This past weekend, we celebrated Palm Sunday. As a child growing up in the tropics of Central Africa, palm trees were never in short supply. I have memories of church goers waving palm branches, singing, dancing, and praising Jesus—remembering his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, just 5 days before he was sent to the Cross to die for us.
Now Easter is just around the corner. Easter Morning, that Great Morning when the grave was found empty—death was defeated! The celebrations on this special day were epic in Congo! I can still hear the drums beating–drums carved out of huge hollowed-out tree trunks. Young men using large sticks to beat the drums in incredible rhythms, dancing joyously. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best.
Easter is a time of celebration and thanksgiving. A time of reflecting on the love of Jesus for us—love so deep, that He came to Earth, was despised and rejected, suffered things that no man should ever suffer, died, and rose again. And He did this all for us! What a Gift!
My family always did something special on Sunday Mornings, whether it was Easter or not. We had a hedge around our house in Congo that was covered in a blanket of passion fruit vines, and I remember many Sundays when we would pick fresh passion fruit, and my Mamma would make delicious passion fruit juice. It is, to this day, my all-time favorite!
In addition to the juice, Pappa would often fry eggs or home-made sausage, and Mamma would bake some delicious pastry. If the weather permitted, we would pull our chairs and small table out into the yard and sit and enjoy being together as a family while we ate our special, Sunday Morning breakfast.
For Easter, Mamma would always make Hot Cross Buns—that was our Easter Sunday pastry. To this day, they always remind me of those special memories—they remind me of my beloved family and of the Reason for the season.
I’m excited to share this family recipe with you all! They are the softest, most delicious, Hot Cross Buns that I’ve ever had! I hope that you will enjoy them as well, and maybe make them a part of your own family traditions.
For those of you with kids, the cross cut into the buns is a great way to bring Christ’s death and resurrection into your family time, and to help keep to focus on why we celebrate Easter.
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”-Ephesians 3:17b-18.
Hot Cross Buns
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- 1 cup Whole Milk, scalded (270 mls)
- ½ cup White Sugar (110 grams)
- 4 TBSP Butter (55 grams)
- ¼ cup Potato Flakes (15 grams) (optional–adds fluffiness to the rolls)
- ¾ tsp Salt (5 grams)
- 1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
- ½ tsp Nutmeg, ground
- ½ tsp Cloves, ground
- 3 Eggs
- ¼ cup Water, warm (60 mls)
- 2 TBSP Yeast (20 grams)
- ¾ cup Raisins (110 grams)
- 4-5 cups All-Purpose Flour (600-700 grams)
- 1 tsp Water
In a small pan, gently heat the milk up until just before boiling–make sure that it doesn’t actually reach a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, sugar, and potato flakes. Stir it well so that the sugar dissolves.
Whisk in the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. You can also add 2 of the eggs at this point (save the 3rd egg until the end—we will use it to egg-wash the buns before they go into the oven). Adding the eggs and butter to the hot milk will help to cool down the temperature of the milk more quickly so that we can move on with the recipe.
We want the temperature of the milk mixture to get down to roughly 110 degrees Fahrenheit for the sake of the yeast (I use the “finger test” that my Mamma taught me, but definitely use a thermometer if you would prefer—see tip #1 below for more on the “finger test”).
While the milk is cooling down, put the ¼ cup of warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit) in a glass and add the 2 TBSP of yeast. Stir it well and set it aside. We want it to rise and bubble for about 10 minutes. It should get nice and foamy by the end.
Once the milk has cooled down enough that it won’t kill the yeast, stir the yeast/water into the milk mixture. At this point, add the raisins and gradually start to incorporate the flour.
Once you have reached 4 cups of flour (600 grams), make sure to be very conservative with how much more flour you add–you don’t want your buns to end up too dry. I usually use around 650 – 670 grams, but it depends on your exact measurements and how large your eggs are.
Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. Place it in a large, greased bowl. Cover it with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1.5 hours or until it’s doubled in size.
Punch the dough down. Form smooth balls of dough that are about the size of an egg (about 60 grams in weight). Place them on a greased cookie sheet (I like to use these AirBake pans! They are amazing, and I highly recommend them).
Crack the 3rd egg into a small cup, and add 1 tsp of water. Beat it with a fork until it is smooth. Using a pastry brush, coat the dough balls, and let them rise for an additional 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just before putting the buns in the oven, use kitchen scissors to cut a cross on the top of each bun. Place the buns in the oven, and bake them for 10 minutes. They will be a nice golden-brown color when they are finished baking.
Remove the buns from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack.
While the buns are cooling, mix the glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Whip it with a fork until it’s nice and smooth. Put the glaze in a piping bag or small Ziplock bag. Cut the tip off, and pipe the glaze into the cross indentation.
Serve slightly warm with a cup of tea or coffee.
Yield: about 2 dozen
Tip #1: The Finger Test: A little trick that my Mamma taught me about yeast is that if you can hold your finger in the liquid for 10 seconds without any discomfort or burning sensation, it’s not too hot for the yeast. It has always worked for me, and it saves me the trouble of having to use a thermometer to measure the temperature. I use this method for the lukewarm water that will dissolve the yeast as well as the milk mixture.
Tip #2: These freeze really well! 2 dozen is way more than our household can eat in 1 sitting, so I put them in gallon Ziploc bags and freeze them. Then, if you have a hankering for them later, just put a frozen one in the microwave for about 25-30 seconds, and voila, it’s almost like it’s freshly baked!
Tip #3: With all of the Corona Virus shenanigans right now, going to the store for a lemon is not considered “essential” in my books, so I just used bottled lemon juice that I had in my fridge. If you have lemons at home, they are a nice, fresh addition to this recipe, but if you don’t have any, then know that the bottled juice works very well too!