How to make homemade Hot Cross Buns

Until recently, I’d never eaten a hot cross bun. If you live in England, I know that’s probably unthinkable, but here in the United States, hot cross buns aren’t terribly common.

But a recent grocery store ad had them on the front page, and I suddenly got the urge to make a batch.

If you’re interested in the history of hot cross buns, you can read this article from The Guardian, but if you just want to know how to make them, read on!

I poked around in several of my cookbooks to find a recipe and settled on one from my 1970s Better Homes and Gardens bread cookbook. I seriously adore that book, people. You should totally go buy a used copy on Ebay or Half.com

Ok! The dough starts with flour, yeast, salt, and some spices. I opted to put cardamom and cinnamon in, but a lot of other recipes I saw called for things like saffron, ginger, and nutmeg.

Do whatever floats your boat, I say.

Next, combine the milk, oil, sugar, and salt, and heat to 125° F. You can do this on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, add the eggs, and beat for 3 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just stir the dough really well by hand.

Stir in raisins and enough additional flour to make a soft, kneadable dough. Incidentally, the recipe called for currants, but I had none and figured raisins would be an acceptable substitute.

(They were.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic. The length of time this takes will depend on how much mixing you did previously. Properly kneaded dough will bounce back when you poke it with your finger, though.

Place the dough back into the mixing bowl (I don’t even bother to wash mine), cover with a wet tea towel, and let rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and divide into 18 pieces. Form each into a ball, and place on greased baking sheets.

To make my dough into balls, I just kind of pull the edges inward until the ball is smooth and neat (maybe someday I will get Joshua to videotape that step.)

Cover the dough balls with a wet tea towel, and let them rise until they’re doubled, about 35-45 minutes.

Or you can cover them with plastic wrap.

Or you can place them in your oven (turned off, of course!) with a pan of warm water on the bottom of the oven (that will keep the air warm and humid, which helps the rolls to rise.)

Once the rolls have risen, use a really sharp knife to cut a cross in the top of the rolls. I’m not gonna lie, this was a difficult task. I tried a lot of different knives and even a pair of kitchen scissors, and didn’t manage to turn out super beautiful slashes.

I had the best luck with a knife that had lots of shallow serrations on the blade.

Beat an egg white until it’s a bit foamy, and then use a pastry brush to brush the egg white over the rolls. Save the extra egg white because it’s going into the frosting later.

Bake in a preheated 400° F oven for 12 minutes, or until the rolls are nice and brown.

To make the frosting, add powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to the reserved egg white. Pipe an X on top of the rolls, using a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a corner snipped off.

And then enjoy your soft, fluffy hot cross bun.

Hot Cross Buns

3 1/2-4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons each)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted, or oil
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup dried currants or raisins

1 slightly beaten egg white

In a mixer bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, cinnamon, and cardamom.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt, and heat to 120° F. Add to dry ingredients along with eggs, and beat at low speed until combined. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, then add raisins and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise 1 hour, or til doubled.

Punch dough down; divide into 18 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball; place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise till double (30-45 minutes).

Brush rolls with egg white (reserve extra for frosting), then bake in a preheated 400° oven for 12-15 minutes (12 was good for mine). Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.

When cool, pipe an X shape on top of each bun with frosting (see below).

Frosting

Combine 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, reserved egg white, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and a dash of salt. Add enough milk to make of piping consistency.

I’m curious…am I the only one here who’d never had a hot cross bun until recently?

__________________________________

Today’s 365 post: Green, tall grass…on April 2nd.

Joshua’s 365 post: Ablaze

Comments

  1. says

    Kristen – I really love reading all your recipes. Your baked goods look so very delicious. But, I have a confession. I am the worlds WORST baker!!!! I ruin nearly everything I try!

    Of all your wonderful breads and pastries, is there one recipe you would have somebody like me start with? I really want to get better, but am growing tired of having to toss so many bad batches!

  2. Jennifer says

    I have been reading your blog for a few years and searched high and low for a copy of the BH&G Bread Cookbook based on your recommendation. I finally found it in a used bookstore for a few dollars about a year ago. I tried a few recipes in it, but need to look through it again. I tend to make some of the densest bread imaginable, though. :( Anyways– these look very tasty! I might try to make them next weekend.

    • Kristen says

      The likeliest culprit there is too much flour…if your dough is stiff, the yeast won’t be strong enough to raise it up. Proper yeast dough should feel fairly soft and squishy. I hope that helps!

