Hot cross buns

Christians bake and share
the breads during Lenten days

Hot cross buns, the quintessential Easter bread, have a long and varied history. Historians believe that small breads marked with the sign of a cross date back to ancient pagan festivals celebrating spring. The round shape represented the sun. The quarters corresponded to the year's four seasons.

Centuries later, Christians began baking and sharing hot cross buns during Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. While many versions of hot cross buns exist today, the most common feature is a cross of white icing on the top of the roll, a symbol of the Crucifixion.

Mililani resident Eileen Ward has been preparing hot cross buns every Good Friday for more than two decades, to the delight of her pastor, family and friends.

"Many years ago, I found a recipe in a local newspaper that looked easy and appropriate for Holy Week," said Ward, who, in those days was raising three children and concerned about serving them nutritious foods.

The hot cross bun recipe met three criteria. It was quick, simple and nutrient-dense. The recipe calls for lowfat cottage cheese and eggs, good sources of protein. For added fiber and nutrients, she substituted whole wheat flour for some of the white flour in the recipe.

"I was thinking healthy and whole grain," Ward explained. "I wanted to incorporate a little whole wheat flour into the recipe, but not too much as to change the overall consistency or texture of the bread."

Eileen Ward of the Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani readies a tray of hot cross buns. Ward has been baking the Easter delicacy for more than 10 years using the same recipe.

Eileen Ward's hot cross buns are enjoyed by many people outside of the Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani. Ward's recipe for the pastry is published in the church's cookbook "Christ Lutheran Church Cooks."

Although raisins or currants may be used in the recipe, Ward recommends currants, which "are smaller, so you don't get overwhelmed by biting into a big raisin."

After mixing all the ingredients together, about 10 seconds of kneading is required -- just enough so that the dough holds together to form a ball. "Not only do I flour the board before kneading, I also flour my hands and sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough to keep it from sticking," she advises.

A few more tips: Line baking sheets with ungreased aluminum foil for easy clean up. There is enough shortening in the recipe to keep the bread from sticking. The buns will be done when the color reaches a light golden brown. Be careful not to overcook them. A toothpick inserted into the center of a bun should come out clean when fully baked.

The reason Ward chose a quick bread recipe rather than the more traditional yeast-based hot cross bun is simple. Time. Waiting for dough to rise simply doesn't fit into her lifestyle.

Although Ward is now a grandmother, she hasn't slowed down. She is the full-time ministry coordinator at Christ Lutheran Church of Mililani, involved in numerous faith-based organizations, and a volunteer with the American Red Cross Human Animal Bond Program. Always looking for a new challenge, she's also training to walk the Honolulu Marathon in December.

Following the theme of "quick and easy baking," two additional hot cross bun recipes are included below. One uses frozen bread dough, and the other recipe is made with the use of an electric bread machine.

Ward mixes the batter before molding the buns into golf-ball-sized morsels for baking. The final process in making hot-crossed buns is, of course, adding the cross.


Hot cross buns:
An Easter tradition

Here are three approaches to making hot-cross buns: Eileen Ward's quick-bread, a recipe using frozen bread dough and a more traditional yeast recipe that uses a bread machine to ease the process.

Quick Hot Cross Buns

Eileen Ward

1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup currants or raisins
1-1/4 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
» Vanilla Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with foil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in currants. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg and vanilla; beat until almost smooth. Add to flour mixture and mix until blended.

Knead dough on lightly floured surface about 10 times. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces. Gently shape into balls and place on cookie sheet.

Bake buns 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool about 5 minutes.

To make glaze; Combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla; stir until smooth. Glaze should fall from spoon in a steady stream. Add additional milk or powdered sugar, if necessary, to get desired consistency.

Use a small spoon to drizzle each bun with glaze, forming a cross. Serve warm. Makes 12 buns.

Approximate nutritional information per bun: 220 calories, 7 g total fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 6g protein

Bridgford's Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from www.bridgford.com

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
» Glaze;
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons milk
» Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
4 to 6 teaspoons milk

Lightly grease 2 9-inch bake pans or 1 9-by-13-inch pan.

Soak raisins in warm water 5 minutes; drain thoroughly.

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Add raisins; toss.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough out to an 8-by-10-inch rectangle. Spread raisin mixture over dough. Form into a ball; knead thoroughly. Shape into 12 to 20 buns, depending upon size desired.

Place buns in pans. Brush with melted butter. Let rise until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake buns 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

To prepare glaze: Combining ingredients and stir until smooth. Spread over warm buns. Let cool 10 minutes.

To make icing: Combine powdered sugar with just enough milk to make a very stiff icing. Using a pastry tube or spoon, make a cross on each roll. Serves 12 to 20.

Approximate nutritional information per bun (12 buns per recipe): 230 calories, 4 g total fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 48 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein.

Bread Machine Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from www.bettycrocker.com

3 eggs
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 cups bread flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons quick active dry yeast
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons cold water
» White Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk or water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, if desired

Break 2 eggs into 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough water to measure 1-1/3 cups. Place egg mixture, butter, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, sugar and yeast in bread machine pan, in order recommended by manufacturer.

Prepare dough using dough/manual cycle. Add raisins at raisin/nut signal, or 5 to 10 minutes before last kneading cycle ends.

Remove dough from pan, using lightly floured hands. Cover and let rest 10 minutes on lightly floured surface.

Grease cookie sheet or 2 round 9-inch pans. Divide dough in half. Divide each half into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet or 1 inch apart in pans. Snip a cross shape in top of each ball, using scissors.

Cover and let rise in warm place about 40 minutes or until doubled. (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat remaining egg in cold water; brush over tops of buns. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To make icing: Mix all ingredients, adding additional milk, a few drops a time, until smooth and spreadable.

Cool buns slightly on wire rack. Make a cross on top of each bun with icing. Serve warm. Makes 16 buns.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Note: To make ahead, shape dough into buns and snip the cross in tops, then refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, from 4 to 24 hours. Before baking, cover with towel and let rise in a warm place about 2 hours or until doubled.

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