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Hot Cross Buns

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By Lisa D. Johnson | Apr 18, 2014

For as long as I can remember my grandma made Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. I was raised being a part of the process and having them to eat – lots of them! My grandma didn’t just make a few either. She made bunches and bunches of them. She would have trays set aside with little notes on them as to who they belonged to!

I remember her enormous enamelware bowl and the many different patterns of soft tea towels that were used to cover the buns while they were rising. The smell was fantastic. For me as a child it was so hard to wait. The process seemed to take forever, and it felt even longer because there was no batter to eat and no bowls to clean out! The icing was one thing that you could get a sample of. When there were Hot Cross Buns in the house, her red Pyrex refrigerator dish was in the fridge full of icing in case anyone wanted extra!

Usually I was more interested in playing or being outside so I never sat still to learn how to make them. My grandpa passed away in January 2001. I knew that it would be hard for her that year. I wanted to learn exactly how she made her Hot Cross Buns so we made plans that she would teach me.

I took time off of work and made a special trip to Grandma’s house. She showed me how she did every step. She used the same bowls that I remembered as a child. The kitchen was warm so that the dough could rise. The house was full of the smells and sounds that were always present on that day. She taught me well, giving me tips that she had perfected over the years to make the process easier and the buns better. At the end of the day, we were surrounded by baked goodness and were as full as we dared to be. During my baking lesson, I watched Grandma pull a square glass jar out of her cupboard. It was filled with powdered sugar. I had just started becoming interested in antiques and had noticed jars like this before. I asked her about it. She didn’t stop what she was doing and continued to gather the supplies to make icing. A big glass bowl, her hand mixer and the vanilla. Her voice got soft and quiet and she said, “We got this as a gift at our wedding.” I was stunned. Who has a glass jar and uses it regularly for more than 50 years?! That moment touched me because even though she hadn’t said a word or showed in any way that she was missing my grandpa – he was in her thoughts.

I am so glad I took the time to spend that day with Grandma, just the two of us. That year, Easter was in the middle of April. She passed away the beginning of May. Since then, I have made Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. My mom comes to help, and we make a day of it. I only use my grandma’s recipe, and I only do it the way that she always did. I have the same hand mixer that she used that day. I use tea towels like she did. I don’t make as many but I do share them with friends and neighbors. I keep extra icing in my fridge in a red Pyrex dish with a clear glass lid. And I have the glass jar that she had used for more than 50 years.

The day I learned how to make Hot Cross Buns didn’t just teach me a family tradition. It taught me why family traditions matter. It links us with the people we care about and gives us a connections that we can continue sharing for many years to come. As I make Hot Cross Buns today, I remember seeing it done as a child. I treasure the day I learned how to do it from Grandma. And I get to share it with my family.

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