THE tradition is that the first hot cross bun was the creation
of Br Thomas Rocliffe, of St Albans Abbey, who, in
1381, "caused a quantity of small spiced cakes, marked with a
cross, to be made; then he directed them to be given away to
persons who applied at the door of the refectory on Good Friday, in
addition to the customary basin of sack.
"These cakes so pleased the palates of the people who were the
recipients that they became talked about, and various were the
attempts to imitate the cakes of Br Thomas all over the country,
but the recipe of which was kept within the walls of the
The original full recipe is still a closely guarded secret but
the ingredients include flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants, and
grains of paradise or cardamom. Today, the buns are produced by
Redbournbury Mill, once owned by St Albans Abbey, where the baker
stays, he says, close to the original recipe, with the slight
addition of some extra fruit.
The buns are hand-formed; so they are more irregular in shape
than more commercial buns, and the cross on top is formed with two
slices of a knife, instead of being piped.
The Alban buns, which arrive fresh-baked every day throughout
Lent and until Easter Monday, are available from the Abbot's
Kitchen at the Abbey. They are made this year, says the miller at
Redbournbury, Justin James, from wheat grown at Hammonds End Farm,
at Harpenden. "The historic links between mill and abbey", he says,
"are echoed in this truly local product that sees a traditional
partnership between farm, mill, bakery, and abbey."