OK class, repeat after me:

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!

If your sons don’t like them,

They’re the only ones,

One a penny,

Two a penny,

Hot cross buns!

We all remember the song, and as kids, how fun it was to scream “BUNS!” during class — even if we even didn’t know, exactly, what a hot cross bun was.

A hot cross bun, or cross-bun, is a sweet, yeast-leavened, spiced bun made with currants or raisins, often with candied citrus fruits, marked with a cross on the top. Stories abound about the origins of the hot cross bun. The common thread throughout is the symbolism of the “cross” of icing on the top of the bun. Some believe the cross stands as a symbol of the crucifixion, while others believe that the hot cross bun predates Christianity. Some say the Saxons marked the buns in honor of the goddess Eostre — the cross symbolizing the four quarters of the moon. (Eostre is likely the origin of the name “Easter.”) Others claim the Greeks marked the cakes with a cross even earlier. Whatever you believe, these little buns are delicious and while traditionally eaten at Easter and Good Friday, are now sold all year round.

There are also many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that hot cross buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy for an entire year (we do not recommend testing that theory!). Another superstition encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes — that a piece of a hot cross bun has tremendous healing powers.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is also supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if you both say “Half for you and half for me / Between us two shall goodwill be.”

Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly.

We just like to eat them!

We have included the recipe for our Model Bakery Hot Cross Buns. Whether you make them during the Easter season, or like to bake them all year long, we hope you enjoy our version.

Happy baking!

Model Bakery

Hot Cross Buns

9 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups milk

2 whole eggs

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1/3 tsp. salt

1 tsp. yeast

1/2 tsp spice blend — equal parts combined ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cloves, cinnamon

1 Tbsp. butter

1 2/3 cup currants

1 Tbsp. orange zest

Add all ingredients except the butter, zest and currants. (Yeast doesn’t have to be bloomed if it’s active dry yeast. If not, bloom in warm milk.)

Mix for about 5 minutes on low speed. Increase mixer to high speed and add butter. Mix until the dough is shiny and pulling away from the bowl. Turn back to low speed, add currants and zest. Mix until currants are well incorporated.

After mixing, let dough rest for 45 minutes.

Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased sheet pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.

Mix one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on the dough balls.

Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.

To make crosses: Mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and milk. Brush an X on each cooled bun.

Karen and Sarah Mitchell are the owners of Model Bakery, which has locations on Main Street in St. Helena and in Napa at the Oxbow Public Market.

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