This Easter, I decided to go all out. Easter is a big holiday over here in Switzerland as in the rest of Europe and like many others we had a nice long four day weekend.
For me it was the perfect time to bring family and friends together. And maybe, make up for my lack of enthusiasm at Christmas time.
I was determined to make this Easter the best. Not only was I going to entertain friends and family, but this year it was going to be a Bermudian Good Friday and Easter.
On Friday, I began my baking of the traditional Hot Cross Buns, which are a sweet roll filled with raisins and iced on the top with a cross (in case you don’t have this tradition in your neck of the woods).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my mom’s recipe, but after a while I remembered my mother’s old friend, who has passed away, Bee Faries. My mom once gave me a charity cookbook she contributed too. It is my ‘go-to’ cookbook for my Bermudian Peas and Rice recipe (also known as Hoppin’ John) and my Bermuda Banana Bread. I remember that my mom had the recipe from her, and low and behold, after a quick flip through the slightly tattered pages of the cookbook, I found her recipe.
The ingredients told me it was very likely that I was right about my mother using this recipe for her buns.
In fact, right after Easter, I came across it and was able to determine how much it differed from that original recipe. Who knows, maybe Bee gave my mom that secret ingredient that wasn’t revealed in the cookbook?
In any case, I thouroughly enjoyed preparing for my Easter weekend cooking bonanza and had decided ahead of time, that although I was going to have to hold the weight of this dream that was a Bermudian Good Friday and Easter weekend, that in order for it to all run smoothly on the date of our two parties, certain things were going to definitely need to change if I was going to pull this off. Mainly that I was going to have to be organized.
My small, European sized kitchen, fridge, and freezer required some tactical planning, if everything was going to be served at the right time, at the right temperature, and come out tasting as it should.
I was going to have to ask for reinforcements.
In Bermuda, the only kind of family parties I was accustomed to were big. 20+ for a proper meal. It took a lot of planning and preparation. The only practical, party planning skills I had, was that gleaned from my mother: Pot-luck, phone invitations, ask people to bring at least one thing, which then needed to be noted, so there was no double ups. As for cooking, this was begun at least a day in advance in order to be ready. The company cuttlery and dinnerware would need to be located and cleaned, napkins found. I was usually given the task of rolling little cuttlery bundles to set prepared at the buffet table.
Here in Switzerland, the invitation numbers were a lot less. Friends, Easter Sunday. Family Easter Monday. 8 mouths to feed and sit, each day, including kids, teenagers and vegetarians.
I would only survive this if I asked the vegetarians mom to bring something for them to eat specifically. Because I wasn’t as well organized as my mother, I didn’t know what this was going to be and I really couldn’t care less, as long as they were taken care of. How anyone can be a vegetarian in Switzerland I really don’t understand. You couldn’t get any happier cows than are out in the pasture a few fences away from my yard. Nor could you ask for better quality in meat, whether it be traditional meats or the more exotic.
(But this is a heated debate I am not wanting to get into right now. ) I actually enjoy vegetarian food and regularly go without meat, so it isn’t meant critically, more like I am astonished or dumbfounded. When I first came to Switzerland I ate mainly chicken, now I eat just about anything; except for traditional pets.
On Good Friday (Karfreitag), after spending the morning with my husband’s “Götti Bueb” (god son), it was time to get moving on the hot cross buns.
Although I had made them once before, it had been some years and I had never used real yeast, just the quick stuff. So hubby had to give me some tips on this. It was certainly a long process, but the recipe from Bee, was relatively easy.
Allspice is a spice we can unfortunately not find here in Switzerland, but I had made some for another recipe a month or so ago so I had that on hand. Living in Switzerland, for almost 11 years now, a country where basic ingredients I took for granted, from my Bermudian/British & American upbringing, I have learned that if I want to make something with a particular ingredient, I am going to have to make it myself.
Spices like Allspice, I had bought in the past through an online shop based here in Switzerland, but that option was not only too expensive after paying shipping and duty, but required you to be organized. I was tired of ordering something you only need maybe a few times a year and expired before you could use it a handful of times.
Hot Cross Buns
Of course, as so often happens, when I went to prepare to make the hot cross buns, all these questions started to fill my mind. Distractions from the task at hand. Why were they called hot cross buns, well obviously they have a cross on them and so one would logically think of the christian sign of the cross, but who first came up with the idea, how long has this traditional specialty been around? Of course I would never have gotten them finished if I allowed my mind to be distracted by these thoughts, but nevertheless, I was curious.
This morning, I did some post Hot Cross Bun business, research. I have pinned many articles and posts from different bloggers that looked interesting. But the one I found the most helpful was this page, so if you too are interested in a little cultural culinary history, I would recommend you check out the Victorian Trading Co. blog to see their post on this here. They also have a wonderful looking website, which was quite the distraction as I was writing this post.
But back to my cooking adventures this past Good Friday.
Using Bea Faries recipe found in the Altrusa International, Inc. of Bermuda’s A Taste of Altrusa ‘s small spiral bound cookbook. I set to work converting some of the amounts as needed.
Crisco is a vegetable based solid fat, used in baking in North America. I am mentioning this as I remember finding it difficult to buy something equivalent to this pantry staple when I first landed in Switzerland, many years ago.
For this recipe I used fresh yeast and butter, as I don’t see the use of using margarine if you can get butter easily. For more on yeast go to the Virtuous Bread website at this link here where you can see pictures of the three different kinds of yeast for bread making and get many questions you may have answered on yeast.
As I had prepared all the ingredients before, digging in, I found it very straight forward and easy to follow and thanks to my Kitchen Aid mixer, the dough was prepared in no time.
In any case it all came out as I would have wished. It was my first time using real yeast, but it rose pretty well, much better than the quick rising yeast I had used some years before.
After the dough had raised, I cut the crosses in them. This ensured that icing would definitely land where it was supposed to after they came out of the oven.
Looking at their picture again, displayed on a pretty Bermudian serving dish that my aunty Lane gave me, I can feel my mouth start to water once again.
The buns tasted divine, fresh out of the oven slathered with a layer of butter, though are also delicious with cream cheese, jam or as we do on Good Friday, with a fish cake on top. But that is for another post. The buns kept well at room temperature, covered in cellophane, ready for breakfast the next day and on Easter Sunday, awaiting our guests arrival.
Quite unlike me, I unfortunately didn’t get any shots of the food alone at either of the parties… but here is one shot of the left overs!
Bermudian mini Cod Fish Cakes and Peas and Rice.
A joint effort of Yves and I, he did the cod fish cakes, and I, the peas and rice!
A full article on this spice berry, including a detailed description on: it’s historical and geographical origin; it’s bouquet, flavor and hotness; preparation and storage; culinary and medicinal purposes; the spice’s plant and cultivation; can be found on the Epicentre website by clicking the link here.
However, let me mention the names most relevant for my readers.
Allspice is also known as:
English Spice, Jamaica Pepper, Clove Pepper, Myrtle Pepper, Pimenta, Pimento
French: pimenta, tout-épice
If you read to the end of this post, well wow! I think you deserve a reward! Make yourself your very own hot cross buns. I know the Queen Elizabeth the 1st might not have permitted it, but I do. I know I won’t be able to resist making this recipe again. Maybe I will just leave the cross off, when I make this special treat, but don’t worry I won’t forget the glaze.
A special thank you to Bea for this great recipe!
As for you dear reader, I would love to hear from you, share your own Good Friday experiences and traditions, whether they are your cultural traditions or a special family tradition. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research for this post and learning a little about the tradition of hot cross buns. But I know there is a lot more to learn and many a recipe to try out!
Wishing you a great day or evening!