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Easter is just around the corner and with it comes the promise of fun Easter egg hunts, munching Beacon marshmallow eggs, and feasting on buttery Hot Cross buns and tea. Ah, all of the things that make a South African Easter a favourite time of year. But what if you are an expat in a foreign country where all these things are quite simply “foreign” to your new colleagues and friends? Well, it’s time to bring a little taste of home to your new shores, that’s what! Yip, you guessed it, you’re about to learn how to make your very own Hot Cross buns. But first, there are a few things to discuss…

Before we start making a mess in the kitchen with this year’s must-try Hot Cross bun recipe, let’s take a look at the history of Easter globally.

The History of Easter

Easter is a Christian holiday that will be celebrated on Sunday 12 April 2020 this year. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3 days after he was crucified by the Romans in 30 AD. While Easter is nowadays associated with Christian celebrations, the actual origins of the celebration date back to pagan times, before Christianity.

Many people argue about the actual origin of the name “Easter” and the various symbolic traditions that form part of the celebration. Some believe it is named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility (which fits the pagan festival origins) while others believe it is a Latin phrase meaning “dawn”. Regardless of the arguments surrounding these details, one thing is for certain; many of the key symbols used in modern day Easter celebrations are actually from pagan origin or from the Jewish Passover.

South African Easter traditions

In the Christian world, the days leading up to Easter are highly important. During this time, many people choose to fast (for Lent) and for penitence. This period of Lent lasts for 40 days. After the 40 days are up, Christians typically begin their Easter Celebrations. Celebrations begin on Saturday (Holy Saturday), which is the day prior to Easter. They most-often hold religious services and an Easter vigil.

It doesn’t really matter which denomination you belong to, Easter eggs seem to form part of all Easter celebrations. Because things such as Easter eggs actually link to the pagan festivals and not the Christian ones of times gone by, many non-Christians will participate in Easter by partaking in Easter egg eating and Easter egg hunts.

Some of the South African Easter traditions that you have most likely enjoyed in the past and will be enjoyed in Easter 2020 are:

  • Egg decorating: Eggs are a symbol of birth and fertility. Decorating Easter eggs is way to be mindful of Jesus’ death and his resurrection or “rebirth”.
  • Easter egg hunts: Many people have commercialized the celebration of Easter and hide decorated eggs for the children to find.
  • Easter egg rolls: This is popular in the US and not really in South Africa. In the US, children typically participate in the annual White House Easter Egg roll where they roll Easter eggs down Capitol Hill.
  • A visit from the Easter Bunny: Why the Easter Bunny? This is a tradition that was actually taken to America by German immigrants. It was believed that springtime rabbit births in the meadows were symbolic of birth and renewal, which is essentially the message of Easter to many.
  • Feasting on lamb roast: This is symbolic of the sacrificial lamb during the Passover, which speaks of the sacrificial way in which Jesus’ life was taken.
  • Eating Hot Cross buns (this is a tradition that is particularly popular in South Africa): The history of the Hot Cross bun and Easter is interesting. The origins of the Hot Cross bun date back to the 12th Century. It was a time when an Anglican monk baked regular buns and in honour of Good Friday, started marking them with a cross over the top. Over time, his baked cross buns became quite popular and were seen as a symbol of the Easter weekend. The buns, which had become quite popular in Elizabethan England near the end of the 16th Century, came to Queen Elizabeth’s attention. At the time, the English were a superstitious nation and many believed that the buns were magical or medicinal. To keep order, Queen Elizabeth set a law in place stating that such sweet buns could only be baked on Christmas, for funerals, and the Friday before Easter (Good Friday). The general population balked at the law and in a way of rebellion, started baking their own…and so the concept of Hot Cross buns that we eat today was born! Soon the law was difficult to implement and so it was dropped.

Easter recipes: Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Luckily there’s no law against buying or baking Hot Cross buns nowadays and as far as Easter recipes go, Hot Cross buns are on the top of everyone’s list. Hot Cross buns are especially popular in South African tradition and if you would like to give your colleagues a taste of Saffa hot cross buns, here’s a recipe you absolutely have to try.

Hot cross buns – what you need:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose white flour
  • 2 cups of white bread flour
  • 1 and a ½ teaspoons of instant yeast
  • ½ a cup of warm milk (you can use plant or nut milk as an alternative – almond milk is great)
  • ½ a cup of warm water
  • ¾ cup of raisins and currants mixed
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of allspice
  • 2 teaspoons of fine salt
  • 3 and a ½ tablespoons of castor sugar
  • Zest of half an orange finely grated
  • 1 medium egg (you can use 2 tablespoons of Aquafaba as an alternative)
  • 3 and a ½ tablespoons of butter (you can use vegan margarine as an alternative – Flora is a great option)
  • Extra flour and water to make the crosses
  • Jam and warm water to make a glaze

Hot cross buns – what to do:

  • Combine the flours, milk, water, salt, sugar, and yeast in a bowl.
  • Once combined, add the egg (or aquafaba) and butter (or vegan marge) and mix it all up into a tacky type of dough.
  • Throw the raisins, currants, orange zest, and all of the spices into the mix and kneed it thoroughly until it becomes smooth and sleek.
  • Cover the dough mix in the bowl with a kitchen town and let it rest for 1 hour. During this time, it should begin to rise. When it is twice its original size, it is ready for the next phase.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Gently kneed the risen dough a few times and then split it into 8 divisions.
  • Shape each of the divisions into a bun shape and dust it lightly with flour.
  • Lightly flour a breadboard and then place the buns onto it and cover the batch with cling wrap or a kitchen towel.
  • Let the buns rest for half an hour. You will notice that they rise twice their size again – this is normal.

Hot cross buns – the crosses:

  • Whisk together 2 parts flour to 1 part water, to make a thick, smooth paste. If it is too watery, add more flour. If it is too thick, add more water.
  • Put the paste into a sandwich bag or pastry bag and snip off the corner to create a fine hole to squeeze it through.
  • Place the buns onto a greased baking tray and squeeze the flour into a cross shape onto the top of each bun.
  • Place the tray into the oven and leave to bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • While the buns are baking, melt some jam and a very small amount of water. As you pull the buns out of the oven, brush them lightly with the melted jam mixture for a bit of glazing.
  • Place the buns onto a rack to cool.

You can serve these Hot Cross buns hot from the oven, cold, or toasted with melted butter. Get ready to enjoy that mmm mm moment when you sink your teeth into the delectable spicy goodness.

FinGlobal: Financial & Tax Emigration Specialists

You don’t want to spend your Easter break fending off feelings of worry about your financial and tax emigration status do you? If you have left South Africa and would rather remember the good times and traditions instead of fret over admin and processes, turn to the helpful advice and guidance of the consultants at FinGlobal. With 10 years of experience in the field, we can get your tax emigration and financial emigration processing done and dusted in a jiffy. This Easter, bite into your delicious Hot Cross buns, sip on a cup of tea and enjoy yourself with complete peace of mind that your tax and financial emigration is completely handled for you. For more information, simply contact us Today.