One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! Do you remember the rhyme? Hot cross buns have been around since around the 16th century. No one knows for certain when the tradition began, but around this time in England, bakers were limited by law to occasions when this special dough could be made. Good Friday was one; ‘cross buns’ marked this holy day towards the end Lent.
There are other claims as to the origin of hot cross buns. Some believe people marked their bread with a cross prior to baking to ensure the devil wouldn’t get at the food, while others suggest the hot cross bun originated from the Anglo-Saxon pagan sacramental cakes eaten during the ritual feast to honour their spring goddess, Eostre.
As with most foods bound to religion, the hot cross bun became associated with several superstitions. The Anglo-Saxon pagans believed that the buns would last a whole twelve months before turning mouldy and would often hang them up in the home to ward off fire and evil forces. Sailors would take hot cross buns to sea in the belief they would act as a deterrent against shipwreck whilst farmers deemed them sufficient to protect their grain from rats. Moreover, the buns were said to possess mystical properties that could cure certain illnesses.
Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter food, they’re yeasted sweet buns filled with spices and various fruits such as currants, raisins, and/or candied citrus. They’re decorated with a white cross, either marked right into the dough or etched on top with icing. The buns are best served hot, hence how they received their name.
So history lesson over, let’s skip to the good bit! Did you know you can cook hot cross buns in your pizza oven?! Just follow this great recipe below.
Pizza Oven Hot Cross Buns!
Makes 11 buns
40g unsalted butter
450g white bread flour
1 sachet (7g) instant dry yeast
60g caster sugar
1 egg, whisked
1 tbsp sunflower oil, for greasing
150g dried mixed fruit
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
60g plain flour
2-3 tbsp apricot jam
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and melt in the butter. Mix thoroughly and leave to cool until warm to the touch.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar and mix well to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the warm milk-butter mix, along with the whisked egg. With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients until a rough dough comes together. Tip the contents onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth. We recommend using a dough scraper to handle the dough as it is quite sticky.
Shape the dough into a ball and coat the mixing bowl with sunflower oil. Place the dough back inside and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Leave to rest for an hour in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
In the bowl, add the cinnamon, ginger, and mixed fruit to the dough. Knead with your hands until all the fruit and spice are evenly distributed. Cover and leave for a further hour.
Line your skillet or pan with a disc of parchment paper and oil the sides to prevent the buns from sticking. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 11 equal pieces, weighing roughly 85g each. Roll each piece into a ball and place them into the skillet, leaving a cm of space between each bun. Once the skillet/pan is full, cover and leave it for a final hour to rest.
In a bowl, mix the plain flour with a few tbsp of water until a smooth, thick paste forms. Transfer the mix to a piping bag (or sandwich bag with a corner snipped off) and pipe a cross over each bun.
Fire up your Pizza Oven. If using gas, turn the oven on to high and preheat for at least 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and place the skillet/pan inside to bake in the residual heat for 10 minutes, turning the pan 180˚ after 5 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the oven back on to low. Cook the buns in the flames for an extra 4-6 minutes, rotating the pan every 45 seconds to ensure an even cook.
If using wood, preheat the oven on a low flame until the stone is around 315˚C (600˚F). Place the skillet/pan in the oven and let the pizza cook for 8-10 minutes with the door off, turning the pan halfway. Once the buns are puffed up and lightly coloured, spike the flame with a piece of wood and let the flames colour the crusts for a few minutes on each side.
Remove the skillet/pan and leave to cool slightly while you prepare the glaze. Simply heat a few tbsp of smooth apricot jam and brush over the buns. Once the jam has cooled, tear into your buns as soon as you wish. Delicious cut in half and slathered with butter, served alongside a hot cup of tea. Enjoy!