How to make hot cross buns

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Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

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Recipe Summary

Ingredients

Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in bread maker and start on dough program.

When 5 minutes of kneading are left, add currants and cinnamon. Leave in machine till double.

Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.

Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.

To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Place glaze in a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off; pipe a cross onto each roll.

Editor’s Note:

To make this recipe in a stand mixer, combine warm water and yeast in the bowl of the mixer and let soften for about 5 minutes. Add flour, milk powder, sugar, salt, egg, and egg white. Mix on low speed using the dough hook, scraping the dough down occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the softened butter, cinnamon, and currants and mix for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Proceed with the recipe instructions.

179
4 star values:

65
3 star values:

13
2 star values:

6
1 star values:

  • Read Reviews
  • Add Review
  • 272 Ratings
  • 220 Reviews
  • 64 Photos

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

Gallery

Recipe Summary

Ingredients

Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in bread maker and start on dough program.

When 5 minutes of kneading are left, add currants and cinnamon. Leave in machine till double.

Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.

Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.

To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Place glaze in a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off; pipe a cross onto each roll.

Editor’s Note:

To make this recipe in a stand mixer, combine warm water and yeast in the bowl of the mixer and let soften for about 5 minutes. Add flour, milk powder, sugar, salt, egg, and egg white. Mix on low speed using the dough hook, scraping the dough down occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the softened butter, cinnamon, and currants and mix for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Proceed with the recipe instructions.

How to make hot cross buns

Traditional spiced, sticky glazed fruit buns with pastry crosses. Served as a classic Easter treat, the buns can also be enjoyed at any time of year.

Each serving provides 313 kcal, 8.5g protein, 57g carbohydrates (of which 16.5g sugars), 5g fat (of which 3g saturates), 2g fibre and 0.5g salt.

Ingredients

For the buns

  • 625g/1lb 6oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting (see tip for alternatives)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice (or a combination of ground spices such as cinnamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and ginger)
  • 45g/1½oz unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • 85g/3oz caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest only (alternatively use finely grated zest of ½ orange or 1 tangerine/satsuma)
  • 1½ tsp dried fast-action yeast
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 275ml/9½fl oz tepid milk (non-dairy milks are also suitable)
  • 125g/4½oz dried mixed fruit of your choice

For the topping

  • 2 tbsp plain flour (see tip for alternatives)
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup or runny honey, gently heated, for glazing (see tip for alternatives)

Method

For the buns, sieve the flour, salt and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar, lemon zest and yeast. Beat the egg and add to the flour with the tepid milk. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Carefully work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined. Knead lightly for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean teatowel and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour to prove.

Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape into a ball again and return to the bowl, then cover again with the teatowel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the teatowel and set aside to rest for 5–10 minutes.

Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Wrap the tray very loosely in baking paper, then place inside a large polythene bag (or cover loosely in lightly oiled cling film). Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in (if using) and set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise. Preheat the oven to 240C/220C Fan/Gas 8.

Meanwhile, for the topping, mix the plain flour to a fairly thick smooth paste with 2 tablespoons cold water (you may need to use slightly less or more water to get the right consistency). When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag (or a plastic food bag with a corner snipped away) and pipe a cross on each bun.

Transfer the buns to the oven and bake for 8–12 minutes, or until pale golden brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Tips

For the dough, you can use up to half wholemeal or spelt flour instead of all white, but you may need to add a little extra milk or water. You can even use plain flour at a push, but be aware that the dough won’t rise as much and the end result may be a tad heavy.

For the topping, any white-coloured flour will work, from cornflour to rice flour. Feel free to use what you have in – just ensure the paste is thick enough (different flours will absorb differing amounts of water).

If you haven’t got golden syrup or honey for glazing, any sugar syrup will do (agave syrup, maple syrup etc). Or try dissolving 1 heaped tsp of any granulated sugar in a little hot water.

This soft dough is easily shaped, and makes tender, aromatic buns, ready for an icing cross on top.

How to make hot cross buns

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (57g) apple juice or rum
  • 1/2 cup (78g) mixed dried fruit
  • 1/2 cup (78g) raisins or dried currants
  • 1 1/4 cups (283g) milk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the topping)
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (53g) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves or allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (11g) salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 1/2 cups (539g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 large egg white, reserved from above
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) milk
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (128g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing

Instructions

Lightly grease a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.

Mix the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just till the fruit and liquid are very warm, and the plastic starts to “shrink wrap” itself over the top of the bowl. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Note: If you worry about using plastic wrap in your microwave, simply cover the bowl with a glass lid.

