An Easter staple! These hot cross buns feature a soft and fluffy bread dough studded with raisins. Each bun is topped with a beautiful cross and a simple, sweet and sticky glaze!
Hot cross buns are a classic Easter bake! They’re incredibly soft and fluffy buns with a lightly sweetened dough and delicious glaze on top. They’re very similar to dinner rolls, except for the added sugar and cross pattern that’s piped on top!
This recipe was actually adapted from my soft dinner rolls recipe. Aside from the added sweetness, I did also decrease the amount of water in the dough to stick to a more traditional hot cross bun recipe (because they’re usually high in milk and richness).
When it comes to making the cross on top, you have 2 options (with their own pros and cons). I go into more detail about that below!
Hot cross buns ingredients:
• water: for the dough (to proof the yeast), and for the cross and glaze to thin both mixtures to the right consistency
• sugar: granulated sugar is used to sweeten the dough and for the glaze * Mimi from the future here! This is something that I’ve started doing differently with this recipe. I originally used to make the glaze using this recipe for powdered sugar glaze. Lately I’ve been loving using a simple syrup WAY more with this recipe! I’ve updated the recipe card below to give you instructions on what to do – but you can of course still use the powdered sugar glaze if you like it better.
• yeast: either active dry or instant yeast work. Instant yeast will rise quicker than active dry yeast. I used instant, so if you’re using active dry yeast, your rise times may be slightly longer (nothing crazy though)
• milk: for richness!
• egg: make sure the egg is at room temperature! I love taking shortcuts more than anyone else, but using a cold egg can delay your yeast and solidify your butter. If you’re like me and you
ALWAYS sometimes forget to take your eggs out ahead of time, just submerge the egg in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes and it should be the perfect temperature!
• flour: all-purpose flour is what I usually use, but if you like a chewier bun, you can also substitute an equal amount of bread flour
• salt: for seasoning and to balance out the sweetness
• ground cinnamon & nutmeg: these are my favorite spices to use. Some recipes also include allspice, so you can include all 3 or any combination you like!
• butter: for richness and flaaavorrr!
• raisins or currants: either work fine here. You can even leave them out and make a plain hot cross bun dough
How to make hot cross buns: Step-by-step with photos:
1. Combine water, sugar and yeast. Set aside until bubbly. Yeast proofs faster and better in water than it does in milk or really anything higher in fat. That’s why I include a small amount of water in this recipe.
2. Whisk wet ingredients into the yeast mixture.
3. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix together until you get a rough shaggy dough, then add you butter in.
4. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
5. Add raisins / currants and knead in until well distributed.
6. First rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until about doubled in size.
7. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into 12 portions. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.
8. Second rise. Arrange portioned rolls into a parchment lined baking dish, and set aside again for 45 minutes or until about doubled in size.
9. Combine flour and water to make a paste. Transfer this mixture to a plastic bag and snip a small hole from the tip to pipe the crosses. * see below for another option for creating the cross pattern!
10. Pipe crosses and bake. Use the flour mixture to pipe crosses on top of the buns. Bake the buns until golden brown on top and cooked through.
11. Make the glaze. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been making the glaze for this recipe a bit differently – but I love this method much more! To make this glaze, combine granulated sugar and water in a pot, and warm on medium heat until the sugar is melted.
12. Glaze the buns while they’re still warm! Brushing the glaze on warm buns helps ensure they soak it up and soften nicely!
How to make the cross for hot cross buns:
Like I mentioned above, there are 2 methods for piping the cross on top of the buns.
The first method is the one I decided to go with, which is a flour and water mixture piped on top of the buns before baking. They’re then cooked together, so you get a baked in cross.
The downside to this method is that the flour cross isn’t the most pleasant to eat. It can be quite chewy and stiff when compared to the soft and fluffy buns!
What’s great about this method is that the hot cross buns are a lot easier to store/transport. The flour cross is sturdier than option 2 and it’s less prone to smudging and getting smooshed!
Speaking of option 2 … this other option involves making a thick powdered sugar icing and piping crosses on top of the buns after they’re baked. For this option, all you need to do is combine powdered sugar with water until you get a thick but pipe able mixture. Then, after baking and glazing your hot cross buns, pipe on the crosses!
This option honestly tastes a million and one times better, but the piped crosses are really fragile. So the option you go with depends on how you plan on serving/storing the buns.
How to store hot cross buns:
Hot cross buns taste best fresh and warm from the oven! But they do also freeze super well!
When it comes to short term storage, these buns will keep for 2 to 3 days at room temperature. Transfer the buns to a plastic bag, push out as much air as you can, and seal. You can also keep them in an airtight container. But the less air exposure, the better!
The buns will also keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
To freeze, transfer to a freezer bag, and again, push out the air and seal. The buns will keep for about 2 months frozen. To defrost, either set out at room temperature for a few hours, or transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven to defrost and warm.
Check out these other recipes!
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
For the hot cross bun dough:
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water, at about 110°F
- 2 & 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry or instant yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup lukewarm milk, at about 110°F
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup raisins or currants
For the flour cross:
- 1/4 cup flour * see notes for another cross option
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
For the hot cross bun glaze:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- In a large mixing bowl, combine water, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and yeast. Whisk to combine and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until frothy and bubbly on the surface.
- Add the remaining sugar, milk, and egg to the yeast mixture. Whisk to combine. Add in the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix everything together until a dry, shaggy dough starts to form.
- Add your butter to the dough, and mix until it starts to stick together and form a rough ball of dough. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes (adding flour as needed to prevent sticking), or until it's smooth and elastic. It should be soft and slightly tacky, but the dough shouldn't stick to your hands. * You can also do this step in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment (on medium speed).
- Sprinkle the raisins or currants over the dough. Knead again until the raisins are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until nearly doubled in size.
- Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, uncover and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, and roll each portion into a smooth ball.
- Arrange the balls of dough in your parchment lined baking dish, leaving a bit of space in between each one for them to expand. Cover the shaped dough, and set aside again until about doubled in size (about 45 minutes).
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Make the flour mixture for your crosses: In a medium bowl, mix together flour and 3 to 4 tablespoons of water until you get a thick, pipe able paste. Transfer the flour mixture to a small piping or plastic bag, and cut a small hole from the tip.
- Uncover your risen buns, and pipe crosses using the flour mixture. Bake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
- Make the glaze: While the buns bake, combine granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Place the pan on a stove burner set to medium heat, and warm until the sugar has fully dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before glazing.
- While the buns are still hot, brush the tops with the glaze. Set aside for about 15 to 20 minutes to cool slightly and soak up the glaze before serving.