These homemade hot cross buns are a traditional and simple Easter bread recipe that is perfectly spiced and perfect for the holiday season.
I grew up like most kids, looking forward to Easter Sunday so we could indulge in chocolate and have a sugar crash by 9 am. Now that I’m older, I actually appreciate another food my family would enjoy during this time- hot cross buns.
What are hot cross buns?
Lightly sweet, perfectly spiced, and studded with dried fruits, hot cross buns have a cross on top made from flour paste which is where these buns get their name from.
These buns originated in the United Kingdom but are widely eaten on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. These Easter buns are also popular in other western countries, include the US, Australia, and Canada.
In my family, Easter preparations always started with making hot cross buns. These buns are one of the few baking recipes that I aim to keep as close as possible to the original, without efforts to make it healthier or diet friendly!
Making these Easter buns is an easier task to tackle when you have all ingredients gathered and arranged on your work surface. Here’s everything you need for this recipe.
- Flour. This recipe uses all-purpose flour. I don’t recommend using a different type of flour for this recipe.
- Instant yeast. This type of yeast is easier to use as you don’t have to dissolve it in liquid first. Also, it activates more quickly than active dry yeast.
- Sugar. Granulated white sugar.
- Milk. Milk adds moisture and flavor to the dough.
- Butter. Melted butter further enriches the flavor of the dough. You will need to melt it first to be able to easily mix it with the dry ingredients.
- Egg. Eggs help the dough rise, and provide moisture and structure. Bring the egg to room temperature before adding it to the dough.
- Raisins. I like to keep it simple and traditional with the fruits and just add raisins to my Easter buns. If you have washed the raisins, make sure to dry them properly before adding them to the dough.
- Gingerbread spice mix. Made with cinnamon and ginger, this spice mix makes the buns exceptionally aromatic and warm.
- Salt. A pinch of salt added to the dough helps balance all flavors. It also helps form stronger gluten strands in the dough.
- Flour. All-purpose flour.
- Water. Room-temperature water to mix with the flour and form a smooth paste.
- Sugar. Granulated white sugar.
- Water. Lukewarm water for easy mixing.
How to make hot cross buns
Patience is what you need when making Easter buns. Follow these steps and enjoy the process.
Step 1 – Make the dough
In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients, including flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and gingerbread spice.
Add the butter and milk to a saucepan and heat it until the butter melts. Allow the milk to cool and only then add it to the dry mixture. Add the egg and stir until a soft dough forms.
Dust your work surface with flour and transfer the dough onto it. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes until it becomes smooth.
Step 2 – Wait for the first rise
Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the dough somewhere warm and let it rise for 1½ hours.
Step 3 – Shape the buns and proof them
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and add the raisins. Knead the dough for a minute to evenly distribute the raisins.
Divide the dough into portions and shape them into balls. Arrange the balls in the baking tray lined with parchment paper. Put the buns a little close to each other if you want them to expand and grow into each other once baked. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for 30 more minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
Step 4 – Make the crosses and bake
Prepare the flour paste to make crosses on the buns. Mix flour with water until a smooth paste forms. Add it to a piping bag and pipe out crosses on all buns, then bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.
Step 5 – Glaze the buns and enjoy
For the glaze, whisk sugar and water until the sugar is fully dissolved. Use lukewarm water to dissolve the sugar more easily. Brush the freshly baked buns with glaze before serving.
- Check the expiration date on the yeast before adding it to the dough. We also recommend you don’t use instant yeast that has been opened for too long or hasn’t been stored properly (we learned the hard way when making monkey bread!).
- You know the dough is kneaded well enough when it’s smooth and doesn’t break when stretched.
- Like we do with concha, use scales to measure the weight of the dough for each bun if you are aiming for buns that look as identical as possible.
- While eating these buns when they have just come out of the oven is almost irresistible, let them rest for around 20 minutes. As the buns cool, they dry out inside. Hot buns right out of the oven may feel rather doughy inside.
- Play with the spices. The spices you can use for cross buns include cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, coriander, ground cloves, and allspice.
- Switch the glaze. While the simple sugar glaze is perfect for these buns, you can add more flavor to the buns by using rum instead of water. You can also use jam instead of sugar. Mix apricot jam with warm water and brush it over the baked buns for some shine and a hint of sweet apricot flavor.
- Add citrus zest. Grated orange or lemon zest adds a mild citrus flavor to the sweet buns and pairs nicely with spices and dried fruits.
- Use your favorite dried fruit. Dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, blueberries, and currants are great fruit choices for sweet buns. Make sure to chop larger fruits into smaller pieces to be able to distribute them evenly in the dough.
To store. Once the buns cool, transfer them into an airtight bag or container and store them in a cool and dry place. There is no need to refrigerate these buns.
To freeze. To freeze, wrap the buns individually with food wrap. The buns can be frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost them at room temperature before reheating them.
To reheat. Warm the buns in the oven, toaster oven, or in the microwave. You can also cut the buns in half and toast them.
Not kneading the dough long enough results in dense buns. As you knead the dough, the gluten in it stretches, providing the needed structure and texture for the buns.
You shouldn’t over-knead the dough either. Kneading the dough for around 10 minutes is enough.
Traditionally, these buns are cut in half, toasted, and eaten with butter. You can add more sweet toppings if you like, including syrups and jams.
The most common reason why these buns don’t rise is using expired yeast. The buns may also not rise if you have added too much flour or too little liquid to the dough.
Hot Cross Buns
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- Make the dough; combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and spice mix in a large bowl.
- Add butter and milk into a saucepan and heat until the butter is melted. Let the mixture cool down. Add the milk to the flour mixture once it is lukewarm.
- Add beaten egg and stir until the dough comes together.
- Transfer the dough onto a floured kitchen surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky at the beginning, but as you knead it, it will become smooth.
- Place the dough into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand for 1 ½ hours at a warm spot or until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and knead in raisins.
- Divide the dough into 12 portions and shape each into a ball. Some of them may not be perfect as the raisins will stick out, but that is okay.
- Line a large baking dish with parchment paper. Place the balls in it. Cover the dough with plastic foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
- Make the flour paste; combine flour and water in a bowl, until you have a paste. fill a piping bag with it and pipe the flour paste over the buns to form crosses.
- Bake the buns for 20–25 minutes or until cooked through.
- Make the glaze; in a bowl, whisk sugar and water.
- Brush the freshly baked buns with the glaze and allow them to rest prior to serving.
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