Hot Cross Buns

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More than just a nursery rhyme, hot cross buns are a staple bake for Easter time here in the UK. Homemade is always better – fact!

Hot Cross Buns recipe from Baking with Granny. Easy, traditional, homemade hot cross buns.

Brighter days are coming! The weather is (somewhat) improving, the nights are lighter and the new leaves are starting to appear on the trees. All the signs that Spring is on the way. Another sign that Spring is near is the yearly influx of Hot Cross Buns.

Doughy little spiced buns, bursting with dried fruit, and adorning the familiar cross on top. Not to mention the iconic song that goes along with them! But why do we only eat Hot Cross Buns in the Spring?

Well, it’s actually just coincidence that they are eaten in Spring, due to the fact that is when Easter falls. And much like most commercialised holidays these days, Easter is no longer just a weekend but is in fact present in our lives for what feels like more of an entire season.

Hot Cross Buns recipe. Freshly made hot cross buns, made with yeast, dried fruit and orange.

Centauries ago, Hot Cross Buns were baked with a cross on them, as a way to honour the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. However in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I had quite enough of them and put a ban on them being baked, sold or eaten, unless it was within the Easter weekend. Of course this ban didn’t stand the test of time and it was lifted by the 1700s. Finally people could enjoy the now-Easter-associated buns whenever they wanted but the general rule of them being a Easter-time treat has long continued.

Being a bake with a long history, there is of course a never ending catalogue of different Hot Cross Buns recipes, both online, in recipes books and even in archives. So what makes this recipe different?

This is your go-to, fuss-free Hot Cross Buns recipe. Traditional in taste and using ingredients you’ll probably already have to hand. No overly fancy dried fruits, no artisan doughs and no icing crosses. Just those doughy little spiced buns, bursting with dried fruit, and adorning the familiar cross on top.

UK recipe for Hot Cross Buns. Best served toasted and with a spread of butter.

Ingredients:

Milk
Milk makes up the liquid portion of the Hot Cross Buns dough. You’ll start by warming up the milk – this helps melt the butter/margarine but also get the yeast going (yeast likes a bit of warmth!).
The kind of milk you use is personal preference. Full-fat milk will give a richer bun overall but it is by no means essential. Soya milk also works brilliantly if you are wanting to omit the dairy.

Butter or Margarine
It’s personal preference on if you use butter or margarine in this recipe. Flavour-wise, butter can help give a richer flavour but with the spices and fruit being the star of the flavour-show it will probably be hard to notice a real difference.

Strong Bread Flour
For the most predictable dough, Strong Bread Flour is the best. This is due to the amount of protein (ie. gluten) in the flour, which gives the dough a good structure.
However if you don’t have any or can’t get your hands on some, Plain Flour is a decent alternative; you’ll just need to work the dough a little harder when kneading to activate what gluten is in the flour. Take a look at the Baking with Granny Instagram to see just how much Granny works a dough made with Plain Flour.

Caster Sugar
A little bit of sugar is needed to give this dough a good flavour and not just be a plain bread roll! Not much is needed – too much and the yeast with have a feast.
Caster sugar is preferable due to its fine consistency. You could use Golden Caster Sugar too, for a more caramel flavour.

Salt
When it comes to making a yeast dough, you don’t want your yeast getting ahead of itself. That’s where salt comes in! Salt retards the yeast and slows it down, giving the gluten in your flour time to strengthen and develop.

Cinnamon and Mixed Spice
Hot Cross Buns are known for having a bit of a spice to them and I find this combination to be perfect. If you are struggling to get your hands on some Mixed Spice, pumpkin spice is a reasonable substitute, or just use another spoonful of cinnamon.

Fast-action Yeast
There was a time when you could buy various types of yeast but nowadays, Fast Action Yeast in 7g sachets is the most accessible. It also works brilliantly in many recipes but especially this Hot Cross Buns one, as no extra measuring, or preparation is required to activate it.

Sunflower Oil
A little oil added to the dough helps bind it all together, add a little extra moisture and keeps the buns tasting fresh a little longer. Sunflower oil is great because it doesn’t have much of a taste. Other oils could be used if they’re not too overpowering in taste.

