Today, the jingle is less prevalent, but mass-produced hot cross buns certainly flood the supermarket during the duration of Lent, costing a bit more than a penny or two. There’s a certain charm to the verse, but it would give me pause if the bakery manager at Stop & Shop broke into song.
This is my second attempt at making hot cross buns, and my first success. The sweet yeast dough is enriched with egg, butter, citron and raisins and scented with nutmeg and cinnamon. As the fragrant aroma fills the kitchen, I look into the history of this traditional Good Friday baked item that many believed held extraordinary powers – perhaps an eighteenth century super food.
The earliest recorded mention of hot cross buns is from Poor Robin’s Almanack in 1733, although stories of buns stamped with a cross to mark the crucifixion of Christ date back as early as the Middle Ages. Some believed hot cross buns could cure disease and others thought the loaves would never mold or decay (one would suspect the commercially-produced buns contain enough preservatives to deliver on that promise).
Other historians believe that associations with the bread of the Eucharistic meal – also stamped with a cross – and the imagery of Christ as the bread of life contribute to the supernatural lore associated with hot cross buns.
One custom involved people hanging hot cross buns in their homes all year long to protect against sickness, fire and other calamities. It would be an interesting experiment to try, but I don’t think my hot cross buns will last that long.
(Don't forget you've got just a few more days to participate in the giveaway of "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches." Leave a comment on the previous post and mention your favorite sandwich by 11:59 PM EDT on Saturday, April 23, and you'll be eligible to win a copy of Susan Russo's new book.)
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