One a Penny, Two a Penny: Hot Cross Buns

by Laura on August 22, 2011

in Bread, Recipes, Spring

You may remember the song from your childhood, and may even sing it to your children now, but the practice of eating spiced buns on Good Friday dates back to Tudor times in England, when a London bylaw made it a crime to sell such buns on all days except Good Friday, Christmas, and at burials. The cross that appears on top, in remembrance of Christ’s cross, was noted in Poor Robins Almanack (1733),which reads “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns.”

If you haven’t already made your hot cross buns, here is an easy enough recipe from the Williams-Sonoma library of cookbooks.

Hot Cross Buns


  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp golden brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cup into small pieces
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup milk and ½ cup sugar heated to bubbling for glaze

Pour the lukewarm milk into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast and ½ cup of the flour. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine 3 cups of the flour, the salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Stir in the yeast mixture.

Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding flour as necessary. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes; knead by hook until dough is not sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, 6-7 minutes. The dough will be soft.

For m the dough onto a lightly floured  work surface, roll the dough into a log 9 inches long. Cut into 18 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a ball. Arrange the balls, well spaced, on the prepared sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes. Preheat an oven to 40 degrees F.

Place a shallow pan of boiling water on the oven floor. Using a sharp knife, slash a cross 1.2 inch deep on each bun. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and immediately brush with the hot glaze. Serve slightly warm.

Makes 18 buns

Source: Williams-Sonoma Breads, Time-Life Books, 1996.


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