Posted in Daily, Food, Musique, Stories Around the World

A Penny, A Bun…

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
– Roud Folk Song Index Number (13029)

Almost every parent, guardian or caregiver has heard of the predefined set of nursery rhymes (ranging from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to Ba Ba Black Sheep), especially when trying to make the young mind learn a bit of the English language, rhymes and songs. The above song “Hot Cross Bun” is no stranger to the set of these rhymes. However it was the smell of freshly baked buns (butter buns, fruit buns mainly) from the bakery near my workplace that would account for the sudden thoughts of “Hot Cross Bun” ( originally an English street cry) being dredged up from the grey cells. Like those memories that linger, thoughts of a pot of tea with fresh buns do enter the list of sudden urges for the taste buds occasionally.

This spiced sweet bun usually made with fruit and traditionally marked with a cross (as sugar toppings or partially sliced through) was associated with the end of Lent and is usually eaten on Good Friday. At times, spices are also added. These days hot cross buns are available all year round at most places, even in the supermarket chains with varieties like toffee, orange-cranberry, salted caramel and chocolate, apple-cinnamon, coffee flavoured, white chocolate and raspberry, banana and caramel, sticky date and the list goes on to being more creative and flavoured in certain bakeries and delis.

The exact origin of “hot cross buns” was historically believed to be associated with the rise of Christianity. During the Lent period, plain buns were made without any dairy products and eaten hot or toasted. Although archaeological evidence suggest that the Greeks (6th century) may have marked cakes with a cross. While one theory states that the Hot Cross Bun originated when where Brother Thomas Rodcliffe, a 14th Century monk at St Albans Abbey (1361), developed a recipe (similar to hot cross bun) called an ‘Alban Bun’ and distributed them to the local poor on Good Friday.  Though the London street cry,”Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns”, which had appeared in Poor Robin’s Almanac (1733) was the first ever definite record of hot cross buns. On trying to trace if these buns were made earlier than 18th century London, records of recipes come to a blank.

More of interest are the numerous traditions and beliefs surrounding these “hot cross” buns. While one says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow mouldy during the subsequent year, others encourage keeping these buns purely for medicinal purposes or are carried along for long sea voyages to protect against shipwreck. Few kitchens may have a “hanging hot cross bun” which gets replaced every year, done so as to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out to be perfect and exquisite.

Be it the Lent season or not, hot cross buns are one of the best spiced buns are to have, especially hot or toasted ( or cold as per preference). The more the variety, the better. Moreover, one doesn’t need to wait for the right time to indulge that heavenly taste and flavour. With creative flavourings on the rise, these buns are definitely worth a try.

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Step back and look at the bigger picture.

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