Origin of this Easter treat
The hot cross bun is believed to date back to ancient civilisations, including the Saxons, who ate buns marked with a cross in honour of Eostre, the goddess of spring and namesake of Easter. However, the modern recipe we recognise today is attributed to a 14th-century monk, Brother Thomas Rodcliffe of St Albans Abbey, who mixed cinnamon into his yeast buns and delivered them to the poor on Good Friday.
The so-called Alban buns quickly grew in popularity around England and became closely associated with Easter. By the 16th century, they were considered so holy that Queen Elizabeth passed a law permitting them to be sold only at Easter, Christmas and burials.
These days, of course, hot cross buns begin appearing in supermarkets as early as January and linger long after the last chocolate eggs have been eaten.
Big appetite for gourmet buns
Easter is one of the busiest times of the year for high-end patisserie Le Petit Gateau in Melbourne’s CBD. From mid-March to the day before Good Friday, the Executive Pastry Chef Amit Sinha and his team bake thousands of hot cross buns.
Le Petit Gateau’s traditional buns contain raisins, candied orange, nutmeg and cinnamon, while high-quality Swiss chocolate is used for their chocolate chip buns.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can try Le Petit Gâteau’s hot cross bun recipe at home. Watch the video and follow the recipe below on how to make the best buns.
Hot tips for making the best hot cross buns
Sinha says proving is the key to a soft, light bun. Proving is the final rise of the dough when the fermentation of the yeast creates that airy texture. “If you don’t prove the dough enough, the buns will be dense,” Amit says. “You want them to be light and airy, with a very soft texture.”
Amit says it can be harder to get the same result at home because a commercial kitchen has the right conditions for proofing dough, but he has a couple of tips.
- First, use baker’s flour rather than regular flour. It has more gluten and gives the dough its elasticity.
- Secondly, weigh the ingredients. The volume of flour or sugar per cup can vary between brands.
If all else fails, visit Le Petit Gateau in Little Collins St, in the heart of Melbourne, for the real deal.