  3. Kathy says

    Looks fantastic! Love your choice of spices,also – cardamom is underappreciated. I do want to caution anyone who uses the icing recipe to use raw, unpasturized egg whites with caution; uncooked eggs can contain samonella and/ or camplobacter. The icing will also be wonderful with a sub of corn syrup (a little) for the egg whites.

  4. says

    My husband claims he’s not a big fan of hot cross buns, so I’ve never made them. But these look SO delicious that an impromptu batch may be called for today! (Unfortunately, I think I used the last of my cardamom a couple days ago. Do you think a pinch of cloves would taste good? Didn’t see them mentioned in the other spice variants above).

    • WilliamB says

      I have often mixed-and-matched the following: cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, nutmeg, mace. Each combo tastes a bit different but they’re complementary and it’s always turned out well for me.

      For something more Middle-Eastern tasting, try adding some corriander to the above list.

  5. says

    Yay!
    I’ve been waiting with baited breath for the recipe!
    I do have a Hot Cross Buns recipe that I used last year but I’m going to try this one this year
    Thanks for sharing, as always.

      • says

        ok, so bated breath, not baited breath.
        Simple misspelling (which I was actually going to check before posting but didn’t as I was busy multi-tasking)
        Ho hum

        • Kristen says

          Don’t give it a second thought, Tracey! I’ve done similar things in my blog posts…I can’t remember any examples off the top of my head, but I know there’s been at least one instance where it was a synonym situation like this one.

          Now, if you think it’s “Viola!” instead of, “Voila!”, then we’ll have to have some words. Hee.

  6. Cathy Simon says

    My mom has made these every Easter for years and they are so good! Instead of the icing across the top, we cut the buns in half and spread maple icing on both pieces. When I was kid, my mom was trying to entertain me by getting me to mix up the icing (butter, little milk, icing sugar, and maple flavoring) and I decided it would be fun to add some food coloring…and then mix all kinds of colors to make the most tacky, horrid color possible just to get a rise out of my oldest sister – and it worked. From that day on, all maple icing HAD to be a fun color, and we all call it “goop”! Now we’re all in our 30’s and 40’s and are teaching our kids to continue the family tradition. :)

  7. says

    They’re not a food that I eat very often, but maybe I should make some this weekend to go with the butter lamb (assuming I can actually find a butter lamb this year).

  8. says

    I have never had one in my life. But since you posted your photo a few weeks ago, I’ve been dying to try. Panera is selling them right now, and you can get a box of 12 for $6.99. These HAVE to be cheaper than that ;)

  9. says

    I had never had them until last Easter, when my mother-in-law, who is a very good baker and something of an Anglophile, made them for my one-year-old son. I brought some to church on Easter Sunday in hopes he would make it through the whole service (he almost did . . .) and she said she nearly had a fit trying to contain her laughter after seeing him in the pews hopping on my lap, waving at her in the choir loft and munching on a bun.

    I must confess I ate most of them, though. I’m a sucker for bread of any kind.

  10. says

    These look so yum! The pictures just make the post – and makes us want to bake them! I would definitely try these. Perhaps my wife will make them for me one day . . . hmmm.

  11. Karen. says

    Could a person snip the X on top with kitchen shears, do you think?

    I have never had hot cross buns, for the record. :)

  12. says

    I was introduced to Hot Cross Buns when I got married. My mom-in-law made them for a lot of get-togethers. She always put raisins in them…and her sons demanded the whole top be frosted. The little X was just not enough!
    She doesn’t make them anymore, so once in a while I treat the guys and make a batch…They’re still not like mom’s, but since they haven’t had hers for so long, mine seem good to them! I should keep practicing!

  13. Margaret says

    I agree with Kristen… a serrated knife works best for slashing dough. I use my sturdy bread knife. I’ve tried the kitchen shears… they don’t work so well.

    Another thing to try (with caution, and adults only) is a razor blade. Like the flat kind you buy for a utility knife. Obviously, you would want a fresh clean one. If you want to reuse it, definitely use caution when cleaning!

  14. Margaret says

    P.S. – They do indeed look delicious. But I need to keep focused! All extra cooking energy is currently being devoted to making casseroles for my deep freezer since I am 34 weeks pregnant at the moment.

