Here’s what I don’t understand about Hot Cross Bun Day: why is it celebrated in September? It’s an Easter food (hence the cross on the bun). Apparently, back in the good old days, you were only allowed to eat plain buns throughout the Lenten season but once Good Friday rolled around, you could break out the dairy products and the icing – which is where the cross on the buns come in. Why then do we celebrate their day in September when you can’t even find a bakery that’s making them? They are an Easter treat. Just one of the peculiarities of these national days.
I learned that Hot Cross Buns are also steeped in superstition. One tale of lore encourages keeping a hot cross bun for medicinal purposes and you give a piece of it to someone who is ill and it is said to help them recover. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. These are some magic buns (which coincidentally is also what Lola calls me).
I found my recipe once again from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond who is really starting to grow on me. She puts recipes in simple terms and easy to follow instructions and she has videos to support her fancier moves. Fortunately, I had most of everything I needed on hand to make them (except for some yeast and raisins which I had picked up on Saturday). The recipe is pretty simple and I had the first part of the dough made and rising inside our Le Creuset dutch oven in no time.
I am not a huge fan of working with dough. It’s messy. It takes up your whole kitchen. It feels like it takes up your whole day too, especially after tidying up. I struggled through. I guess once you are rolling out the dough and you can start to see your progress there is a small feeling of accomplishment, but overall, dough is not easy. I rolled mine out, added the spices, sugar and raisins, folded the dough over and repeated. Then I had to make ping pong sized dough balls and place them on sheet pans. I washed them with egg whites and than into the oven they went. They came out about 20 minutes later. Meanwhile, I made an icing (which felt more like a glaze) which I would use once the buns cooled.
When all had cooled, I made the cross on one of the buns but I realized the best part of these buns is the icing and the cross does not give you enough of the icing to make it worthwhile. I decided to branch out and glaze the whole top with the icing. Again, I think I made the icing so that it was not thick enough. Had it been thicker, the cross on the buns may have been sufficient. But because what I had was a glaze, covering the top was the best move to make. So in truth, I didn’t actually make hot cross buns. I really just made buns with icing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
They came out pretty good, if you like glazed things. Lola and I enjoyed a couple in the afternoon while watching a little Sunday football. They were a nice little treat and actually a good little size too – sometimes a giant pastry can be intimidating. I made a ton of them – not on purpose, the recipe just yielded that many – so I put the word out to the sisters if anyone wanted some. We ended up trading with Becky for a platter of Buffalo Chicken Dip, which is a pretty good trade if you ask us.
I still had a bunch of buns left over so I packed up about a dozen into a plastic container and I drove them over to the fire station here in Portsmouth. Today was also Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the events of 9/11, so I felt I needed to keep that within my celebration today. I think 9/11 was on the minds of everyone today. Maybe not in the forefront of our thoughts, but the memories of the fear and unknowingness of that fateful Tuesday was still lingering. It was fifteen years ago but like with any grief, we all drift back there when we see those haunting images from that terrible day.
The fire station was pretty quiet today (as it should be for a Sunday afternoon). They had parked all the fire tucks out in front of the station house and the ladder truck was extended with an American flag hanging from it. They also had a little memorial out in front of the trucks with a wreath and a set of fireman boots, helmet and coat as a reminder of those who lost their life that day in the line of duty. I’m sure that today is always a somber reminder for every person who works as a first responder and to their family about what’s at stake every time they go to work. It felt good to share something with them and just to say thanks for all they do.
Next Up: Chocolate Milkshake Day