Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns!

Neil’s been humming around the house all morning.  There must be some reason he’s so happy.  It’s not the weather, as it’s a dreary chilly day.  Maybe he’s going to bake a squirrel pie.  That would make my day!

      I admit it.  I love hot cross buns!  Its reported origins are varied, but most agree that the hot cross bun was popularized in England when a 12th century monk made the spiced cakes and stamped them with the sign of the cross.  He made the buns every year thereafter and distributed them to the poor on Good Friday.

     The origin of the hot cross bun, as the Easter holiday itself, is mixed with pagan traditions.  Buns were considered a sacred food of the gods to the ancient Aztecs and Incas, while the Egyptians and Saxons offered them as sacrifices to their goddesses.  The appearance of a cross on top represented everything from the quarters of the moon to the horns of a sacred ox to the Christian interpretation today of the crucifixion.  Originally, the cross was marked in the dough with a knife but later creations used the piped icing that is popular today.  It's not clear when hot cross buns started appearing for sale before the Good Friday holiday.  Thankfully, the irresistible concoctions are available at bakeries during the entire six weeks of Lent leading up to Easter. 

Servatii's version of the hot cross bun

      I have my own favorite shops for what I consider to be the best hot cross buns.  In Cincinnati, my pick for the traditional bun is at the Servatii Pastry Shops, found throughout the city.  They are light and flaky with a generous "cross" of buttercream icing and not too much candied fruit.  For a scone version, I head to the Bluebird Bakery in Glendale.  Jenny's scones are the finest that I've found and her hot cross interpretation is divine!  My absolute favorite takes a little more effort as it is found on the east side of Columbus, OH at Resch's Bakery.  They're more dense and have a dusting of confectioner's sugar in addition to the icing cross.  I'm hoping my sister brings some when she comes to visit this weekend.  For me, it's probably just as well that they're not available year 'round.  However, I would like to hear where you find your favorite hot cross bun.

Servatii Pastry Shop & Deli on Urbanspoon

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