[Editor’s Note: The following recipe is from the “Cooking for Christ” cookbook. You can purchase a copy of the cookbook here.]
“A variation of Lenten bread, famous in song and story, is the hot cross bun. You can still find them in bakers’ windows around the beginning of Lent. I have often thought of how many more would be bought and sold if that baker would hang a tray of buns around his neck and set forth in his apron and high hat down main street singing:
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters
Give them to your sons.
With all our modern marketing methods, we lack color and tradition. Imagine a little boy yearning for a hot cross bun that a radio announcer described as “Um-m good.” Hot cross buns are Freddie’s specialty and he will guarantee to consume more than any two other people in the house. As long as he makes them, he can eat as many as he wants.”
Makes 18 to 20 buns
2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled
4 to 6 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cake yeast or 1 package dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
¼ cup shortening
1 cup dried currants or raisins
1 egg beaten with 1tsp water
Confectioners’ sugar icing (see recipe below)
Combine milk, shortening, sugar and eggs. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. When it bubbles, add yeast to milk mixture. Stir in 4 cups flour, and using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the dough hard. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Stir in the currants. Cover the dough, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Shape the dough into buns, and cut each top with the mark of a cross. Set aside on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the tops of the buns with the beaten egg.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven, and cool completely before decorating with the crosses.
Icing for Crosses
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk, or more as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix the ingredients together, and scoop them into a plastic bag or a pastry bag. Push the icing down to one corner, and snip off a small piece of the bag. Squeeze out the icing in a “cross” shape onto the top of each bun. Set aside to firm.