Good Friday Buns, or ‘Cross Buns’, are now more commonly known as Hot Cross Buns. They are traditionally served on Good Friday for breakfast, and have been for hundreds of years in Christian communities; they are spiced buns, buttered, either warm or toasted, with the cross standing as a symbol of The Crucifixion … see the post The History Of The Hot Cross Bun for more information. These buns are really wonderful toasted for breakfast in the morning, spread with a little bit of butter; the spices are gentle, the ground caraway seeds are perfect in the background and the sweetness of the buns is just right: they come highly recommended.
The Earliest Good Friday Buns: Unlike the modern Hot Cross Bun, where the cross is piped lines of sweet white pastry, the original cross in the Good Friday Bun was simply cut into the bun before baking – a mark made by Bakers since the Medieval era to ward off evil spirits. The earliest Good Friday Buns were also far less richly made than the later evolved Hot Cross Buns, they did not add dried fruit as an ingredient, instead they used ground coriander or caraway seeds (see the next page for an original recipe from 1857); while the main spices used were all-spice, ground mace, cinnamon and nutmeg. On the next page of this recipe is an interesting recipe from a Baker’s Trade Recipe Book published in 1910, these Good Friday Buns are more embellished with candied peel and have mashed potato added into them.
Good Friday Buns Recipe
Currants were added in later Good Friday Bun recipes, but the evidence points to just plain seeded and spiced buns as the earliest type – therefore it is optional to add the currants in. In terms of time and patience a Baker would allow all the time indicated for the yeast to develop at each stage (to let the bread rise) giving a much lighter and more mature bun, try to give each stage the time it requires before moving on to the next stage.
Makes 9 very large or 12 large Good Friday Buns
- Between 1kg and 1.25kg plain flour (depending on moisture of other ingredients)
- 200ml warm water
- 200ml warm milk
- 20g active dried yeast – or 40g live fresh yeast
- 300g natural brown sugar (Demerara)
- 300g butter, melted
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp of coriander seeds, ground fine
- 2 tsp of caraway seeds, ground fine
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- optional: add in 400g currants
For the bun glaze:
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp sugar
In a large mixing bowl add the warm milk and warm water, (both about 30C) and add in all the natural brown sugar, give it a good stir to start to dissolve the sugar, then sprinkle and stir in the yeast.
Leave this for 15 minutes then stir sufficient flour in to make a nice wet batter, (about 300g). Leave this covered with a clean cloth for about two hours in a warm place to rise and became a yeasty ‘barm’.
Grind the spices and seeds in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar – beat the eggs – melt the butter. After two hours give the barm a stir, then add in all the rest of the ingredients: the beaten eggs, ground spices, and the melted butter – then finally stir in the remaining flour. Optional: in later Good Friday Buns currants were added in, if adding put them in now.
Thoroughly mix the dough in the bowl with a wooden spoon until it is a nice, firm, springy dough – add in more flour if necessary – make sure all the ingredients and spices are evenly distributed – finish mixing and bringing the dough together with your fingers.
Once the dough is made, and mixed evenly together, cover the bowl over with the clean cloth again and leave somewhere warm for 2 hours to almost double in size.
After 2 hours take the risen dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently knead the dough for a few minutes. Lightly grease two baking sheets or trays with butter. Roll out the dough into a long, fat sausage shape. Take a very sharp knife and cut the dough into equal sized parts (enough to make one Good Friday Bun).
Roll each bit of dough into similar sized balls. Place each ball onto a greased baking sheet and flatten gently with the palm of your hand – making it into the right ‘bun’ shape. Leave these buns for 1 hour somewhere warm to have their third rise, (a good tip is to seal them in a large polythene bag).
After an hour: a traditional Baker would often cut right through the bun, dividing it into 4 (quarters) – use a very sharp knife and a cutting board – they would then bring the quarters together for the final rise on the baking sheet. As the dough rose for the final time before baking the quarter segments would start to come back together to make the bun, this way, when baked, the cross would stand out clear in the bun.
After cutting in the cross leave the buns for a final 40 minutes then brush over each of the buns with the bun glaze: beaten egg yolk, milk and sugar mixed together.
Preheat the oven to 240C
Put the Good Friday Buns into the oven at 240C and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
After 10 minutes check to see if the buns are fully baked (if not leave another 5 minutes). When baked and golden brown remove the buns and place on a wire rack to cool.
Ideally serve the buns warm the same day they are baked, or keep in an air-tight cake tin for the next day. These Good Friday Buns are excellent warmed up and served cut in half and spread with a little butter – but they are also very good toasted.