Every year on Ash Wednesday my mom makes hot cross buns. I’m not sure when this tradition started, or where her recipe originally came from, but I have many memories of these delicious breakfast treats throughout the years. It occurred to me last night that I had never made them myself, and I couldn’t remember watching my mom make them either. This seemed pretty strange, since I have tons of memories of making all kinds of baked goods with her–especially pie. But then I realized that she probably made these on Mardi Gras after I went to bed so that they would be ready for breakfast on Ash Wednesday, so I was probably sleeping while these were being created.
I was a little worried about making these since they involve yeast. For some reason yeast breads intimidate me–perhaps all the lectures during Microbiology 101 about the exact living environment requirements needed for these little guys to do their thing makes me over-think the whole process. But I did have an ace up my sleeve which comforted me–Mom was just a phone call away. I got nervous when I thought the dough wasn’t rising enough–especially when I discovered that my 3 year old had poked his little fingers into it–but after a reassuring call to Mom I gave it more time and everything went fine.
I came across this neat saying when I was doing a little research about hot cross buns:
“Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be.”
I had my two boys share theirs in hopes of increasing their peaceful interactions with each other. And since I’m sharing them with you, that makes us friends too.
Hot Cross Buns (my Mom’s recipe)
- 1 package dry yeast
- 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- vegetable oil (for greasing the bowl, dough, and cookie sheet)
- In a small bowl combine the yeast and warm water. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan heat the milk until it is scalded (reaches 180 degrees F, or just before it boils). In a large bowl combine the scalded milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and raisins. Let it cool for 5 minutes (until it is lukewarm). Add the yeast mixture and eggs and stir until combined.
- Sift the flour onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Measure 2 cups of the sifted flour and add it to the yeast/raisin mixture. Stir in the melted butter. Gradually add in the remaining 2 cups sifted flour and gently stir to combine. (The dough will be very sticky at this point.)
- Grease a medium-sized bowl with the vegetable oil. Add the dough to the greased bowl. Pour a little bit of oil onto the dough and use a paper towel to coat the entire top. Place a piece of wax or parchment paper over the top of the dough and refrigerate for 10 minutes (this will make the dough easier to handle).
- Turn the rested dough out onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Use a knife to cut the dough into 12 equal portions.
- Grease a cookie sheet with a bit of vegetable oil. Shape each of the 12 portions into a ball and place on the cookie sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place to let rise for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the kitchen towel from the cookie sheet. Bake the hot cross buns for 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a minute after removing from the oven, then finish cooling on a rack.
- Prepare the powdered sugar frosting (see below) and mark each bun with a cross of frosting.
Powdered Sugar Frosting
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. If the mixture is too thick to spread easily, add a little more milk.
Makes: 12 hot cross buns
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Notes: I have found that one of the best places to let the hot cross buns rise is to place the cookie sheet near the stove while you preheat the oven. If you are wondering how much the dough should rise, check out the last three photos posted above. The first one shows the hot cross buns right after I cut them, the next photo shows them after the hour of rising, and the last photo shows them after they were baked. I also want to suggest applying the frosting when the hot cross buns are still slightly warm because it makes the frosting spread a little easier.