Sultanas
This recipe uses just sultanas, as opposed to a mixture of dried fruits. I find that sultanas bake the best and compliment the dough, without adding too much extra chewing or sticking to your teeth. You can of course mix things up and swap them for your dried fruit of choice, or create a mixture with other fruits.

Orange Zest
The zest of an orange is the perfect addition to give these Hot Cross Buns a fruity kick but without also being too overwhelming. And the orange zest alone gives all the fruitiness required without also needing the addition of mixed peel too – but if you are a mixed peel fiend you could swap them out for each other

Hot Cross Buns recipe from Baking with Granny. No-frills, easy and traditional.
Hot Cross Buns recipe from Baking with Granny. Easy, traditional, homemade hot cross buns.

Hot Cross Buns

More than just a nursery rhyme, Hot Cross Buns are a staple bake for Easter in the UK.
5 from 4 votes
PRINT RECIPE
Course: Dessert, Snack
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 buns

Ingredients

For the Crosses

For the Glaze

  • 2 tbsp Apricot Jam
  • Dash of boiling water

Instructions

  • In a small milk pan, gently warm the milk and butter/margarine until the butter/margarine has just melted. Do not let it get too hot or boil.
  • Meanwhile, sift the bread flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and spices into a large bowl. Add the yeast and gently stir together until combined. Create a well in the middle and pour in the sunflower oil, before pouring in the milk and butter/margarine mixture too.
  • Use a wooden spoon to bring the ingredients together and create a slightly sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a piece of oil cling film, or a damp tea towel. Allow the dough to rise for at least 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  • Line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper and set aside.. Knock back the dough (by gently punching the air from the dough and pulling it back on itself) before adding the sultanas and orange zest. Turn the dough back out onto a floured surface and knead again until the sultanas and orange zest are evenly distributed through.
  • Divide the dough evenly into 12 (see notes for tips) and shape into small balls. Place each bun onto the baking tray, leaving a bit of space between to allow them to rise.
  • Cover the buns with the greased clingfilm and leave to rise in a draft-free place again for 1 hour.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°c (180°c for fan assisted ovens or Gas Mark 4).
  • In a cup, mix the flour for your cross with a few tablespoons of water until it becomes a smooth paste consistency. Transfer to a piping bag and cut a small hole in the end. Pipe a line on top of the buns, down each row both vertically and horizontally, to create the crosses.
  • Bake in your pre-heated oven for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Mix the apricot jam with a dash of boiling water to create your glaze. Brush onto the top of your buns whilst they are still hot.
  • Once cool enough to touch, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, or enjoy whilst still warm.

Notes

For perfectly even Hot Cross Buns, weigh your total dough and divide the total weight into 12 - then weigh out each bun evenly, before shaping them.
Tried this recipe?Tag @bakingwithgranny or use the hashtag #bakingwithgranny!

Free-from & Vegan

Gluten-free: I have not tried using a gluten-free flour in this recipe so cannot confirm if it would work as a straight swap. However, The Loopy Whisk has a fantastic tried-and-tested recipe for Gluten-free Hot Cross Buns.

Nut-free: This is a nut-free hot cross buns recipe. Just be sure to double check your ingredients individually for any allergy info.

Egg-free: This is a egg-free hot cross buns recipes. Just be sure to double check your ingredients individually for any allergy info.

Dairy-free: To make this a dairy-free hot cross buns recipe, simply use a dairy-free milk (soya works great) and a dairy-free margarine.

Vegan: To make this a vegan hot cross buns recipe, simply use a dairy-free milk and a dairy-free margarine.

Hot Cross Buns recipe from Baking with Granny. Traditional UK recipe for homemade Hot Cross Buns, including swaps to make this a vegan recipe.

6 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing your incredible knowledge with us. This website is incredible. It always provides me with a wealth of information.

  2. 5 stars
    Lovely light hot cross buns. Definitely worth having a go! I upped the spices by adding ground cloves. Have followed Delia’s recipe for years but think this will be my go-to recipe from now on.

  3. 5 stars
    What a super recipe. I live in the Netherlands where HCBs are nowhere to be found. I made these on a whim this afternoon using normal flour and they still turned out perfectly. Thank you.

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Hello, I’m Amy, the voice-behind and creator-of Baking with Granny.

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