Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served on Good Friday. This Hot Cross Buns recipe is made of sweet yeast dough and spiced with cinnamon and raisins.
What are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot cross buns are an Easter staple in many parts of the world, especially in Australia and the United Kingdom. The crosses on the bread are in honor of Good Friday, marking the end of Lent.
There are numerous variations of this popular Springtime bread. We’re sticking with the classic version in this recipe. Once you’ve mastered the original, free feel to start experimenting with chocolate, orange-cranberry, and caramel varieties.
These buns are best enjoyed warm, fresh from the oven. That’s when they’re at the peak in terms of softness. As the bread cools down, its texture will change. At room temperature, the texture of the hot cross buns are similar to that of a bagel and pretzel. It has a tight and dense crumb.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
The dough for these hot cross buns is easy and straightforward. While it’s easiest to use a stand mixer, you can mix and knead this dough by hand. After the dough is formed and has had enough time to double in volume, the dough is divided into 12 equal parts. (For exact measurements, I suggest using a kitchen scale to equally portion out the dough.) The dough is rolled into round balls and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet. The shaped dough is covered with a kitchen towel and allowed to rise a second time. It’s time to bake once the balls of dough have risen enough to touch each other.
What is the Cross Made of on a Hot Cross Bun?
There are a few variations on how the cross is produced. Some recipes call for a shortbread or cookie dough that is cut into stripes and placed on top. Others use a sugar icing mixture that is piped on top after the bread is baked.
For this recipe, I use a mixture of flour, sugar, and milk to create a piping paste. The paste is piped on the risen bread prior to baking.
After baking, the warm buns get brushed with a sweet syrup to give the bread that nice shiny, attractive crust. The syrup is a simple mixture of apricot preserves thinned out with some water. It adds a pleasant sweetness to the finished baked good.
It’s best to eat hot cross buns while they’re warm. I suggest you slice the bun half, lightly toast it, and then slather on some salted butter or whipped cream cheese on top. It’s absolutely delightful!
How to make the dough ahead of time:
You can prepare the dough the night before up to Step 6 in the instructions. Instead of letting the dough rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes to rise, cover it and let it chill in the fridge overnight. The following day, allow the dough to come to room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes). Proceed by piping the crosses before baking.
For more yeast bread recipes, check out these favorites:
Hot Cross Buns
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F.
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar, divided
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 4 cups + 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon half and half or heavy cream, for brushing
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 6 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam or preserves
- 1 tablespoon water
PREPARE THE DOUGH:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 to 7 minutes until the yeast is activated and the mixture is fragrant and foamy.
- Add the raisins to a heatproof bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover the raisins. Allow the raisins to soak for 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside the plump raisins.
- Add the remaining sugar, eggs, and melted butter to the stand mixer bowl. Whisk to combine until well incorporated. Attach a dough hook to the stand mixer.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. With the mixer running on low speed, add about 1/3 of flour mixture. Once incorporated, add the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture. Add the drained raisins, followed with the remaining flour mixture. Once the dough has formed, increase the speed to medium-high and knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit covered at room temperature for 60 to 70 minutes until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Remove the cover and gently delate risen dough by pressing it down with your hand. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into round balls. Place on a parchment lined 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes until the balls of dough have risen enough to touch each other.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
PREPARE THE PASTE:
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, milk, and water until a wet paste forms. Transfer the runny mixture to a piping bag with a small round tip, or a small zip top plastic bag with the corner snipped off.
- Pipe straight lines vertically and horizontally across the risen buns to create crosses.
- Bake the buns in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush cream over the buns. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown on top and the internal temperature of the buns registers at least 185 degrees F on a kitchen thermometer.
ADD THE GLAZE:
- In a small bowl, mix together the apricot jam and water until smooth. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat warm buns with glaze.
- Enjoy hot cross buns warm, fresh from the oven. Alternatively, warm up and toast room temperature buns. Bread will keep covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.