As a child I used to sing the song, “Hot Cross Buns” while jumping rope or skipping around the block. “Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, hot cross buns! If you have no daughters, give them to your sons. One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, hot cross buns.”
Today is Good Friday and on this day the bells are silenced. In France the children are told that the bells have flown to Rome to return only on Holy Saturday. In Italy on Good Friday children are even warned not to laugh while playing, because of the solemnity of the day. In certain places this day is observed by so strict a fast that it is often called the Black Fast, because many do not eat at all until sundown. However, one article of food is intimately associated with and eaten on this day, and that is the Hot Cross Bun.
Hot Cross Buns originated in England, and more than one nursery rhyme and ballad contain references to them. Saffron plays a part in the better-class English Hot Cross Bun, but as a rule they are small and plain, well browned and with icing on top in the form of a cross.
1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Cup Warm Milk
5 Tablespoons Softened Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Large Beaten Eggs
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
3 1/2 Cups Unbleached Flour
3/4 Cup Dried Currants
3 Tablespoons Milk Mixed With 3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cold Milk
1 Cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
In a small size bowl mix the yeast with 4 tablespoons of the warm milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a medium size bowl combine 4 tablespoons of the softened butter and brown sugar. When the yeast looks frothy stir it into the butter and brown sugar mixture. Add the beaten eggs. Add the nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Add the remaining warm milk and mix well. Beat in the flour one cup at a time until a soft ball of dough can be gathered together. Place the dough on a floured work surface and lightly knead in the currants, adding more flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Kneading should take no more than a few minutes. Grease a large size bowl with the remaining butter. Place the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to butter all sides. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. The dough should be doubled. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch the dough down and then divide it in half. Next divide each piece in half again. Divide each portion of the dough into six equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place the balls of dough onto the parchment lined baking sheets leaving 2 inches between them. Set aside and cover lightly with tea towels or waxed paper for 1 hour. The dough should double in size. Preheat your oven to 400º F. Carefully slash a cross into the top of each bun using a sharp knife. Cut through the skin of the dough at least 1/4 inch deep. Try not to compress the bun as you cut. Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until they are lightly browned. Just before they come out of the oven bring the milk and sugar mixture to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the buns are done brush them with the milk and sugar glaze. Allow the buns to cool for 30 minutes and then serve them while they are still warm. If you have not cut the cross into the tops of the buns the cross can be applied with the icing. The buns must be completely cooled before the icing is applied. To make the icing: mix the powdered sugar with the cold milk and lemon juice. Using the handle of a spoon or chopstick spread the icing to form a cross on top or to fill the cross shape cut. Makes 24
Victoria’s Classic Haroset (Charoset)
My Classic Haroset is sweet with raisins and cinnamon. You can vary the nuts by using pecans, hazelnuts or a combination. Make sure to use Gala, Braeburn or Jonagold apples. Don’t use Red Delicious because they are too bland.
3 Large Peeled, Cored & Sliced Apples
3/4 Cups Toasted Walnuts
1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Kosher Sweet Concord Grape Wine
Preheat your oven to 350º F. Place the walnuts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put into the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the toasted nuts and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine the apples, walnuts, raisins and ground cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the wine. Cover and put into the fridge for 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to serve remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Taste and add more cinnamon or wine if you like. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
Ciambellone or Italian Easter Bread is a ring shaped cake is lightly sweetened and flavored with lemon zest and sometimes dried fruit. Romans like to serve it for Easter breakfast.
4 Cups Unbleached Flour
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Milk
¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
½ Cup Softened Butter
½ Tablespoon Baking Powder
Powdered Sugar For Dusting
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the flour on your work surface creating a well in the center. Alternating, add the dry and wet ingredients to the well. After each ingredient is added mix well with your fingers or a fork. Add more flour if needed to make the dough workable. Knead the dough until it is smooth. Shape the dough into a ring. Beat the egg lightly with water. Brush the top of the ring with the egg wash. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. If you want your ring to be perfectly uniform then you can use a springform pan with the center insert. This will allow you to have a picture perfect ciambellone. Dust the ciambellone with powdered sugar or you could use colored sugar as a topping. Serves 8