Some Lenten cooking and baking traditions have long been part of those our family keeps. We always have pancakes on Fat Tuesday, we always serve lamb for Easter dinner, we only dye our Easter eggs red(my hubby’s Greek and Greeks only have red eggs), we make Aunt Kay’s Easter bread and we enjoy Hot Cross Buns usually the week leading up to Easter but especially on Good Friday.
Looking into the history of Hot Cross Buns, Smithsonian magazine states that it was a 12th Century monk that first marked these spicy, raisin and citrus studded yeast rolls with a cross in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday and they gained popularity around England as an Easter tradition. Up until sometimes in the eighteenth century they were called Cross Buns. According to British Food History, Hot Cross Buns got their name from a nursery rhyme; “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.”
In 1592, Queen Elizabeth I decreed that hot cross buns were too special to be eaten any other day and could no longer be sold on any day except for Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. To get around this, FoodTimeline.com explains that people baked the buns in their own kitchens—although if they were caught they had to give up all of the illegal buns on their premises to the poor. Our family is quite happy that Queen Elizabeth I is no longer able to decree when we can eat these tasty buns but, our tradition is that we only enjoy them during Lent.
Made in a muffin tin, the buns look more muffin than bun but, they still taste wonderfully spicy with citrus and sweet raisins. My grandsons gobbled them up so fast we need to make more soon.
Hot Cross Muffins
Makes 18 muffin buns
- 1 cup milk, scalded
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons water (105F to 115F degrees)
- 2- 2/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 tablespoon grated Mayer lemon zest
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- Stir together scalded milk, sugar, butter and salt and set aside.
- Dissolve dry yeast in 2 tablespoons warm water and let sit till bubbles start to form on the surface, about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Combine milk mixture and yeast mixture in the bottom of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Stir in half of the flour with the paddle attachment then switch to the dough hook to knead in the rest of the flour. Use only enough flour to form a soft dough that can be handled easily.
- Kneed in raisins and form dough into a smooth ball.
- Place in a greased bowl smooth side down, turning to cover the top to keep the dough from drying out too much.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Punch dough down and divide into 18 equal pieces.
- Grease the cups of muffin pan or line with paper muffin cup liners.
- Form each piece into a ball and place in prepared muffin tin.
- Cover loosely re-using same piece of plastic wrap and let rise a second time until almost double in bulk.
- Bake in a preheated 425F oven about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Cool in muffin cups for 10 minutes then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.
- When cooled, decorate with traditional cross using Milk Glaze below.
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons hot milk
- 1/4 teaspoon clear vanilla
- Whisk together until smooth.
- Use a small spoon, a pastry decorating bag, or a zip plastic bag with a corner cut off to decorate muffins with the traditional cross.