  15. Chris says

    I have never eaten a Hot Cross Bun but have heard of them for many years. I started learning to play the flute in 4th grade and the first song I ever learned was “Hot Cross Buns”. It is a simply little diddy, barely even qualifies as a song, but to this day if I hear someone say HCB I get it stuck in my head! “Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One for a penny, Two for a penny, Hot Cross Buns”. Thanks for the trip down memory lane today :)

    • says

      ! Chris! I was just talking to my husband this weekend about this. When I was in 4th grade and learning the clarinet, this was one of the first songs I learned too ;p

  16. Sian Couper says

    Well being in England, we eat TONS of them! The shops start to sell them right after Christmas (or so it seems) and they’re around until after Easter. I love them and so does my nearly 2 yr old daughter but my husband doesn’t because they usual have orange peel in them which he loathes. They’re best eaten fresh, or split in half with butter on (non of that margarine rubbish!) but if you have still got some a couple of days later, cut them half and pop them in the toaster, then slather with butter – even more yummy!

    • says

      I was going to say something similar. It does annoy me when the hot cross buns are in the shope while they are still selling off the Christmas stuff reduced. They are gorgeous and I’ve just realised that I have some in the bread bin and I haven’t had breakfast yet. Guess what . . . ;0)

  17. Holly says

    Oh my goodness! Hot cross buns have been a huge part of my life and around Easter! When my sister and I were in college we would fight over taking the hot cross buns back to school with us! :)

  18. Larissa says

    we always had them at easter when I was a child (in canada…maybe because of my family’s/country’s english history/background?) but it’s been a few years. you’ve inspired me to buy some again for easter ths year. i love baking but have never been successful baking with yeast…so i will buy. :)

  19. says

    Kristen – I think I love you! ;-)
    This post came up just as I arrived home with some hot-cross buns. Yes In England – they are a staple item throughout April. They remind me so much of this time of year.
    I meant to comment last night but ran out of time. As I returned home with my shop-bought ones a thought ran through my mind – ‘I really should be making these!’ – then within seconds voila!
    Going to give them a go…

  20. says

    Okay, so I made these yesterday. Half the batch is gone already, and it’s just me, my husband, and our toddler. (Well, and a baby, but he can’t eat solids yet!) And they. Are. DELICIOUS. Super soft and fluffy, a little sweet, and easy to make. Do note that if your house is humid, the icing will probably melt a little after a day or so (mine did, at least).

  21. Donita says

    We can get these all year round now in the UK, although they’re more advertised at Easter. We don’t cut or ice the top, we put the cross on with a kind of thick batter, which kind of contracts as it cooks and makes an indentation in the top. The BBC food website says it’s just flour and water paste, in a plastic bag, snip off the corner and pipe on before baking. The buns are lightly glazed when cool. Might be easier.

  22. says

    Hey Kristen,

    I just made these this morning, and they are delicious! Thanks for the recipe. I made them for some family, one of whom has her own little bun in the oven, so I used milk instead of egg-white with powdered sugar for the frosting. It came out pretty darn close to royal icing. :-)
    Tiffany

  23. says

    i am going to make these today (Good Friday) and maybe repeat recipe for Sunday’s Easter feast at my in-laws. I think that my boys (the girls are visiting my folks for the weekend) will have fun with these!! Thank you for the recipe and all of your cheerful wisdom. Many blessings to you and yours as you celebrate our RISEN SAVIOR!!

  24. Amy says

    I’m wondering about the origin of the frosting cross on the top of the buns. Sounds like it’d be tasty but I’ve never heard of it before. Hot cross buns are really common here in Australia, come out in the shops about 2 months before Easter (so just after Christmas!). Here the crosses are always made out of a paste of flour and water. Interesting.

  25. says

    I have been making hot cross buns every year since moving to Mauritius from Australia, using various recipes. They have all tasted good, but were very dense. Yours look fluffy and light, so I’ll be making those this year. In Australia, they’re traditionally made with Mixed Spice (don’t know which spices are in it – you buy the ready-mixed blend), pipe a slightly sweetened flour/water paste cross on top, and glaze them with sugar syrup after baking. I like adding dried apricots as I love them. Roll on Easter!

  26. says

    Hi Kristen – I want to make these for an afternoon tea I’m hosting next week – is it possible to make the dough the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight? If so, how do I go about it? (When I’ve made them previously, they were a bit stale the next day). Thanks in advance.

    • Kristen says

      Yes, I think that would work. I’d make the dough, put it in the fridge overnight, take it out the next day, let it warm up a bit, then shape the rolls, and let them rise. They’ll probably take a bit longer to rise since the dough will be chilly.

  27. Ray says

    lm in the northeast of England l adore hot X buns with mixed spices and mixed fruits ,,but for me they have to be moist and fluffy ,you can buy them every day of the week all year round,,l am in the process of making those light and fluffy burger buns my dough is almost to its full volume ,,soon be rolling into balls,,only problem l find is having to convert USA cups into imperial weights and measurement ,its all imperial over here ,,
    thanks,,for your resip,,
    Ray

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