Keep the fruit set aside. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Mix together all of the remaining dough ingredients (including the eggs and the egg yolk from the separated egg). Knead the mixture, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. It’ll be very slack, sticking to the bottom of the bowl and your hands as you work with it (greasing your hands helps). Mix in the cooled fruit and any liquid not absorbed.

Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.

Take it a step further

How to make hot cross buns

The sweet rolls of spring

Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3 3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. You’ll make 12 to 14 buns. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.

Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns.

Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the buns out of the pan (they should come out in one large piece), and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.

Tips from our Bakers

Want to make these buns a day or so ahead of time? Try the tangzhong technique, a Japanese method for increasing the softness and shelf life of yeast rolls. Begin by measuring out the flour and milk you’ll be using in the recipe. Now take 3 tablespoons of the measured flour and 1/2 cup of the measured milk; put them in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens and forms a thick slurry; this will take about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer the cooked mixture to a bowl, let it cool to lukewarm, then combine it with the remaining flour, milk, and other dough ingredients. Proceed with the recipe as directed. Well-wrapped and stored at room temperature, your finished hot cross buns should stay soft and fresh for several days.

How to make hot cross buns

The Tradition Of Hot Cross Buns

Traditionally eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent, these plushy and slightly spiced breads studded with currants inside and drizzled with icing on top hold deep religious significance for Christians who observe the Holy Week. But hot cross buns can be a treat to make and eat any time of year, and they’re perfect for breakfast.

How To Make Hot Cross Buns

We make our version with plump currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of lemon zest to brighten the warm spices. For a darker roll, you can make your egg wash with an egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons water instead of using a whole egg; for a lighter roll, use only the egg white. After baking, the signature cross is just a simple powdered sugar glaze.

Once decorated, you can enjoy while warm or store in an airtight container for a treat at a later time. These will keep well at room temperature for up to 4 days, and a light toasting will revive them right back to perfection. For longer storage, arrange rolls in a single layer in a resealable plastic bag and place in your freezer for up to 3 months. (Once frozen, rolls will keep indefinitely but both flavor and texture quality will begin to suffer over longer periods.)

For more amazing spring recipes, check out our 35+ easy Easter brunch ideas. If you try this recipe (and we hope you do!), rate it below and let us know how you liked it!

How to make hot cross buns

Learn how to make homemade traditional hot cross buns for Easter weekend, flavoured with raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves! These sweet buns are perfect sliced in half, toasted, served with lots of salted butter and a big cup of tea. This dough is kneaded in the mixer making this hot cross buns recipe easy because you don’t have to knead the dough by hand.

How to make hot cross buns

What are hot cross buns?

Hot cross buns are a sweet, spiced bread made from an enriched yeast dough, meaning a bread dough that is enhanced with rich ingredients like eggs, milk, sugar, and butter (just like brioche, maple brioche buns, stollen bread, stollen buns, chocolate babka bread, chocolate babka buns, and even Turkish coffee cardamom buns).

How to make hot cross buns

A typical hot cross buns has a few characteristics:

  1. dried fruit, and/or candied citrus peel, like sultana raisins, golden raisins, currants, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, or citron peel. These add-ins are mixed into the dough before the first rise
  2. sweet spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Hot cross buns would taste great with cardamom too!
  3. a cross, which can be piped on at two different stages:
    1. to add the cross before baking, make a simple flour and water paste and pipe it on BEFORE baking the hot cross buns. Personally, I tend to pipe on a flour paste mark before baking because I like to toast my hot cross buns and I don’t think toasters and icing sugar paste go well together.
    2. to add the cross after baking, make a sweet white glaze from icing sugar and water and pipe on AFTER baking the hot cross buns, when they have cooled.

Why do they call them hot cross buns?

I always spend Easter week-end with my family, and we always have hot cross buns and tea in the afternoons. Usually, we buy the buns from Pâtisserie de Gascogne, but some years, I make hot cross buns from scratch (using a recipe that I tweaked from Donna Hay). As they bake, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves fills the house.

How to make hot cross buns

The combination of candied citrus peel and raisins, alongside the mixture of spices, are what make hot cross buns so special. I truly believe that these are better than any bun that you buy in a store. Trust me. Apparently hot cross buns are an old Anglican tradition. The buns have a cross piped onto them in reference to Good Friday. Hot cross buns are served to mark the end of Lent, specifically on Good Friday, though these days, they are enjoyed Easter weekend.

