A Week Measured in Buns

Perhaps even more so during times of uncertainty, we are inclined to seek out tradition as a means of connecting with the past. This seems to be the case with food during the global pandemic: suddenly everyone has turned to bread making, if they can get hold of any decent flour that is. Festive breads are loaded with symbolic connection but the Hot Cross Bun definitely takes the cake for its conspicuous association with Christian mythology. The bun marks the end of Lent while the cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices signify the spices used for embalming. In Australia, Hot Cross buns land in the supermarkets on Boxing day, December 26 and continue through the new year to Easter and beyond. Most children have no idea what the cross stands for. When I inform them of the crucifixion story, they look aghast and reply ‘that’s gross’. I have to agree with them, but remove the cross, that thick part holding the sweet glaze on the top, the favourite side, and there goes your tradition, and another reason not to learn how to bake festive and seasonal foods, or learn about how food is connected to history and legend.

Tricks of the trade: piping the crosses using an old plastic sauce bottle. Cross mixture too thin.

Over the last week, I’ve attempted four different HC bun recipes. That week might have been 11 days long because I’ve lost all track of time. Thank God it’s Easter Sunday today, now I have a reference point for a while. My first two attempts were both sourdough buns requiring a long period of fermentation. Pan de Ramerino, a Tuscan Easter bun, is usually made with either yeast or a biga. I adapted this recipe to sourdough, making it much easier on the digestion. The buns contain raisins and are flavoured with rosemary oil, the tops crossed with a tic tac toe pattern before glazing. They are lovely to eat, but I missed the spice, that sweet and ancient aroma of a bun warming in the oven for breakfast.

Pan de Ramerino, Tuscan Easter Buns flavoured with rosemary

The next sourdough recipe came from a sourdough baking group of which I am a member. The dough turned out to be so difficult to handle and ended up as a Hot Cross Focaccia, which tasted fine, but did not provide the sense of tradition I was searching for, despite the sticky quince glaze used on top. If a recipe is not pleasurable and reasonably intuitive to make, and this is my golden rule for bun making, I don’t repeat it. If at first you don’t succeed, give up.

The next two buns were yeast based. If you can eat yeasted products without suffering indigestion from the fast ferment, then this is the best way to go at Easter. The first one came from the pastry chef, Darren Puchase, of Burch and Puchase Sweet studio in Melbourne, whose recipe was recently published in the New Daily. The recipe is easy to follow, though I was tentative about the whopping use of dry yeast in the recipe. ( 28 gr of yeast to 400 gr of flour plus other ingredients). The recipe works very well. You can make them in around 3 hours all up. I broke a little with tradition and opted for an XR symbol (Extinction Rebellion) on top. They are now called the XR buns here, a reminder that climate action is still number one priority for our mother earth.

The final recipe came from Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who has been working variations of her yeasted HC bun for years. The buns were easy to make, and using a stand mixer made the process even faster. Her two recipes can be found here and here.

So which buns were the best? The Tuscan buns lasted well, and being sourdough, were still edible on the third day. The Focaccia -come- bun had a lovely texture but the recipe was far too wet and difficult to shape for my liking. The other two yeasted buns were satisfactory, and good for cooks who have not branched out into the world of sourdough. I find yeasted breads hard to eat, with the taste of unfermented flour too up front on the palate for my liking. Yeasted buns also dry out too quickly. So it’s back to the drawing board, as I search for an achievable and satisfactory sourdough Hot Cross Bun next year. Let us hope that next April will be a safer and happier place for the world.

Auguri di Buona Pasqua 2020. State a Casa. Happy Easter Greetings 2020, Stay at Home.







32 thoughts on “A Week Measured in Buns”

