Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns:

As both Easter and Beltaine are just around the corner, here’s a recipe for hot cross buns. Hot cross buns are an ancient Pagan food incorporated into modern Christian Easter celebrations. The first recorded use of the term “hot cross buns’ was in 1733. The idea of buns with crosses on them was borrowed from the ancient Greeks, who decorated buns with a solar cross as offerings to the Gods for the Vernal Equinox. Two petrified loaves with crosses on them were found in the ruins of Herculaneum. The ancient Saxons also baked bread with crosses at this time of the year. The shape of the bun (round) probably represented the sun and the four portions divided out by the cross may have stood for the four seasons of the year. Hot cross buns are often used as the “cakes” in the cakes and wine ceremony included in Eostre celebrations by Wiccans.

Traditionally, hot cross buns were believed to have the power to cure dysentery, diarrhea, and whooping-cough. In fact, there is an old belief that a true hot cross bun never goes moldy. It was quite a common practice for several to be set aside, dried, and hung from the kitchen ceiling as a talisman against illness. When needed, a small quantity would be grated and mixed with milk as a curative. It was even administered to cattle as a curative.

Here’s how I make them:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons allspice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup warm (105 F – 115 F) whole milk

½ oz (1 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 ¼ sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

½ cup candied peel

1/3 cup raisins

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

In a small bowl, stir together the warm milk, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, and yeast.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Sift the flour, salt, allspice and cinnamon and ½ cup granulated sugar in a large bowl.   Rub in the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.  Lightly beat one whole egg with one egg yolk.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture, fruit and lemon zest.  Pour the yeast and milk mixture into the well in the flour mixture.  Stir until dough is formed.  Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.  Turn out onto a floured board and divide into 12 pieces.  Form each piece into a round ball and place on a greased baking sheet.  Flatten tops slightly and make a deep cross with a knife.  Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.  Brush buns with an egg glaze.  Bake at 400 F (200 C) for approx. twenty minutes. 

One variation for the making of the cross on the buns is to make a cross on the top of each bun with pastry dough.  The finished buns can be glazed or decorated with icing (like I did here) or a sugar syrup.  These buns can be made a week ahead and frozen.

You can find more recipes like this in my new cookbook: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens on


About cuhulain

Kerr Cuhulain has been a Wiccan for 49 years and has been involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crimes investigation for the Pagan community from 1986 to 2005. Kerr was awarded the Shield of Valor by the Witches League for Public Awareness. Kerr is the author of the Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca, Witch Hunts, Wiccan Warrior, Full Contact Magick and Magickal Self Defense. Kerr has a column with 182 articles on anti-defamation issues and hate crimes on The Witches’ Voice web site called Witch Hunts. Kerr is the former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagan professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians). Kerr retired from the Vancouver Police Department in November 2005 after serving 29 years with them. He was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal. Kerr's past job assignments within the VPD include the Emergency Response Team, Hostage Negotiator, Child Abuse Investigator, Gang Crime Unit, and the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit. Kerr went on to be a police dispatcher and trainer for ECOMM for Southwestern BC. Kerr retired from law enforcement work in April 2013. Kerr is the founder of a Wiccan order of Knighthood called the Order of Paladins in November 2007. The Order embraces the Warrior philosophies, precepts and code of chivalry outlined in Kerr’s books. The Order of Paladins is a study group for people interested in Wiccan magick, energy work and rituals related to the Warrior path, focusing on empowerment, personal development and creative expression. The training focuses on the effective use of magickal energy and developing psychic skills. Courses are taught on line through the Ardantane School of Magick, where Kerr is on faculty. The Order of Paladins is constantly developing new rituals, and magick and studying our Warrior philosophy. Our members are spread across the globe and connect through local preceptories and on line. All members are expected to participate and contribute. Kerr is now the National Secretary of the Royal Astrononomical Society of Canada.
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