Bite into a bit of food history with the hot cross bun, which is popular throughout the year despite its close links to Easter

Hot cross buns are traditionally associated with Easter celebrations, and are served for breakfast on Good Friday. Food history experts suggest that in Medieval England, the buns, made with currants and raisins and flavoured with cinnamon powder, were marked with a cross by bakers to ward off evil spirits that they believed could make the bun go stale.

With the advent of industrialised food preparation, the appetite for these spicy buns seems to have grown as well. Millions of hot cross buns are sold in the run-up to Easter in countries such as Britain, Australia and the United States. Sales of the bun in a host of new flavours are pretty robust throughout the year in spite of its religious symbolism.

Here in India, we are introduced to hot cross buns through the nursery rhyme (also a leftover of the British Raj), with the catchy ‘one-a-penny, two-a-penny’ line that is followed by the exhortation to give them to your sons if you have no daughters.

Bakery chef Suresh Kumar of Hotel Grand Gardenia in Tiruchi shares his recipe for hot cross buns. We may be a day late for Good Friday, but the buns still taste great with jam and butter.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

Flour – 1kg

Sugar – 150gm

Salt – 20gm (or to taste)

Milk powder – 50gm

Butter – 100gm

Yeast – 25gm

Water as required

Dried fruit and nut mix

Cashews, raisins, tutti-frutti, orange peel, ginger peel, finely chopped – 200gm

Cinnamon powder – 15gm

For the cross

Maida – 2 tablespoons

Water as required

Method

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and ferment it.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, milk powder and butter with around 50ml of water and the fermented yeast and knead to get a smooth dough that springs back when you press a finger into it.

Next, add the dried fruit and nut mix and flavour with powdered cinnamon to the dough. Leave the dough to double in size in a moist and warm place. Knock out the excess air after the dough has risen, knead and shape into buns of required size.

Once the dough has risen again, make a liquid paste of maida and water (idli batter consistency) and pipe a cross on the top of each bun.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in an electric oven (200 degree Celsius for bottom, and 180 degree Celsius for top). Remove when buns are evenly browned on both sides.

Makes 23 medium-sized buns.