Wake and Bake

Breakfast snacks for those who get peckish first thing in the morning.

Wake and Bake: Hot Cross Buns

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[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

I have both what some may call a "deaf ear" and a god-awful singing voice. When I was little this proved to be unfortunate because, until I was traumatized beyond ever humming a tune again, I really liked to sing.

First I tried to join my church's choir, but they suggested that I become an acolyte and carry a candle instead. My mother tried having a quiet talk with the choir master, but he said in no uncertain terms that it just wasn't going to happen. That's right. God: Accepting sinners but not the tone deaf since 4.5 billion B.C. As if that wasn't enough, in lower school I wasn't allowed to sing with my fellow classmates during music class. Instead they gave me a triangle and I had to pretend I wasn't just clanking on a streamlined cowbell, a piece of scrap metal too thick to be a coat hanger. The happy peak of my sad musical career came in the third grade, when I became the best damn glockenspiel player that Mr. Hunter's music class had ever seen.

Unfortunately in the 8th grade I was forced to choose a new instrument. I wanted to play the violin. (Actually, I wanted to learn to play the fiddle so that I could ferociously jam away while wearing a long bohemian skirt under the night sky—see: dreams of a city girl). Alas the violin wasn't an option so I simply picked up the instrument of my sister before me, the flute, and proceeded to suck.

I spent countless hours trying to force air into that flute like a whale with a starfish stuck in its blowhole. To learn the basic notes, and ideally the concept of tempo, I was given this little ditty:

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns!

Note-wise, you can't get a more simple song: D-C-B, D-C-B, D-D-D-D, C-C-C-C, D-C-B

How did it end up? Well I continued with the flute through high school, becoming the only senior in the school's history who wasn't promoted to first flute. I essentially reached an agreement with the conductor of the Woodwinds Ensemble in which I could stay, though we both knew I was miming the notes, because I enjoyed the group and listening to the music.

You would think that years of torturous practice and failure at improving my musical abilities would deter me from ever eating a Hot Cross Bun again. (It has made me unreasonably petulant towards American Idol, Yo Yo Ma, and A Capella groups.) But I love these seasonal sweets. In New York, my local Italian bakery produced trays and trays of Hot Cross Buns for a few weeks in April. This year, I couldn't find them in my new neighborhood, so I decided to bake them at home.

The base to Hot Cross Buns is a fairly simple, sweet yeasted dough. I like to split my batch of dough in two and bake half the rolls with currants and half with raisins, though choosing one is perfectly fine. The dough bakes up into soft, lightly sweet buns that are decorated with two lines of royal icing piped in a cross over the top. They're an excellent way to celebrate Good Friday, no hymns required.

Get the Recipe

Hot Cross Buns »


About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios

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