Hot Cross Buns. This mixture is minus sultanas and currants (Mum left these out especially for me!!)
Mum embellished the buns by piping the left over flour paste mix from the crosses, creating an Easter message and a cute chicken and an egg. I was very impressed by Mum’s inventiveness.
A close up of the Chicken and Egg made by Mum. “What came first the chicken or the egg?” said Mum. I wasn’t sure if she was posing a philosophical question or if she was meaning which one she piped first with the mixture. I still don’t know the answer!
I arrived at Mum’s for the Easter Holidays and walked into the kitchen to the welcoming smell of spices in the air as the Hot Cross Buns had recently come out of the oven. I would have liked to have been there to help make these, but since Mum left out the Sultanas and currants especially for me, I guess I can forgive her for going ahead and making them.
Last year when we made this same recipe, Mum took half the mixture and added sultanas and currants, and I left my half plain. Mum likes the fruit but I cannot stand the cooked currants, sultanas or fruit peel. (Why does traditional festive cooking – such as Hot Cross Buns, Simnel Cake, Christmas Cake, and Christmas Pudding have to have raisins, sultanas, and currants?)
Mum and I were talking about the hot cross buns, when with great timing, my friend EJ sent me a text message to say she had just made her third batch of Hot Cross Buns, (one lot was a 17th Century recipe given new life by Mary-Anne Boermans). For the third batch EJ had run out of sultanas and currants and had improvised, replacing them with apricots. Knowing of my distaste for such ‘raisin-like’ fruits (which in my opinion ruin perfectly good foods) she kindly suggested I might like apricots as an alternative.
Mum made her Hot Cross Buns using a recipe that was passed to me from EJ at my workplace (which I will call the Work Recipe). EJ has checked with various other workmates and no-one knows for certain where it originated from – the recipe probably appeared at work in the 1980s and it is possibly from someone who left work decades ago, and is possibly a recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly. Even my oracle of all things historical at work, GS, couldn’t remember where it came from. What I do know for certain is that it is not an Alison Holst recipe. As EJ said, its origin is “lost in the mists of time”. Whatever its origin Mum likes it and has written “really good” on the top of the recipe and has used this for the last three years. But that doesn’t stop her from changing the recipe almost completely (further on I have noted my frustrations with chronicalling this process). This is because Mum also used a second Hot Cross Bun recipe to refer to which is from a More Magazine from the 1980s, and was Mum’s previous favourite Hot cross Bun recipe. Both recipes are stuck into Mum’s recipe Scrapbook number 1, page 28. She then referred to another recipe for the addition of the pan of water placed in the bottom of the oven while the buns are cooking. This is from a Cordon Bleu recipe and is something that Mum does everytime she bakes Hot Cross Buns. Plus, the addition of spices in the glaze comes from somewhere else, but is a standard glaze recipe Mum uses on any Hot Cross Bun irrespective of which recipe she is using.
I have managed to piece all this together, like a jigsaw, and here is the recipe – the way that Mum made it:
HOT CROSS BUNS
1 lb (500g) flour
1 tspn salt
¼ cup sugar (half white sugar and half brown sugar)
2 oz (50g) butter
4 oz (100g) sultanas [optional]
4 oz (100g) currants [optional]
½ pint (300ml) milk
1 oz (25g) fresh yeast or 1 tbspn dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
2 tspn cinnamon
2 tspn mixed spice
1 tspn ground cloves
½ tspn nutmeg
1 tspn allspice
Crumble/sprinkle yeast into a basin with warm milk (blood heat), 1 tspn each of flour and sugar.
Leave standing for 15 minutes.
Sift dry ingredients, rub in butter, add sugar and fruit.
Beat egg and add to yeast mixture.
Combine wet and dry mixes and stir together to form a soft dough. Knead dough.
Place in a bowl and cover (with a tea-towel is good) and stand in a warm place (such as a hot-water cupboard) for 40 minutes to 1 hour until double in bulk.
Turn out and knead well until smooth and elastic.
Cut into 15-16 pieces and knead into a round shape, by pushing thumbs into the middle of the underside of the bun to form a smooth top to the bun.
