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Home • Recipe • Easter • Hot Cross Buns
Published by Amy
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!
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.
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.
MilkMilk 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 MargarineIt’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 FlourFor 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 SugarA 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.
SaltWhen 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 SpiceHot 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 YeastThere 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 OilA 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.
SultanasThis 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 ZestThe 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
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.
Made these this afternoon, very easy recipe to follow and they are delicious!!!
Lovely. I will definitely try this.Happy Hazel
Giving this try today, first time making my own.
Thank you so much for sharing your incredible knowledge with us. This website is incredible. It always provides me with a wealth of information.
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.
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Hello, I’m Amy, the voice-behind and creator-of Baking with Granny.
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