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Tag Archive: Easter

Apr 18

Sweet, delicious hot cross buns, a family Easter tradition – from my archived columns

“Hot cross buns, hot cross buns. One ‘ah penny, two ‘ah penny, hot cross buns. If you have no daughters, give them to your sons, one ‘ah penny, two ‘ah penny, hot cross buns.” – English ditty

hot cross buns

Even though Easter is over, hot cross buns are high on my list of traditions I want to keep alive for future generations.

A family custom in many households around the world but especially in England, these sweet yeast rolls are served warm either on Good Friday or Easter Sunday morning.

Perhaps you wonder what hot cross buns are if you never tried one.

Here is how I would describe them if baked to perfection.

Sweet and delicious with a glossy-browned finish on top, filled with mild spices, currants, or dried fruit and raisins, and lastly decorated on top with white “powdered sugar” icing in the shape of a cross, a reminder of the crucifixion of Christ.

In addition to being simply good to eat, I find the lore surrounding hot cross buns deliciously interesting.

For example, did you know that Elizabeth I, Queen of England, once banned the buns because she feared they would bring the return of Catholicism? The buns were so popular, however, that she relented.

And before that, the Romans brought the buns to England in the 1360s, whereupon a monk distributed them to the poor for food and healing. Because the buns had a cross on top, many believed they had magical healing powers. The buns were crushed into a powder that was subsequently used as medicine.

Additionally, superstition held that hot cross buns protected one’s household from evil, therefore, families hung them from the ceilings to ward off evil spirits.

Another story tells the tale of an English widow whose son went off to sea. She baked his favorite hot cross buns, every Good Friday and hung them in her window hoping he would come home. Although he never returned, the English people continued the tradition and baked hot cross buns every Good Friday.

I guess I do the same with our sons, in a manner of speaking, although I don’t hang the buns in the window.

On this particular Easter weekend for example, our grown kids, who incidentally never saw an Easter Sunday morning without a hot cross bun in their lives, all called commenting about hot cross buns.

One son who is away at school lamented the fact that he had no hot cross buns for Easter. It saddened him.

Another son wondered if he should stop at a bakery on his way home for Easter. Did I need him to pick up hot cross buns? Just wanted to be sure we had some, he said.

Another son is newly married and lives in another state. In the afternoon they called with their greetings. My son’s bride said she was curious about something and asked, “What are hot cross buns?” She said they went to a church that served them for Easter breakfast, and she didn’t know what they were. Then she laughed and said, “But your son seemed to know all about them.”

As I said, I am doing my part to keep this tradition alive.

The lyrics of the English ditty did say something about giving hot cross buns to your sons, didn’t it?

Apr 21

Easter dinner, almost as good as Paula Deen’s

“Two layers of pudding and whipped cream with chocolate drizzled on top: I’m gonna be making éclair cake.” –Paula Deen

I will not be making éclair cake for Easter, although it truly sounds heavenly. Rather, I will be making a tasty recipe, Passover Lemon Sponge Cake, if all goes well.

Personally, I like to eat out for Easter dinner, but once in awhile I crave my mother’s traditional Easter fare followed by a lovely Easter cake of some variety or other.

I guess you could say I am homesick for glazed ham, creamy scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, asparagus au gratin, candied apples, and yes, Easter cake. Oh, and chocolate Easter eggs go without saying.

For dessert, my mother once served something similar to Paula Deen’s éclair cake, but what I remember most was mom’s sponge cake with lemon filling. Some folks refer to it as Passover Lemon Sponge Cake, but she called it Italian Lemon Sponge Cake.

Reflecting on these delicious memories, I decided, one day out of the blue, to recreate the meal that would serve as a trial run before Easter Sunday.

I wanted to duplicate everything to perfection, but first I needed to search through my mother’s recipes for assistance. Unfortunately, I discovered that none of these were written down, except for the Italian Sponge Cake.

I tried to reconstruct the rest of the menu items from memory hoping they would turn out exactly the way I recalled.

The ham and potatoes were ordinary at best, although I had better luck with recreating the baked asparagus au gratin.

I bought the candied apples.

As I searched for a recipe similar to the one I remembered for deviled eggs, I was surprised to find that Paula Deen’s Southern Deviled Eggs recipe is almost exactly like my mother’s.

Simply add to the mashed yolks: salt, pepper, mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish. When you are finished filling the egg whites with the mixture, garnish with paprika and chopped pimento.

