• Beth Jones

hermeneutics, chocolate, and hot cross buns

Updated: Apr 13

How my husband reinterpreted an Easter tradition, because he loves 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.

The hot cross bun is a beautiful baked good, but I'm not a fan of the traditional fruits and spices, and neither are my kids. In fact, since chocolate was introduced, I'm not sure why anyone would eat a non-chocolate dessert. So my husband, Brian, reinterpreted the hot cross bun in chocolate.

This seems to me to be a fun--tiny--example of the ways we play with and reinterpret tradition as Christians. Perhaps, it's even an example of what Old Testament scholar Ellen Davis calls "critical traditioning," (her essay is available here, in The Art of Reading Scripture).

Although I would argue fairly strongly that the Tradition with a capital T shows remarkable inner coherence, the Christian tradition doesn't always agree with itself, and the process of ajudicating competing claims within the tradition happens in a conversation between those very claims. Claims which need to be reworked are not dropped, but reimagined in light of greater faithfulness to the Word and the Tradition.

Now, hot cross buns are certainly adiaphora, and I'm not going to anathemize you if you prefer fruit and spices, but the chocolate bun--born in love for the peculiarities of a chocolate loving wife--takes up and reinterprets the tradition in a clearly superior way.

Below, Brian's excellent recipe. He did sneak some spices in there, but no fruit:

Critical Traditioning: Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients for Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 13 to 14 buns (90g each):

  • 500g strong white flour

  • 50g brown sugar (may add more to your liking)

  • 50g granulated sugar

  • 50g Cocoa Powder (again, may add more, to your liking)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • ½ tsp of chili powder

  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract

  • 15g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast

  • 300ml milk, warmed slightly

  • 1 egg

  • 50g butter, diced

  • 200g semi-sweet chocolate chips (or whatever kind of chocolate you prefer)

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 180g confectioners sugar

  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of heavy cream

I adapted this from the amazing Irish baker Patrick Ryan’s recipe for Hot Cross Buns. Please watch his amazing Master Class on Hot Cross Buns video here! His baking videos are outstanding!


1. This dough can be made by hand, however if you have a mixer, feel free to use it using the dough hook attachment.

2. Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in the mixer's bowl. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, Cocoa Powder, salt, cinnamon, chili powder, and vanilla extract.

3. Crumble the yeast into the flour (or add dry yeast) and pour the milk along with the egg into the flour. Begin to mix the dough on a slow medium speed.

Tip: This is quite a soft, supple dough. If it feels a little wet and sticky, don’t panic, just stay with it and be persistent. The dough will come together. Avoid the temptation to add extra flour. Continue to mix for 3 to 4 minutes.

4. As the dough develops slowly and starts to come away from the sides of the bowl, add the diced butter slowly, while the mixer is still going. Increase the speed of the mixer slightly. Continue to mix until all the butter has been incorporated.

5. Add the chocolate chips to the dough and gently knead for 1 to 2 minutes to distribute. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm, and leave to prove for about 1½ – 2 hours.

6. Once the dough has doubled in size turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knock back.

7. Cut the dough into 13 to 14 equal pieces approximately 90g each. Roll each piece of dough round and place on a non-stick baking tray or a tray lined with parchment paper, leaving enough room between to allow each bun to prove and grow without touching. Leave to prove again for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

8. Preheat the oven to 200°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Brush each bun with a beaten egg (with a pinch of salt)

9. Bake the buns 15 to 20 minutes, until rich mahogany in color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

10. Once cool (waiting will be hard, but if you cannot wait, they are awesome warm without icing) then make up the icing for the crosses by mixing together the sugar and heavy cream in a bowl. The paste needs to be of a piping consistency. Spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.

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