22 April 2011

Good Friday; Hot Cross Buns

Matthias Grunewald, The Small Crucifixion, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., c.1511-20

Astronomy: the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight through tomorrow morning.
Weather: The sun never shines on Good Friday.
In whatever direction wind blows on Good Friday, it will blow for forty days.
Rain on Good Friday foretells a fruitful year.
If it rains on Good Friday, rains will be without value all summer, that is, they will be too hard, or will come at the wrong time, or for some other reason be valueless.
Rain on the Friday before Easter Sunday is a sign of good luck
Good Friday, our most solemn day, alternatingly heart-breaking  and heart-uplifting.

Once again, I will be joining fellow parishioners in the Good Friday Stations of the Cross, as we walk the four-tenths of a mile between the two churches on Main Street, taking my turn to carry the cross (trust me, it is not made of Styrofoam or balsa-wood).

Meanwhile, here are the traditions for the day:

For some, this is a good day to plant potatoes, beans, and peas, and all sorts of garden seeds.  Sow flower seeds at noon and they will come up double.  This is also a good day for grafting trees.
on the other hand
For some, iron should never be put in the ground today or disaster will follow.  No grave-digging, no plowing or hoeing.  And while we are on the subject, no sewing, or the semptress is in danger of being hit by lightning.  Laundering anything brings bad luck.

It is said to be especially unlucky to begin any new undertaking on Good Friday.

[I sometimes wonder if a few of these superstitions were put about by people who wanted a day off from their usual chores.]

Bread baked today will never go moldy.
Eating bread baked today will cure all illness.

Which leads us to:

One a penny, buns!
Two a penny, 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!

Like other breads baked today, hot cross buns are said never to go moldy.  Several whole buns might be saved until next Good Friday in the cupboard to protect the house from fire.  Eating a bun or swallowing scrapings from it, mixed in a glass of water, were thought to cure any illness.

A piece of the bun saved and worn on a neck-chain protected the wearer from lightning, shipwreck, and whooping-cough.

Of course, I wouldn't know.  They are so delicious, warm from the oven with the icing just melting, that none have ever survived to be saved for the rest of the year.  If your bakery does not sell them, try this recipe:

This is a yeast bread.

Preheat oven to 450° F.
Separate 3 eggs.  Reserve the whites for another use.  Lightly beat the yolks.
Melt 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter.

Heat 1/4 cup of water to between 105°F to 115°F.  Sprinkle 1 package of active dry yeast into the water.  Let it stand a few minutes and then stir until dissolved.

Scald 1 cup of milk.  In a bowl, put 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 cup of shortening.  Pour the scalded milk over them; cool to lukewarm.  Add the yeast and 2 cups of flour and beat well.  Let it rise until light (aka 'resting') about half an hour.

In another bowl, mix 2-1/2 cups of flour with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  To the rested dough, add the egg yolks and the flour mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of currants or raisins.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 8 minutes.  Put into a large greased bowl, brush the top of the dough with melted butter, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Grease a baking pan. Shape the dough into 18 - 24 small round buns and place close together (about 1/2 inch apart) in the pan.  Cover and let rise until doubled.

Now then, you can either cut a cross into the top of each bun with a sharp knife or razor blade, or wait and make the cross with a bit of frosting.

Bake for about 15 minutes, brush tops with melted butter, and bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

If you wish to make the cross with frosting, mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons of milk or water and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract.  When smooth, spoon onto buns in a cross pattern.