I’ve been making these hot cross buns for years, and almost every year since I became a Christian I have tried to make them on Good Friday*, when the process takes on layers of meaning that becomes for me a meditation on Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. I find it helpful as a way of focussing me on the amazing message of Easter, as it’s a slow process that gives me plenty of time to think. I hope you find it helpful too! Here’s how it goes:
800g white bread flour
1 tablespoon yeast
3 tablespoons ground mixed spice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
200g candied peel
300ml warm (non-dairy**) milk
200ml warm water
70g vegetable oil
4 tablespoons plain flour
Sugar glaze: 4 tablespoons sugar
The dough tells us a lot about Jesus. First, you put the bread flour in a large mixing bowl. Jesus is the bread of life; His body, broken for us; the grain of wheat that must die in order to grow.
To this, add yeast. The kingdom of God is like a little yeast added to a whole batch of flour to make it rise.
Mix in the vine fruits. Jesus is the vine into which we are to stay rooted; the new agreement with God, sealed with His blood, shed for us.
Add the peel. Fruit and fire of the Holy Spirit.
Mix in the spices. Spices for worship; spices for burial.
Then stir in the sugar. God’s love and mercy to us is an incredible undeserved sweetness.
Mix together the warm water, milk and oil. Jesus is the living water, who washes us clean of all our wrongs, all that separates us from God. Milk is for new life, offered in its place. And oil gives us God’s promised Messiah – the ‘anointed one’.
Stir the liquid thoroughly into the dry ingredients, then knead the dough with your hands by picking it up carefully over the bowl and stretching, folding and twisting it for about 10 minutes. Cover the kneaded dough and set it aside for about an hour to rise. After this, knock the dough back down to its original size. This Jesus, made of all this goodness, was rejected, tortured, abused and beaten.
Divide the dough into 24 equally sized pieces, and shape into rolls by taking each piece in floured hands, holding it in one hand and folding the edges into the middle and pressing them down with the other, all the way around until the roll is a smooth, round shape and feels dense in the centre. Place on greased and floured baking sheets. Leave them to rise again until about twice their original size. Jesus was killed and buried, but He rose again!
Then score crosses onto them with a sharp knife. Heat the oven to a high temperature, 220oC is ideal. Mix the plain flour with just enough water to form a thick but slightly runny paste. Either drizzle this along the scored cross marks using a spoon, or use a piping bag or icing syringe to pipe the crosses on. Jesus was crucified brutally, and stabbed by the officers in charge to ensure he was dead.
Bake the buns in the hot oven until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Meanwhile, make a sugar glaze. Put the sugar in a pan with just enough boiled water to cover it, and heat it gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Once the buns have baked, brush them thoroughly with the sugar glaze and put them onto a cooling rack to cool. The cross and the tomb are empty; Jesus was raised to new life from the dead with the promise that all who trust in Him will also overcome death and be made new! This is worth celebrating!
Serve the buns warm from the oven, or toasted, with plenty of margarine. Freeze any you won’t be eating over the next two days to keep them fresh.
*Yes I know I’m late – I’ve been away, so only got to make my first batch this Easter today! And yes, it’s still Easter for another few weeks 🙂
**I’m vegan, so I tend to make this with soya milk