How to make hot cross buns

Use your stand mixer to make hot cross buns more easily

The secret to stress-free bread baking is to use the dough hook of your electric mixer. This hot cross buns recipe is easy because I made the dough with a KitchenAid mixer (the big 6 quart model from Amazon, but the smaller one from Amazon works too—I’ve tested this recipe in both!). Sure, you could knead hot cross buns dough by hand. Works like a charm! I guess I’m a little lazy, but I’ve had a lot of success kneading doughs with a mixer, so I don’t do that by hand any more.

I tweaked the spice mixture, and used less flour than was called for in the original recipe (proof that I am getting better at making bread dough, I think!) but the amount of flour probably is dependent on the temperature, humidity, and the wheat used for the flour.

I baked the buns at 350ºF, as recommended by the original recipe, but I think next year, I might try 325ºF because some of the raisins were a little overdone at that high a temperature. Donna Hay used a gelatin glaze, but I took the opportunity to glaze with maple syrup which gives these hot cross buns a gorgeous shiny finish and a little sweet coating.

How to make hot cross buns

How to store hot cross buns

This recipe makes 12 hot cross buns which can seem like a lot or even too much for some families. Personally, I live alone, so I use my freezer to store these when I make this recipe and if I don’t have the opportunity to share them with others:

  • slice open half the buns they have cooled
  • freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan
  • transfer to a freezer bag to store long-term

If you follow these steps, you should be able to store your hot cross buns for several months. When you want to have a bun, take one out of the freezer and toast it in a toaster, a toaster oven, or in a preheated oven. Slathered with lots of salted butter, nobody will realize the buns were frozen!

How to make hot cross buns

Substitutions & making this recipe without raisins

Hot cross buns are a must every year for Easter weekend. They are also a great way to use up the leftover raisins and candied peel from Christmas past so that you can start fresh around the holiday season. That being said, if you don’t like raisins, make this recipe without them, and replace the raisins with the same volume of dried cranberries or dried cherries!

If you don’t have any candied citrus peel, feel free to skip it and replace it with the same volume of raisins (if you like raisins) or use something else, like chopped crystallized ginger.

Another great idea: replace the raisins with dark chocolate chips for chocolate hot cross buns.

How to make hot cross buns

Frequently asked questions about hot cross buns

Add more flour and knead it in. Add up to 30 grams (¼ cup) at a time to avoid adding too much flour. Too much flour will lead to dense, tough buns.

Your best bet for determining if your buns are properly baked is to use a digital instant read thermometer. For buns made with eggs, milk, and butter, meaning enriched breads, the internal temperature should be 180–190°F (82–88°C) when baked.
The buns will be golden brown, but not dark when baked. The glaze is brushed on when the buns come out of the oven and it will make the colour pop and make the buns shine.

How to make hot cross buns

What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? Hot, cross bunnies! Okay, now that we’ve got the obligatory dad joke out of the way, it’s time to take a look at the fascinating history of this traditional Easter treat.

Smithsonian Magazine says there’s a legend that hot cross buns were created by a 12th-century English monk. The first actual record of such baked goods comes from a 16 th or 17 th century text, although similar buns may have been eaten by the ancient Greeks. One thing is for certain, though — these buns have long been associated with Good Friday, although a law passed by Queen Elizabeth the First decreed that they could also be sold on Christmas day and on the occasion of a funeral. They were not to be sold on any ordinary day, though, since they were just too special to be eaten on some random Tuesday.

These buns from recipe developer Mark Beahm from The Sunday Baker are actually pretty economical. Not to mention, they’re likely much better-tasting, not to mention fresher, than any buns you can buy from a bakery. They are a bit time-consuming to make, but then, Easter comes but once a year.

Assemble the ingredients for the hot cross buns

How to make hot cross buns

Before you begin baking your hot cross buns, it’s best to gather all your ingredients to make sure you’ve got everything you need. For dry ingredients, you’ll need active dry yeast (the usual kind sold in packets or jars in the baking aisle), sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. The wet ingredients include whole milk, an egg, unsalted butter, honey, orange zest, and raisins, although you can skip this last ingredient if you’re a raisin-hater. If, on the other hand, you are evil and have friends who hate raisins, you can use golden raisins instead of the brown ones. Their lighter color makes them much harder to pick out.

Make the dough for hot cross buns

How to make hot cross buns

You’re going to start by warming the milk until it’s about 110 degrees — needless to say, a candy/deep fry thermometer should help with this. Whisk the yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar into the warm milk and let it stand until the whole mixture starts to get foamy, something Beahm says should take about ten minutes. At this point, you’ll add in the rest of the sugar along with the egg, the melted butter, the raisins, and the orange zest.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the bread flour (or five cups of the all-purpose flour if you’ll be using that instead), the spices, and the salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet stuff, then stir until the dough starts coming together.

