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Barbadians, more commonly known as “Bajans” do tend to enjoy their food more than most. Indeed, the late Bajan foodie, Carmeta Fraser, was very fond of saying “Food comes First”. So amidst the kite flying, early morning church going of Easter and other traditional Easter past-times, food is heartily enjoyed all year round.
Now, Easter in the English Speaking Caribbean is a quiet time and usually more restrained time and most people tend to observe the age old tradition of forsaking the heavier meats for the period and eating mostly fish. Sigh. Good bye, ham hocks and medium well steaks. Good bye ribs and all your other baked and grill top meat based goodies.
Hello fish in every way form and fashion: fried in traditional tempura like batter, baked whole and filled with all kinds of stuffing, boiled in that oh so aromatic soup form and the list is endless. Flying fish, King fish, Bill fish, red snapper, Eel, Dolphin and all kinds of colourful “potfish” make their way into our kitchens. I need a moment. I think I may need to score a snack before I continue. Don’t know why I’m suddenly hungry.
Right! Snack in hand. What do I have? A sandwich! Filled with, what else, fish! Ah ha. This is no ordinary sandwich. This is one that we can make only at Easter! Now wait… I know you are reading this and chuckling to yourself and thinking “who is he trying to fool?” But I’m serious. Year round the fish is available but the bread for this particular sandwich is not. Now I’ve got your attention, don’t I?
Meet the Hot Cross Bun
The hot cross bun is not really bajan in origin. I think most Caribbean and European countries have some variant of this dish. But for me, it’s that cinnamon aroma and those little pastry crosses on top of them that signal Easter is here.
Now, many local bakeries do competent variations of this fluffy pastry. However, few truly do it the justice it deserves. Two local baking houses that make you hug yourself and feel all warm and fuzzy are the ladies and gentlemen over at Purity Bakery and good people over at Zepherin’s Bakery. There is a reason why the hot cross buns from these two bakeries are widely available across the island during this period.
Of course, should you be quite the adventurous sort, feel free to have a go at making your own.
Here is a handy recipe compliments of the good folks at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
For the buns:
- 625g/1.3lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 45g/ 1.5 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
- 85g/3oz sugar
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1½ tsp fast-action yeast
- 1 free-range egg
- 275ml/10fl oz tepid milk
- 125g/4oz mixed dried fruit
For the topping:
- For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.
- Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
- Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
- Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then place inside a large polythene bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.
- Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas 8.
- Meanwhile, for the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with 2 tablespoons of cold water.
- When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
- Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Have a go. Drop us a line and let us know how it turns out. Better yet, send us some samples!