Hot cross buns are a delicious Easter tradition. But, I must admit that I never had hot cross buns growing up. In fact, I didn't even know what they were until recently, besides having to play their song on the recorder in elementary school.
For me, hot cross buns kind of turned into one of those childhood things you don't think are real, like bedbugs... you know, "don't let the bedbugs bite"? I didn't know those were real until I had them in my apartment in Brooklyn. But, I digress. Hot cross buns!
These are yeast dough buns, so they take a little preparation, but it's overall pretty simple. After you get the dough mixed, let it rise for an hour, then shape it into buns and let it rise again for another hour before baking.
Traditionally, hot cross buns have a bunch of different dried and fresh fruits cut up and mixed in. I'm going to state here, and probably not for the last time, that I will never willingly put raisins into my baked goods. So, I actually used dried cranberries and fresh apples in these, which gave the buns a bright pop of flavor.
You can make the cross on top two ways. For these, I decided to make them in the more traditional way of piping a thick dough cross before baking. The other way is to make a thick white icing, like royal icing, to go on top after baking. I'm sure my kids would have appreciated the icing, but they liked these too!
The tops are shiny from a warm apricot jam that you brush on top after baking. It does make them a lot more pretty, but also adds a nice sweetness to the bun.
They are best served warm with a pat of butter and a hot cup of tea, of course! I adapted this recipe from a few different sources, but mainly took inspiration from Paul Hollywood's version.
Hot Cross Buns
- Stand mixer (optional)
- 9"x13" baking tray
- Piping bag with round tip
- 227 g whole milk (8 oz/1 cup)
- 7 g yeast (1 standard packet/2 ¼ tsp)
- 454 g bread flour (16 oz/3 ⅔ cups)
- 70 g sugar (2 ½ oz/6 Tbsp)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 57 g butter (2 oz/½ stick)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 tablespoon orange or lemon zest
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60 g all purpose flour (2 oz/½ cup)
- 5 tablespoon water
- 3 tablespoon apricot jam
Mix the Dough
- Warm the milk on the stovetop or in the microwave on a low setting. You just want to get it warm, no more than 110°F/43°C.
- Add the warm milk and yeast to a large bowl (the stand mixer bowl, if you're using one) and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Add the flour, sugar, salt, butter and egg to the bowl with the milk and yeast. Either with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a very sturdy spoon, mix together until a sticky dough forms.
- Add the cranberries, apples, zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract to the bowl.
- If you're using a stand mixer, mix again until the dough starts pulling away from the side of the bowl, 2 to 5 minutes. If you are going to knead by hand, dump the contents of the bowl onto a floured surface. Knead well, about 5 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and stretchy.
Proofing and Shaping
- Lightly oil a large bowl (keep in mind that the dough will at least double in size). Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and turn it to lightly coat all sides of the dough in oil.
- Tightly cover the bowl and let it rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. If you are in cold kitchen, it will take longer, or shorter if your kitchen is warm.
- Line a 9"x13" baking tray with parchment paper.
- Once the dough is doubled in size, it's time to shape the buns. On a floured surface, divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces. (If you want to be crazy like me, weigh the entire dough, divide the weight by 12 and you can weigh out each piece.)
- Roll each piece into a ball, pinching it at the bottom to seal the dough. Place the balls pinch-side down in your baking tray, giving each one some room to expand.
- Cover the baking tray and let the buns rise for another hour.
Make the Crosses and Bake
- While the buns rise, preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C/gas mark 6.
- In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the water until it forms a thick but pipeable paste. Place the paste in a piping bag fitted with a round tip (or just cut an even hole in the bottom of a piping bag).
- Pipe a line across the center of all of the buns, and do that for each row of buns. Then pipe a line across all of the buns in the other direction.
- Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- On the stovetop, heat the jam on a low temperature just to melt it. You can pick out any large chunks, or pass it through a strainer to get all of the chunks out.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the warm jam onto the warm buns. Serve the buns warm. They will keep for a couple of days at room temperature, or freeze individually wrapped buns for best freshness.