Knead the hot cross buns dough and let them rise

How to make hot cross buns

Once your hot cross buns dough actually looks dough-like, it’s time for the (not too) hard work: the kneading. Sprinkle your work surface with a generous dusting of flour, then place the dough on the floured surface and knead away until it’s smooth. Beahm says this should only take about five minutes, so your arms probably won’t get too worn out. Roll the dough up into a ball, then place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a damp cloth towel or some plastic wrap, then let it sit in a warm spot for about an hour or so until it appears to have doubled in size.

Prepare the hot cross buns for baking

How to make hot cross buns

While your hot cross buns dough is rising, you can lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan, line it with parchment paper, then grease the paper for good measure. After the dough is done with its first rising (there will be a second one), place it on a floured work surface again and flatten it gently to deflate it a bit. At this point, divide the dough into 12 equally-sized pieces, then shape these into smooth rounds. Pinch the bottom of each round in order to seal it, then place it in the greased pan. Once all the rolls are shaped and in place, cover the pan with plastic wrap and let them rise once more for another hour. By the end of this time, they should be all puffed-up and touching each other.

Pipe the frosting crosses onto the hot cross buns

How to make hot cross buns

When the hot cross buns are reaching the end of their second rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s heating, you’ll be preparing the frosting. Mix the all-purpose flour together with enough water to make a thick paste, then scoop it onto a piping bag with a fine tip or else a Ziploc bag with one corner snipped off. Pipe a small line down the center of each row of buns, then another row that goes down the center of each column. This way, you get a cross on each bun without having to pipe 12 individual ones.

If a frosting made of nothing more than flour and water doesn’t sound too tasty, don’t worry about it. You’ll be adding some sweetness once the buns are baked, but this sturdy paste will keep its shape through the baking process so you’ll get those pretty white crosses.

Finish off the hot cross buns

How to make hot cross buns

Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown on top. Just as they’re finishing up, heat the honey in a small pan over low heat. Brush the tops of the buns with the honey to make a nice glaze as soon as they come out of the oven.

The hot cross buns will keep for up to two days at room temperature if you cover them tightly with foil or plastic wrap, or they can last up to a week in the fridge. If you’re the prep-in-advance type, you can freeze these buns either before or after baking. To freeze unbaked buns, shape them, but don’t let them rise for a second time. Instead, space them out on a baking sheet before placing them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, you can move them to a freezer bag, and they won’t get stuck together.

When you want to bake them, take them out of the bag and separate them again, then let them sit at room temperature for four to five hours so they can thaw while they rise (or vice-versa). If you prefer to freeze the buns after they’ve been baked, it’s best to do so before you apply the honey glaze. Thaw them in the fridge when it’s time to eat them, then reheat them in the oven and finish them off with the glaze.

One week until Easter and spring is in full bloom. Every day there is more green on my daily walk and the sun shines a little brighter and hotter. Among the patches of wild garlic, bright yellow daffodils are bobbing about and the supermarkets are piled high with as many tulips as Easter eggs. It’s going to be a funny old Easter for a lot of people this year, spent at home rather than celebrating with family. Here in Bavaria, Easter Sunday is usually a true feast day, after the long Lenten fast. A day for good food, time spent with family and friends and the promise of sunny days to come as winter draws to a close.

This year will be different of course, as there is not much use cooking a huge lamb roast for two. However, that’s not to say that we can’t indulge in some of our favourite treats. As far as I am concerned, Easter isn’t Easter unless I’ve baked up a big batch of Fruity Hot Cross Buns. Bread baking is a ritualistic part of this season in many cultures, the Greek ‘Tsoureki’, Hungarian ‘Kalach’, Italian ‘Colomba Pasquale’, German ‘Osterbrot’ and our own Hot Cross Buns are all served at Easter time.

While we eat them now at Easter, the origins of buns marked with crosses are much older, dating at least back to Roman times, dedicated to the goddess Diana, and later baked for Pagan celebrations of the goddess Eostre. The buns became such a symbol of holiness during the Tudor period that Queen Elizabeth I forbade the sale of hot cross buns at any other time that burials, Good Friday and Christmas Day (take note modern supermarkets, we see you selling them in January and we don’t like it 😂.)

I don’t know whether these buns have holy powers as the Elizabethans believed, but I do know the wafting aroma of sweet spiced bread has a magical way of filling the house and encouraging hungry mouths to descend on the kitchen. I like to load them up with fruit and candied peel, then serve them hot, smothered with salty butter. Delicious.

Take care of yourselves out there, look after each other and enjoy the quiet time. What are your Easter rituals? What have you got planned? x Jay