Incidentally, the one difference between their versions is that Paula Deen does not add vinegar or sugar to her deviled eggs, according to her recipe. My mother added equal parts of vinegar and sugar to hers, but actually her filling was quite heavy on the vinegar as I recall. The more I think about it, I cannot imagine Paula Deen ever adding that much vinegar to anything.

Now, for dessert.

One can make the sponge cake the laborious way from scratch, or the down-and-dirty, make-it-fast way. In other words, buy a mix or a ready-made cake.

Don’t become too much of a purist about making your own sponge cake, please. Even Paula Deen suggests purchasing some things already prepared—they can be just as good. Do make your own filling.

Here’s a retooled recipe I use for Italian Lemon Sponge Cake:

Filling ingredients: 1/3 cup lemon juice, ½ cup sugar, two egg yolks beaten plus one whole egg, one stick butter cut into pieces.

Stir together the lemon juice, sugar, egg, and yolks in a saucepan with a whisk. Place over medium heat and add the butter in small pieces while still whisking. Cook until it is thickened and just starting to boil (too much boiling will curdle it). Pour into small bowl. Chill until completely cold.

Make a batter composed of 2 cups of heavy cream, just like Paula Deen would do, and whip with1/3 cup powdered sugar. Fold half of this into all of the lemon mixture. Use the remaining half of the cream mixture for icing.

Finally, slice the sponge cake into two layers. I like slicing it into 1/3 and 2/3 pieces rather than exact halves. Ice with the remaining cream mixture, and refrigerate over night or longer.

To make this cake, the Italian way, simply replace the lemon juice and the sugar in the filling mixture with ½ cup of Limoncello, an Italian liquer.

There you have it. Easter dinner almost like my mother used to make.

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually cook any of this. One morning as I lay in bed, I cooked Easter dinner like my mother used to make, in my mind. Well, my hairdresser Ann tells me she cleans her house in her mind. It is a whole lot less work.

Didn’t I say I like going out for Easter dinner? I thought so.

Apr 08

Sweet, delicious hot cross buns, a family tradition

“Hot cross buns, hot cross buns. One ‘ah penny, two ‘ah penny, hot cross buns. If you have no daughters, give them to your sons, one ‘ah penny, two ‘ah penny, hot cross buns.” – English ditty

Even though Easter is over, hot cross buns are high on my list of traditions I want to keep alive for future generations.

A family custom in many households around the world but especially in England, these sweet yeast rolls are served warm either on Good Friday or Easter Sunday morning.

Perhaps you wonder what hot cross buns are if you never tried one.

Here is how I would describe them if baked to perfection.

Sweet and delicious with a glossy-browned finish on top, filled with mild spices, currants, or dried fruit and raisins, and lastly decorated on top with white “powdered sugar” icing in the shape of a cross, a reminder of the crucifixion of Christ.

In addition to being simply good to eat, I find the lore surrounding hot cross buns deliciously interesting.

For example, did you know that Elizabeth I, Queen of England, once banned the buns because she feared they would bring the return of Catholicism? The buns were so popular, however, that she relented.

And before that, the Romans brought the buns to England in the 1360s, whereupon a monk distributed them to the poor for food and healing. Because the buns had a cross on top, many believed they had magical healing powers. The buns were crushed into a powder that was subsequently used as medicine.

Additionally, superstition held that hot cross buns protected one’s household from evil, therefore, families hung them from the ceilings to ward off evil spirits.

Another story tells the tale of an English widow whose son went off to sea. She baked his favorite hot cross buns, every Good Friday and hung them in her window hoping he would come home. Although he never returned, the English people continued the tradition and baked hot cross buns every Good Friday.

I guess I do the same with our sons, in a manner of speaking, although I don’t hang the buns in the window.

On this particular Easter weekend for example, our grown kids, who incidentally never saw an Easter Sunday morning without a hot cross bun in their lives, all called commenting about hot cross buns.

One son who is away at school lamented the fact that he had no hot cross buns for Easter. It saddened him.

Another son wondered if he should stop at a bakery on his way home for Easter. Did I need him to pick up hot cross buns? Just wanted to be sure we had some, he said.

Another son is newly married and lives in another state. In the afternoon they called with their greetings. My son’s bride said she was curious about something and asked, “What are hot cross buns?” She said they went to a church that served them for Easter breakfast, and she didn’t know what they were. Then she laughed and said, “But your son seemed to know all about them.”

As I said, I am doing my part to keep this tradition alive.

The lyrics of the English ditty did say something about giving hot cross buns to your sons, didn’t it?

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