Lent was historically a time of feasting. From carnival in late February until Easter Sunday people in Europe used to keep to a strict diet. Celebration of Lent is not very common in Scandinavia. We kind of know that we eat certain things at particular times, but we often do not know what the tradition behind is. The Swedish Semlor is eaten prior to Lent. Historically, wheat was one thing people did not eat in the period of Lent. Lent ended Easter Sunday, and then it was time to celebrate, it was time for sweet soft tasty wheat buns.
Cross buns is part of the UK Easter tradition. Hot cross buns are marked with a cross and were apparently eaten by the Saxons to honor their goddess Eostre – it is thought the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon’s quarters.
I bake them because they taste really nice. I love a soft warm bun served with butter.
Makes 16 buns
For the spicy mixture:
250 ml milk, plus a little more for glazing
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
a pinch of saffron
50 g fresh yeast
500–550 g plain flour, TIPO 00
100 g butter
50 g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 eggs, beaten
150 g raisins
100 g mixed peel, orange and lemon
1 egg to brush
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp boiling water
GENTLY HEAT THE MILK, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron in a saucepan until just boiling. Turn off the heat and leave for infusing for 1 hour. Strain and heat the mixture until lukewarm.
CRUMBLE THE YEAST into the strained, lukewarm milk and stir to dissolve.
PLACE 500 G FLOUR into a big bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar, salt and ginger and mixed peel. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and the yeast mixture, mix well with a wooden spoon. Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic, kneading in a little more flour if it is sticky. Leave the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel and let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours.
TIP THE DOUGH out on to the floured work surface. Divide it into 16 pieces and roll them into buns. Place them on baking trays lined with baking parchment and score a cross into the top of each bun. Cover with tea towels and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
PREHEAT THE OVEN to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F/gas mark 6.
FOR BRUSHING BEAT THE EGG with a little milk. For the cross mix the flour, salt and water to a paste, and pour the mixture into a piping bag. Brush the buns with the egg mixture, and then, using the piping bag, paint a thick cross on each bun. Bake for 20–25 minutes.
EAT THE BUNS with butter.
PHOTO BY Columbus Leth