Good Friday

Many of us grew up singing the song “hot cross buns.” However, did you know that hot cross buns were tied to Good Friday? The tradition from the United Kingdom and Ireland is to make a sweet bun that is marked by a cross to remind us of Good Friday. Sweet spices are used to remind us of Jesus’ burial. Hot cross buns have a long history and are cherished by the people. They were thought to be almost medicinal, curing many aliments, even protecting ships at sea from storms.

Good Friday is a fast day, so traditionally these buns would not have dairy products or other items from which they were fasting. With many other foods given up for the special day, some would only eat the buns for their nourishment. Others prepare the buns on Friday to eat on Easter Sunday. Because Holy Communion is not celebrated on Good Friday, the buns often took on a deeper spiritual, almost sacramental significance. The cross on top of the bun, made of a lighter dough (or icing), points to the central theme of the day. 

Good Friday is a day of darkness when Christians remember that Jesus went to the cross and died. It is a day of mourning and contemplation. It’s a day where each of us should make a spiritual journey to cross—where God met humanity in sin and death.

The old spiritual helps take us to that deeply spiritual place.

Where you there when they crucified my Lord?
Where you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oooo, Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Where you there when they crucified my Lord?

Christ Carrying the Cross by El Greco; 1580; oil on canvas; 105 cm × 79 cm (41 in × 31 in); Housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

For the Dough:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast (preferably not RapidRise or active dry)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup cold milk, any percentage
2/3 cup cold plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons candied orange peel
1/4 cup dried apricots or other light fruit, diced
1/3 cup dried cherries or other dark fruit, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

For the Egg Wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream

For the Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/3 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour and whisk to combine. Heat the 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the butter starts to bubble. Remove the butter from the heat and stir in 1/3 cup cold milk and 2/3 cup cold plain Greek yogurt. Add to the bowl with dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula until a dry dough has formed.
  2. Turn the stand mixer on low speed and knead until a sticky dough has come together, about 1 minute. Continue kneading for 6 minutes more. Increase the speed to medium-low and continue kneading for about 10 minutes longer until the dough is nice and elastic. Add 2 tablespoons candied orange peel, 1/4 cup dried apricots, 1/3 cup dried cherries, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg and mix on low speed until evenly incorporated, about 1 minute. Remove hook, shape dough into a ball, and place it in bottom of mixing bowl. Cover with plastic and set aside to rise until puffy and light, between 1 hr 30 mins – 1 hr 45 mins at room temperature. Note: You can also make these by without a stand mixer, just make sure everything is well mixed and kneaded by hand.
  3. Line a 9- by 13-inch aluminum pan with parchment paper. Turn dough onto a clean, unfloured surface. Without kneading or rolling, divide into 15 roughly equal portions. Cup each portion beneath your palm and work in a quick, circular motion to form a smooth ball. Arrange balls in baking pan, cover loosely with plastic, and allow to rise another 1 hr 30 mins – 1 hr 45 mins at room temperature
  4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F. Combine 1 large egg yolk and 1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Gently coat the surface of each bun, being careful not to deflate dough.
  5. Bake until buns are golden brown and approximately 210°F inside, 30 to 35 minutes.
  6. Cool directly in pan until crumb is set, about 20 minutes.
  7. For the Icing: Combine powdered 1 cup powdered sugar, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon heavy cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Stir with a flexible spatula until smooth and creamy, adding up to 1/2 teaspoon of water if the icing is too thick to pipe. Transfer half of frosting to a small ziplock bag and snip 1/4 inch from the tip. Pipe a line of frosting across each row of buns, then repeat the other way to form a cross.
  8. Serve warm, with additional frosting on the side if desired. Hot cross buns are best fresh and warm, but leftovers can be stored at room temperature up to 24 hours in an airtight container; briefly microwave with a damp paper towel to rewarm.