When I first saw this Easter sweet from Málaga called nazareno, which literally translates as nazarean, my first thought was: hot cross buns! Their look is very similar, so I wonder if they are influenced by each other (maybe a traveler that brought them from one place to the other?)
A few differences are that, in the nazareno, the raisins are soaked in Málaga‘s sweet wine, and it also incorporates candied fruit and walnuts. As for the cross –characteristic on both of them–, the recipes vary: some use flour and water while some are icing sugar based. However, my very favorite is the cream cheese frosting. So the recipe I’m bringing you today is the Málaga‘s nazareno with the less-malagueña cream cheese cross. In my opinion, the best of both worlds! Nazareno hot cross bun.
The word nazareno alludes to the men that carry the religious images that process through the towns’ streets in Spain during Holy Week. They wear a peculiar outfit composed of a habit, a cape and a capirote, a cone shaped hat with a veil that covers their head and face. These outfits have their origin in the middle ages and symbolize the person’s repentance from his or her faults. Traditions run deep in Spain and Holy Week processions are one of the most popular of these traditions.
It is almost surreal to watch the empty Spanish streets this year, with people confined to their homes due to the Covid 19 pandemic. But the sentiments run deep, and people are observing the holy season from their balconies —musicians playing their instruments or singing saetas, the sorrowful songs sung during the processions. For more on the traditions of Holy Week and Easter in Spain you can check the Idiosyncrasies section of this blog, or by clicking here.
There’s nothing traditional about the Holy Week of 2020, and the less-than-festive prospects of Easter Sunday. It will be forever remembered as the most strange one in our lifetime. This week in Spain, where Holy Week processions are the norm in most every town and city, a new saying has been coined: “la procesión va por dentro”, the procession is inside us.
Holy Week is still happening, Easter Sunday and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection will still happen. But it will be a much more inward experience this year. We will not have large family gatherings; we will probably not dress up for a religious service (or yes?) But we can still make it special —by cooking a special meal, a delicious dessert, attending the church service through live streaming. You can dress up, too! And if you head straight to the recipe for nazarenos, you can even have a very special breakfast as well.
The photos that accompany this post are from Springbreak and Easter last year, when we traveled to Miami and, like it’s our tradition, spent Easter Sunday with our friends. One day, sooner or later if we stay home and beat the pandemic, we’ll travel, and will celebrate with friends again.
NAZARENOS, MALAGA’S HOT CROSS BUNS
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup milk
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 individual packet)
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1/3 cup sherry (or other sweet wine, Málaga’s if available)
2 Tbs candied fruit (I used dried apricots)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp olive oil (for greasing the bowl)
For the glaze:
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs water
For the icing:
1 cup icing sugar
4 Tbs cream cheese
1 Tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 Tbs water (if necessary)
Place the sherry and raisins in a small bowl to soak.
In a small saucepan warm up the milk with the butter until the butter melts. Sprinkle the nutmeg and stir to mix. Remove from the stove and set aside.
In a larger bowl sift the flour. Add the cinnamon, salt and sugar and mix with a wisk. Add the yeast and mix. Add the eggs and the milk mixture and stir to mix with the dry ingredients.
Continue working the dough on a floured surface, rolling into itself and pushing back, until fairly elastic, about 10 minutes. Form a large ball.
Grease a large bowl with olive oil and place the ball of dough in it. Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm, dry place to rise for a minimum of 1 hour. The dough will double in size.
Drain the raisins.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean surface. Punch it down and spread the raisins, candied fruit and walnuts evenly over the top. Roll the dough onto itself and then into a ball so the fruit and nuts are evenly spread. Roll the dough into a log and cut it in half. Roll each half into a log again. Split in half, then each half into thirds, then each piece in half. You will end up with 24 pieces of about 50 gr each. Roll each piece into a small ball.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Line a large oven tray with parchment paper and place the small balls of dough on it evenly spaced. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and place in warm, dry place to rise, about 30 minutes. The balls will double in size.
Remove the cloth, place the tray in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden (mine were ready at the 8 minute mark, so check closely during the last minutes of baking).
Prepare the glaze: mix the honey with the milk until well combined.
Prepare the icing: in a small bowl, mix the icing sugar, cream cheese, vanilla extract and melted butter. Add the water if necessary. Scoop the icing into a pastry bag and place in the fridge to chill.
Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze. Let cool completely before piping the icing in the shape of a cross (use a steady hand to pipe horizontally, then transversally, over each row of buns).
You can eat the nazarenos as is or sliced and buttered.
- To create the warm environment for the dough to rise I turned the oven on low temperature for a few minutes, then turned it off and placed the bowl inside, with the door half open
- You can make the dough in a stand up mixer with the hook attachment
- The nazarenos are better when consumed the same day. If you have leftovers they are excellent warmed up for 8-10 seconds in the microwave
- You can freeze the nazareans in a platic container
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