I learned about hot cross buns in books, where I learned about many things I never saw in real life. I'm not sure I ever ate one until my son brought them home from the Heidelberg Bakery, where he works the counter. These yeast-raised buns are spiced (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) and spotted with raisins/currents and, in some recipes, dried fruit. On top, they are distinguished by a white icing cross. Many people have happy memories of eating these every Good Friday as an Easter tradition. I'm not one of those people.
Not having been raised (see that pun?) on hot cross buns, I didn't know squat about them. Naturally, for your edification, I poked around on the web until I found out some odds and ends. Nobody knows for sure how they originated. Might have been a monk back in the way back.
And some superstitions are attached to hot cross buns: 1) If you bake hot cross buns on Good Friday and hang them from your rafters, it will keep away evil spirits. 2) Some people thought they protected sailors (seems like a stretch, but people glom on to the weirdest ideas). 3) Hot cross buns baked on Good Friday never go stale. That third notion is also wonky, but I imagine everyone gobbled up the buns so it never got disproved.
Happily for today's post, hot cross buns out in the air do go stale. And they are great to chop up and turn into bread pudding. Really, really great. Assuming you're the type who likes raisins, of course.
Hot Cross Bread Pudding
8 cups king cake cut into 3/4-inch cubes (Make sure you remove the figurine/baby)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together in a big bowl:
3 cups milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt.
Add bread cubes and toss well. Spray a 2-quart casserole with vegetable oil, and pour the mixture into the casserole.
Bake until light brown and cake tester comes out clean (test halfway between rim and center): about 55-60 minutes.
The pudding will puff up as a souffle does. To present nicely, rush to table and serve. It will taste great at any point, but the middle will fall as it cools.
Serves 12, theoretically.
Adapted from Days-of-Yore Bread Pudding (Crisps, Cobblers, Custards & Creams by Jean Anderson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).
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