  1. I tried a new HC bun recipe this year, too. Mine had a 2-hour rising in the oven and then an overnight rise in the fridge. This recipe was relatively easy, so I hope we like it. I am like you–the recipe gets one chance. If I don’t like it, out it goes. I am not so inclined to keep tweaking a recipe to make it palatable. My husband thinks I am hardcore, but he does not complain–smart man! Happy Easter, Francesca. Take care and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Reporting back: These were a little more ‘bready’ but I think it was me who messed up the first rising. I forgot to turn the oven off when I had it on ‘warm’ so I might have killed the yeast….a little bit. I would sweeten these with some spice and add raisins. These I definitely will try again, but pay better attention to my oven. Happy Easter, Francesca.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Al mio caro fratello, grazie. I made buns for the children this year as I couldn’t get out to buy eggs. i miss them all the time, and their brief visits from a distance is hard going. Baking saves me from madness I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Francesca, turned my notifications back on, maybe that’s a start. I haven’t bothered with buns at all this Easter. Isolation means there are just the two of us and there are other baked goodies we’d much prefer to eat, esp after being visually slammed with the good, the bad and the ugly of HXBuns on social media in the last couple of days. I made a SD walnut loaf instead. We’ll enjoy it with a slab of gorgonzola and a glass of wine for our virtual family lunch.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That sounds lovely and I think a preferable way to go for a couple. I did the bun thing to distribute among family members- no choc eggs for my grandchildren this year, just buns. Two of my children do shop runs for us as we don’t venture into the land of commerce at all ( OK, I did one little trip to a local Deli). The delivery and exchange is a real process involving gloves and distance. Buns are one small reward for them. I’ll continue my pursuit of a more digestible bun next year. I like tradition. And Sandra, welcome back.


  3. * big warm smile * Do not bake . . . buns or bread ! Have never celebrated Easter as believe in historical Jesus. Am definitely not a grouch but have never neen a traditionalist in any size or shape – to each their own as the sayinggoes . . . But, a huge wish for a warm, caring and happy Easter to you anf yours . . .hope our beautiful calm sunashine reaches you . . . and it is lovely to hear from Sandra again . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did have a smile at your Extinction buns – it has been on the back burner hasn’t it, but unless we turn the tide ourselves a plague of sorts will be visited on all our houses. However, just for the time being i am making the most of quiet, non-busy isolation, such as it is. It’s lovely to see Lady Redspecs back, i really enjoy her recipes and yours. Have you tried the tangzhong method for buns? I’ve made 2 lots of buns. One batch was ordinary sourdough but they were very heavy, and one yeasted batch which took forever and a day to rise and were not light and fluffy either. The tangzhong method sounds a bit more promising. I am also in the camp of ‘if at first you don’t succeed – go and lie down’ 😁 stay safe

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes Jan, a plague has visited all our houses. Good Shakespearian quote BTW. While the press has been rather quiet about the importance of the climate emergency, fortunately the activities of groups like XR continue, though not so colourfully, with meetings on line, regenerative culture dialogue, tree planting and most importantly in Victoria, letter writing to save our old growth forests from further logging. I’m wondering also if the plague will have some long lasting effect on consciousness raising in this area. Hope so.
        The Tangzhong method was sort of used in those buns from the New Daily. My main problem with that method, is yeast- I can’t handle so much of it.
        Yes, nice to see Sandra back and am hoping that this translates into recipe posts….
        Take care, Jan, there’s a whole world in your garden and I figure you are well cut out for adapting to this era of staying at home.


  4. I don’t have and oven or a bread-maker at home. But I enjoued reading about the buns, and looking at the photos, because that’s the best I can do until the lock down is over (I hope the staff at my favourite bakeries are safe).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like your motto about recipe testing: If at first you don’t succeed, give up. Yes, it’s almost always the recipe that is bad when you have a lot of experience of your own!

    Happy Easter and be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have enjoyed your hot cross bun fest, and that via the FB sourdough group. But like Sandra, as it’s just the 2 of us, and 1 of us -not me- isn’t a fan, so my efforts have gone into tweaking my sourdough fruit loaf. I’m happy with the formula, and keeping it for holidays, special occasions and visitors. It lasted the four days, wonderful fresh out of the oven day 1, and lightly toasted day 2-4. Now, we’re breaded out!
    Like you, we made it through Easter and a 4 day long-weekend… kudos to those of us who kept the line and virtual hugs (which I don’t hand out lightly, in real life either), we know who we are -and aren’t…- and can be proud of ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Virtual hugs in return. Yes, I’m over the bun thing big time I ket about 8 from my monster bake, the rest were sent to the big kids and kidlets. There are 3 are left.


    1. Julie, there’s not much difference between pizza and bread except the shape. I would send you some dehydrated sourdough starter but the customs people might think it’s an envelope of powdered drugs.

      Liked by 1 person

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