I remember this holiday from last year. It bugged me then and it bugs me now. I understand celebrating the Hot Cross Bun. It’s a nice pillowy baked good topped in sweet icing and sprinkled with raisin flavor. I get it. They’re good. But why celebrate it now, in September? They are an Easter thing. That’s where the cross comes from on the cross bun. I guess if we draw a cross in icing on hot pastry we are reminded of how Jesus manned up and took one for the team. I’m not exactly sure what the thinking is behind that, but it is a food specifically associated with that holiday. While I’m not opposed to eating anything out of the proper season, my dilemma comes in when it becomes impossible to find a hot cross bun at a bakery – a spot where they know what they are doing and can guarantee you a sweet treat. When you can’t find them in a bakery, it means that I have to make them at home and I’m not great at baking buns. Plus my heart wasn’t in it. It was a long Monday and I just wanted to go easy. I wanted to just buy one at a bakery. But no luck there and so I’d be baking. This is my contention with this whole holiday.
I searched online for the easiest recipe I could find and I found it courtesy of the folks at Pillsbury. It made the buns from crescent rolls, so you really couldn’t get any simpler. I picked up the rolls and some raisins at Clements, then I went home to start baking. You pop open the rolls, tear apart the individual triangles, scoop a few raisins inside each triangle and then roll them up. That was it. Then they go in the oven for about 12 minutes. When they come out, you let them cool and then you ice them with a glaze made from milk and confectionary sugar. When adding the glaze, you mark them with a cross like you are anointing each roll. I like to chant in Latin when I do this to add a little more drama to the process. In truth, I messed up on the glaze and it was a little too liquidy. I think I put in too much milk. It was still sweet and tasty, but my crosses faded away soon after each bun was marked. Even though I was baking these under protest, it really was as easy as pie and simple clean up too.
The rolls were good, but they weren’t quite great. They were crescent rolls which are always enjoyable, but they had a center filled with raisins which I didn’t need. The raisins didn’t really distribute throughout the whole bun – they were just clumped in the center. It also had no element of cinnamon inside which I think it needed. If you are eating clumps of raisins, you need some cinnamon. The icing was good and sweet, but it wasn’t plentiful enough even though I pretty much soaked each bun in my watery mix. It just didn’t taste glazed or frosted. I’d say it was a collection of good flavors but the flavors never assimilated together. Not my best work, but truly my heart was not in it and that will always come out in whatever you are cooking. That’s why you need to cook with love.
The other thing I knew about today was that if I mentioned Hot Cross Buns to Lola, she would immediately turn into Ms. Braggadocio and say how she could play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder. Lola is not usually one for boasting, but she takes great pride in her recorder accomplishments and when her nieces were introduced to the recorder in their schooling, Lola was right there to show them the proper fingering technique. True to form today, when I asked Lola if she wanted a Hot Cross Bun, she told me she could play that tune on the recorder. She even gave me an air-recorder version of the song, singing the tune along with her playing. “Hot, hot, hot. Cross, cross, cross. Bun, Bun, Bun.” It’s a fun little part of her personality – her inner musician. I think she felt like if she had practiced a little more, she may have made a career out of being a professional recorder player – opening up for Kenny G. Those are the dreams that come with every recorder and from every hot cross bun. As far as my baking was concerned however, Lola felt the same as I did – it was a miss. It was all those raisins in the middle that did her in.
I celebrated Hot Cross Buns today albeit under protest. I would have loved to have celebrated this day back in April when Easter was approaching. I’d go to one of those awesome bakeries in Providence and get a fresh bun right from the bakery. I’d buy a dozen to bring to Easter dinner. They’d be good and everyone would be raving about the joy of Hot Cross Buns (while reveling in the resurrection of Christ and all that jazz). That would be appropriate and timely. In September, it’s just weird. It’s like eating candy canes in March or Valentine edible underwear in August. Just the wrong time. Still, I celebrated. I made the buns. I ate the buns. I even learned a little bit about them and the tradition behind them. That will have to do for today. Sometimes that’s all the holiday you can muster. At least I had my professional recorder player playing me out on this one.
Next Up: National Chocolate Milkshake Day