Place on a greased tray and put in hot-water cupboard for about 10-15 minutes to stand.
Then apply crosses.
Place a pan of boiled water in the bottom of the oven to create steam while the buns bake.
Bake in hot oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes. After 7-8 minutes remove from the oven and apply the glaze then replace in oven for the remainder of the time.
1/3 cup flour
1 ½ tbspn butter, melted
3-4 tbspn water
Stir the butter into the flour, add the water and whisk to a smooth consistency, then spoon into a piping bag.
1 tbspn sugar
1 tbspn milk
½ tspn mixed spice
½ tspn cinnamon
Mix together and baste over hot buns after 7-8 minutes cooking and when brown on top.
A fresh Hot Cross Bun with melting butter….
I found a recipe for a Spiced Honey Butter to spread on the Hot Cross Buns. Mum and I didn’t make this, but I will include the recipe here because it is a nice compliment to go with the spicy buns.
SPICED HONEY BUTTER
200g / 7oz salted butter, softened
1 ½ tspn cinnamon
½ tspn ground ginger
4 tbspn clear honey
Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth.
Now, my job as an archiver/chronicler/cataloguer of Mum’s recipes, became very difficult with this recipe as Mum’s additions and flicking between several recipes turned the whole experience into a cryptic puzzle and I had to try to put the pieces together. This is the way it happened: Mum pointed out the recipe she used in her Scrapbook Number 1, page 28, which is the one from my work. I made sure to ask her what changes she had made to the recipe (as this always happens) and I definitely remember her saying “I just swapped the sugar for ½ brown and ½ white”. She said using all white sugar makes the buns too sweet, so the brown sugar cuts down on the sweetness and gives them a nice colour. I can remember thinking, “Great, I can just type up the recipe and change the part about the sugar. Simple!” But…instinctively I knew that Mum having changed one bit of the recipe, was far too simple. So I asked a few more questions. Which is when the convoluted truth came out. Almost like an afterthought, Mum said “Oh, and I used the spices from this recipe”, and pointed to a separate Hot Cross Bun recipe stuck further up the page in her scrapbook (the More Magazine recipe). “OK”, I said, and noted down the list of spices. I became suspicious here, and wondered about the recipe for the crosses. “So the recipe for the crosses, you used the work recipe?” I asked. “No, that was the other recipe for that”, says Mum. I gave her a ‘look’ to say ‘this isn’t so straight forward after-all . “I did use the work recipe for the glaze”, Mum said almost apologetically So, I sat down and worked all this out. I was thankful it was only two recipes, (not three as with last Christmas’s Christmas Cake). And, just when I thought I had everything all sorted out, “Oh, there was a third recipe”, Mum says. “I used the Cordon Bleu recipe for the water tray in the oven. Oh, and I left the sultanas out because you don’t like sultanas”. This is an example of why I like to be there to see what she is doing and how a recipe comes together. On typing up the recipe, I discovered a few glitches and had to send a flurry of texts to Mum, such as whether she puts spices in the glaze and the crosses – the answer being: “Not in crosses, only in glaze”. Also she did say the recipe for the glaze came from the work recipe, but on looking at Mum’s copy, she has crossed out most of the ingredients and replaced them with others, for example she has crossed out hot water and replaced it with milk, crossed out gelatine, and added in the mixed spice and cinnamon. So I can’t say for sure that the glaze recipe comes from the work recipe, or if Mum made it up, or if it’s from a fourth recipe. What a headache this has been. At least the Hot Cross Buns tasted good! I looked back on what we did the previous year, and I’m not even going to go there, suffice to say there were a few things different about the recipe yet again. Next year I will have to go through this jigsaw again as Mum is going to swap back to the More Magazine recipe and give that another go, as her sister swears by that recipe. I wonder if her sister sticks to the one recipe? I must ask her. Since they are twins, I think I know the answer to that one already.
Since posting this, I have found out that, yes, the glaze was from a fourth recipe. Mum confirmed this (after she had read this blog) by suddenly remembering that the recipe for the glaze comes from a work friend. I must say, I am not surprised at all by this revelation. I wouldn’t be surprised either to find that Mum remembers using a 5th recipe somewhere along the line! Oh, such fun!