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Maundy Thursday 2022: Why Goa's bakeries churn out thousands of hot cross buns the day before Good Friday

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, currants in a sweet bun with a dusting of sugar on top: hot cross buns are made in bakeries across Goa on Maundy Thursday, which marks The Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his apostles.

April 14, 2022 / 06:03 PM IST
Traditionally made with whole wheat flour, fat, salt, molasses and yeast, hot cross bun recipes have evolved to include refined flour, raisins, rum, candied fruit and fruit glaze. (Image: Manny Nb via Unsplash)

Traditionally made with whole wheat flour, fat, salt, molasses and yeast, hot cross bun recipes have evolved to include refined flour, raisins, rum, candied fruit and fruit glaze. (Image: Manny Nb via Unsplash)

You know Easter is round the corner when you can smell freshly baked hot-cross buns a mile from the bakery, during this otherwise solemn Holy Week.

Old bakeries like Perfect Bakery & Café, Panjim, frenetically bake hot cross buns by the thousands for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Many locals also bake unleavened hot cross buns at home, following family recipes.

Says Gletta Mascarhenas of Confeitaria 31de Janeiro, Panjim, “We've baked 3,000-4,000 hot cross buns on Wednesday and Maundy Thursday only, for the last 90-plus years, ever since we started. Families apart, churches too, place orders with us. Priced affordably at Rs 10, we want everyone to savour these.”

Hot cross buns are lightly sweet yeast buns, made of flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, currants and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and are marked on top with a cross.  Before baking, a cross is slashed on the top of the bun and post baking, icing sugar is used to fill the cross. The cross denotes the Catholic imagery of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The symbolism of the hot cross bun, dates back to ancient times and was adopted by Christians, as a Good Friday food.


Childhood memories

Alexandra Braganza, a septuagenarian from a North Goa village, reminisces, “We used to look forward to the long Maundy Thursday service in Church as kids, as after the Mass, we would receive a hot cross bun, which was warm. We would hold the coveted bun and rush back home walking quickly, in order to devour it and break our Lenten fast.”

Origin and history

Theories about the origins of hot cross buns abound. According to one legend, oxen were sacrificed and their horns inscribed on freshly baked bread. The four quadrants made by the cross on the bread are said to have represented the phases of the moon.

Another theory states that a 13th-century Anglican monk baked these buns as a symbol of love and friendship, to share with others and marked them with a cross in honour of Good Friday.

By the 16th century, these buns had been introduced in England. The queen decided to keep the buns sacred and a law was passed to limit the sale of these buns to Christmas, funerals and Good Friday.

Modern spin

In the old days, hot cross buns were made with whole wheat flour, some fat, a pinch of salt, molasses and yeast, as opposed to the ones today, made with refined flour, raisins and candied fruit. Over the years, the basic recipe, too, has undergone a change with a fun spin. Hot cross buns are eaten by many like a regular sweet bun at tea time or at breakfast.

Larder & Folk, Panjim, has gone a step further and is offering hot cross donuts with rum and raisin cream, malta orange glaze, cinnamon-spiced cross and candied orange peels. Elsewhere, decadent chocolate chips and gluten-free versions have entered the market. Some places even make sourdough buns.

Variations apart, many still prefer the traditional hot cross buns. Typically priced at Rs 10-50 a bun, these are no longer available for a penny, as the nursery rhyme from one’s childhood suggested. “One a penny, two a penny, Hot cross buns,” rings pleasantly in one’s ears at this time of the year.

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