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 our 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 powdered is for the glaze
• 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 to proof.
TIP: Yeast proofs 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 (while traditionally hot cross buns are made with 100% milk)
2. Combine ALL of the ingredients for the dough. Mix until you get a rough ball of dough forming. Then, turn onto a floured work surface and knead until you get a smooth dough.
3. Cover and rest. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, and set aside to rise until about doubled in size.
4. Divide dough. Portion the risen dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll into balls.
5. Second rise. Arrange the portions of dough in a parchment lined baking dish. Cover and set aside again until doubled in size.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Combine powdered sugar and water to make the glaze. Once they’re done baking, brush the warm buns with the powdered sugar glaze. Set aside to cool slightly before serving.
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.
I planned on freezing these buns, which is why I went with the flour cross (for more sturdiness)!
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
- 1 teaspoon + 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 & 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry or instant yeast
- 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 cup powdered sugar
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
- In a small bowl, or measuring cup, combine water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and yeast. Whisk to combine and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until frothy and bubbly on the surface.
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, and the remaining ingredients listed above for the hot cross bun dough.
- Mix the ingredients together until you start to get a rough ball of dough forming. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 5 to 10 minutes (adding flour if needed), 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 to low speed).
- 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 shape 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 30 to 45 minutes this time). 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 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 powdered sugar glaze: While the buns bake, combine powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. Whisk together to combine. You should have a very thin glaze (the consistency of syrup). If needed, gradually add more water until it reaches the right consistency.
- Brush the warm buns with the powdered sugar glaze. Cool slightly before serving.