It wouldn't be Easter without a batch of spiced hot cross buns, they are a Easter tradition and a wonderful treat.
Hot Cross Buns are a sweet, mildly spiced bun containing spices and fruits. The tradition of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday has its roots even further back than early Christianity. Buns marked with a cross were eaten by the Saxons during their spring celebrations - it's believed that the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon's quarters. Christians continued the tradition but to them the cross symbolises the Jesus' crucifixion. At one time there were laws forbidding the sale of hot cross buns at any time other than Easter and Christmas, a law set in by Elizabeth I.
In the nineteenth century they were sold by street vendors who were so commonplace that they inspired a song which has now become a children's nursery rhyme ~
"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
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns! "
HOT CROSS BUNS
400g/14oz strong white flour
7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
50g/2oz caster sugar
150g/ 5oz mixed dried fruit- Currants & candied peel
150ml/5fl oz milk, lightly warmed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
a grate of nutmeg
For the Paste ~ 3 tbsp flour- 2tbsp milk
For the Glaze ~ 1 tbsp caster sugar mixed with 2tbsp milk
Preheat your oven to 200C/180Fan/gas 6
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the dried fruit, sugar and yeast.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs into slightly warmed milk. Make a well in the centre of flour and pour in the egg and milk mixture. Beat the ingredients together to form a soft dough, adding a little more milk if the mixture is too dry.
Transfer onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with tea towel. Leave somewhere nice and warm to rise for about 45-mins - 1 hour until the dough is double in size.
Turn out the dough mixture and knead for 2 minutes, divide into 12 and roll into balls. Place on to a lightly oiled and floured baking sheet. Re-cover with a damp tea towel and pop somewhere warm again to rise for about 35 minutes, whilst you make the mixture for the crosses.
Add the flour to a bowl and slowly beat in the milk until you have a thick paste. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe crosses on top of each bun.
Pop the buns into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes till golden and they sound hollow when tapped underneath. Remove and place on a wire rack.
For the glaze - melt the sugar and milk together and brush over the buns whilst they are still warm. Serve the buns warm with butter or enjoy sliced in half and toasted with lashings of butter...Delicious!
The SIMNEL CAKE is traditionally baked for Easter although it was originally made for the 4th Sunday in Lent known as Mothering Sunday. In olden days, young servant girls who worked away from home were given time off by their masters to visit their mothers on this special day and they would bake a Simnel cake to present to their Mothers as a gift.
‘I’ll to thee a Simnell bring
Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me.’
~ Robert Herrick 1648
Simnel Cake is a lovely light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the centre and on the top. The traditional decoration for the simnel cake is eleven balls of marzipan arranged in a circle on top, these represent Christ's disciples - Judas is left out for obvious reasons :) Also a candle can be placed in the middle of the cake which represents the "light of Christ".
TRADITIONAL SIMNEL CAKE
175g unsalted Butter + extra for greasing
175g light muscovado sugar
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
2tsp ground mixed spice
55g chopped mixed peel
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
3 tbsp apricot jam
Preheat the oven- 150C/300F/GAS 2
Grease and line a 20-cm/8 inch round deep cake tin with baking paper.
Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Use a large metal sppon to fold into the creamed mixture. Stir in the lemon rind, currants, sultanas and mixed peel mixing evenly. Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth level.
Roll out 250g of the marzipan to a 20-cm/ 8inch round and place over the mixture in the tin. Add the remaining cake mixture and smooth level.
Bake the cake in oven for 2 1/4 hours or until firm and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam. Roll out two thirds of the remaining marzipan to a around to cover the top of the cake. Using a knife, mark a lattice design in the surface and pinch the edges to decorate.
Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 small balls and arrange around the edge of the cake. Place under a hot grill for 30 seconds or so to brown lightly. Cool before storing.