Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

There are certain foods which are the very essence of childhood.

As adults we associate these foods with first memories of home and home life. 

They often carry with them a sense of great happiness.

I believe this is because they contain some of our earliest understandings of belonging to a group, which is the family unit, and being nurtured through it.

When I was young these special foods were most apt to be prepared by our mothers or grandmothers. 

The kitchen was the hub and heart of family life. In my family we were accustomed to good eating. Home cooked meals, homemade breads and sweet treats always had hungry appetites to do justice to them. 

Cooking and baking filled the house with delicious aromas. 

The good smells brought us hungry to the kitchen to check how soon done, or made us come with alacrity to the table when particularly-favored dishes were served.

I think of this with Easter this weekend. Hot Cross Buns, which Mom made for Easter Sunday dinner through all the years we (and then our children with us) sat together at the Easter table, left as much an imprint on us as the cross she etched on top of each sweet bun.

She took the time to check over the raisins before she added the measured amount to the dough. She looked for stems which she removed when found. 

She never would have thought to skip the step of looking through the raisins in making Hot Cross Buns. It's her care with the food she prepared that makes me sort through the raisins I use when baking too.

The buns were drizzled with icing after they baked. The shiny glaze made the buns as pretty as dessert on their plate as it was passed around with the other sides and the Easter ham.

Hot Cross Buns is a tradition that hasn't continued in our family. 
The buns will be remembered by my generation and then its part will be forgotten in the family story.

This is why Hot Cross Buns and other special family foods have been gathered into a family heritage cookbook. 

Along with recipes are stories, individually told, of the food of our childhood and growing up years, and the family times at the table down through the generations. 

Traditions evolve as do families. Traditions are meant to be tweaked, undergo change and even be left behind for new traditions. 

Still, there's value in remembering what has been good and what has connected us. 

I have the Easter bun recipe but have never made the buns. The recipe was written down from my mom many years ago. At the top left of the index card is noted: "Made by Mom each year for Easter."  

The original recipe is in The Good Housekeeping Cook Book, a gift from Dad to Mom somewhat early in their marriage. 

The cookbook was well broken in by the time we younger kids came along. 

The cookbook recipes described a previous era as I studied the pages. Even then I was interested in food and the making of food through a well laid-out set of directions. 

Next to the recipe in the cookbook Mom has written: "400 or even 375 and only 20 minutes."  

My cooking isn't exactly that of my mom's but my tendency to add pertinent notes to my recipes obviously comes from her. 

 Hot Cross Buns

1 c. warm milk, 1/4 c. shortening, 1/3 c. granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt} to this add 1 pkg. yeast softened in 1/4 c. warm water. Add 1 tsp. granulated sugar. Add 1 egg (first removing 1 tblsp. egg white for glazing), 1/2 c. raisins, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. allspice and 3 1/2 - 4 c. flour.

Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place (80-85 degrees) until double in bulk - about 1½ hours. Knead, shape into 2" balls and arrange in greased 9 x 9 x 2" pan. Brush each bun with egg white; cover and let rise until double in bulk - about 45 minutes.

Snip a deep cross in the top of each bun with scissors. Bake in hot oven (400 degrees) for 25 minutes; cool. Fill the cross on top of each with powdered sugar icing. Makes 2 dozen buns. 

Ro Giencke - April 17, 2014



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