Monday of the Sixth Week of Lent
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Hot cross buns are a British Catholic tradition. Despite an attempt by Queen Elizabeth I to squash this papist pastry in the 1500s, it has survived down through the centuries.
The ironic thing about its perceived Catholicity is that the hot cross bun started as a pagan offering. When the Saxons settled in England in the 6th Century, they brought their Germanic gods with them from Holstein. Eostre was their goddess of light, whose festival occurred at the beginning of Spring. Eostre herself likely derives from the Vedic deity Ushas, the pre-Hindu Indian goddess of dawn, which welcomed the birds and drove off evil spirits. Ushas is further developed in the vedas as the medium of awakening in people, illuminating the way to Truth.
Ushas -> Eos -> Eostre is also the root of the word Easter, and one of the ways Saxons honored Eostre was to bake little spiced buns with a cross or X on them representing the four seasons or four phases of the moon. Christians absorbed hot cross buns, along with other aspects of the Spring festival, into Easter, turning the cross on top into a symbol of the crucifixion.
The main thing to keep in mind about hot cross buns is that while they are delicious, they aren’t supposed to be overly sweet. Here is a simple recipe for classic hot cross buns. It involves some kneading and it would help to have some experience with baking, to know when the dough is ready, but it’s pretty easy. So, this Good Friday or Easter, consider making hot cross buns, or at least pick some up at a local bakery.
Hot Cross Buns
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm milk (115°)
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 8 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 dash ground allspice
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 teaspoon milk
- In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk.
- Stir in butter, egg, sugar and salt.
- Combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour with the raisins and currants, and mix in the cinnamon and allspice.
- Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and combine them well.
- Slowly add additional flour from the remaining 1-1/2 cups until you have a good soft dough.
- Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Put ball of dough in a greased bowl, and rotate it around so the surface is covered with oil.
- Cover and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it is about doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and make into a dozen balls.
- Place them two inches apart on a greased baking sheet.
- (Optionally, with a sharp knife, cut a very light cross on top of each bun.)
- Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes or so, until doubled again.
- Beat the egg yolk and water and brush over buns.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes at 375° until golden brown.
- While the buns are cooling slightly, combine the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and milk for the icing.
- Put icing in a pastry piping bag and add a cross to the top of each bun. (If they are lined up in a rectangle, you can draw whole rows at a time.)
Fast from from idleness. Take a short stretch or a nice walk during the day.
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