable lunch at Ekdalia Rd with Pritha di. It had been long since I had baked a bread or baked anything. I didn’t want to let go of this opportunity. Baker friends on social media assured that Hot Cross Buns can be handled with elan.
Simnel Cake to Hot Cross Buns
Let’s do a root tracing here. It’s said that English Hot Cross buns are inspired from the French version of Simnel cakes. The French version of the Simnel cakes were like muffins decorated with sugar crosses on top. The last round of reverse tracing pops up the question of what is a Simnel Cake? When I posted a proud ” award winning” moment pic with the first batch in social media, Madhulika Dash, a fellow food writer commented – I took away all the surprise of her Easter Column. As per her latest, Simnel cakes are the first recorded English cakes and an Easter essential too. The Easter simnel cake was like a pastry which was filled with fruits and glazed with eggs and over time and evolution, it was in the 19th century that Simnel got the icing and and traditional marzipan eggs came to adorn the same. You can read her article here
Hot Cross Buns in Pakistan
Easter is symbolized with Hot Cross Buns across the globe. JC Misquita Bakery in Karachi which opened up in 1858, sells more than 2000 buns with customers queuing up as early as 3 AM. They have other Easter goodies like marzipan balls, easter bunnies, easter eggs but it’s the hot cross buns which are the most coveted. I wonder how the Hot Cross Buns would taste from Jan Bakers or other bakery stores from Kashmir.
You can find my story on Jan Bakers here
How are Hot Cross Buns different from normal breads
You may have heard this before, may hear it again but these are always helpful –
- Unlike normal bread, there is an egg in this recipe and you break in the egg at the initial stage before folding.
- The butter needs to melt in the milk, after that the butter infused milk has to be brought back to room temperature. This is a crucial stage where, if the temperature is not lowered enough, you may end up having scrambled eggs in the midst of a heap of flour
- We didn’t have mixed peel, we used orange zest. After the first proving, when the dough has risen enough, the fruits need to be mixed into the dough well
- One of the challenges will be to make equal pieces of dough for the buns. Don’t let the fun of creation get lost in the process of perfection.
- The jam for glazing needs to be one of those with less chunky bits and can melt and give more liquid to glaze.
- The glazing needs to be done when the breads are hot
Last bites of Hot Cross Buns
Most of the time, when we shoot a food, Tugga hovers around if he is at home. He is the first one to taste the food, as the instant/ anytime hunger pang hits him, whenever he is in the vicinity of food. I couldn’t resist clicking him and quickly, because the entire batch was in danger. If by chance, he gets going like Dre Russel, then no one can stop him.
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Hot cross buns
For the Buns
- 300 ml Milk
- 50 gms Butter see notes
- 500 gms strong bread flour see notes
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 cup Caster sugar
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 no Egg
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100 gms raisins, preferably black see notes
- zest of one orange
- 1 no apple
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
For the Cross
- 75 gms plain flour Plus extra for dusting
- 6 tbsp water
For the Glaze
- 4 tbsp strawberry jam see notes
- Boil the milk in a sauce pan and turn off the heat. Then add the butter and stir to melt it in the hot milk. Keep it aside to cool down while you measure out rest of the ingredients.
- In a large mixing bowl, take the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and mix it. Then make a well in the centre.
- In a separate bowl, whisk an egg lightly and add this to the centre of the well. By this time the milk should have become luke warm. You have to make sure the temperature has come down or else the yeast will not work. Keep the milk under the fan in required and start with the egg only when the milk has more or less cooled down. Again, do not use completely cold milk. That won't work either.
- Add the like warm milk to the centre of the well. Using a spatula, mix it and bring the dough together. It will be very sticky.
- Dust a work surface with normal plain flour and tip the dough out on that. Using the heel of your palm, start working on the dough. Pull and fold repeatedly till you get a smooth and elastic dough. You will need to continue dusting with flour while kneading since this dough is quite sticky.
- Keep it in a well oiled bowl and cover it with an oiled cling film so that a skin doesn't form on the dough surface. Keep the bowl undisturbed in a warm place of the kitchen, preferably next to the gas or oven. for an hour to let it rise.
- In this time, grate the zest of one orange. Measure out the sulatanas or raisins. Peel the apple when it is almost an hour of the rise of the dough. Chop it into small pieces.
- After an hour, the dough would have almost doubled. Add the raisins, apples and cinnamon powder on the dough while it is inside the bowl. Fold these into the dough, incorporating everything and distributing it at every inch of the dough. The apples and raisins may pop out but stick them in.
- Once that is done, again cover it with a well oiled cling film and keep in a warm place for another hour.
- After an hour, dust a work surface and tip the dough out. Cut it into 16 equal parts and start making round shapes to each part. Line two baking trays with parchment paper and place each dough on the tray. Keep space in between the doughs for them to rise.
- Keep the trays again covered with an oiled cling film and in a warm place for an hour.
- In the meanwhile prepare the flour for the cross. In a bowl take the flour and add water one tbsp at a time and mix it. Pour this into a piping bag with a small nozzle and keep aside.
- Once an hour is over, remove the cling films and pipe the flour acroos the rows and then the coloumns to make crosses on the doughs.
- Place them in the centre of a preheated oven at 220 degree C for fan and 200 degree C for 20 minutes or until they are golden.
- For the glaze, just warm the jam lightly till it loosens up. While the buns are hot, glaze the tops with the jam using a pastry brush.
- Serve the buns warm .
- I have given a few measurements in gms and few in cups. Everyone doesn't have a measuring scale at home. SInce butter is availble in 100 gms pack, you can simply cut it into half for 50 gms.
- You will get bread flour, also known as bakery flour at any shop where they sell bakery ingredients (even big basket).
- Bread flour is also available in 1 kg or 500 gms packet.
- I did not have sultanas but had black kismis and black currants. Mixed them together to make irt 100 gms. You can up it to 150 gms as well.
- If you have mixed peel, use 50 gms of chopped mixed peel and 75 gms of raisins.