How to make hot cross buns

Learn how to make hot cross buns from scratch with this simple hot cross buns recipe...

How to make hot cross buns
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Hot cross buns are probably our favourite treat for Easter. Nothing beats the taste of oozing butter, delicately melting into the crisp toasted surface of a hot cross bun, dotted with hot gooey raisins. 

We know it's tempting to just buy a packet of supermarket hot cross buns, but hot cross buns are one of those recipes that are improved beyond comparison when you make your own. They're lighter, fresher, and tastier. Plus you will fill your kitchen with the most tempting baking aromas imaginable.

Spiced buns like these were traditionally handed out on Good Friday as an important Easter food, but these days we tend not to be so restrictive. We'll happily eat them throughout the Easter period. In fact at one point, during the reign of Elizabeth I, it was illegal to sell hot cross buns except on Good Friday, at burials, and at Christmas. Anyone caught contravening the ban had to give all their products to the poor. As a result, baking your own hot cross buns became lucky. It is supposed to win you friends and ensure all the bread you bake over the next year is perfect.

Our step-by-step hot cross buns recipe makes baking your own buns at home really simple, and we're pretty sure it can win you friends too. They're not difficult to do. Just make sure you leave enough time for the dough to rise between kneading sessions - about 1½ hours of proving time in total. The recipe makes a dozen buns - enough to see a family of four through the whole long weekend.

How to make hot cross buns

Once you've mastered the basic recipe, you can start getting creative. Swap the dried fruit for blueberries, dried cherries or cranberries, chocolate chips or chunks of salted caramel. Traditionally we make the crosses on the top of the bun with a simple paste of flour and water - as here - but you can use melted white chocolate or marzipan if you prefer.

To make hot cross buns you will need:

  • 750g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 90g butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 60g light muscovado sugar
  • 150g mixed dried fruit
  • 90g dried apricots, chopped
  • 7g sachet easy-bake dried yeast
  • 300ml warm milk
  • 2 medium eggs

For the crosses:

  • 90g plain white flour
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, to glaze

Step 1

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How to make hot cross buns: Step 1

Sift the white flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the spices, sugar, dried fruit and yeast. Make a well in the centre. Beat the milk and eggs together and pour into the flour. Mix well to a soft dough.

Step 2

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How to make hot cross buns: Step 2

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place for about 45 mins to rise. Turn out the dough and knead lightly for a few minutes.

Step 3

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How to make hot cross buns: Step 3

Divide into 12 and shape each piece into a bun. Place well apart on the baking sheet, and cover loosely with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place for 45 mins, until doubled in size then cut a cross in the top of each bun with a sharp knife.

Step 4

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How to make hot cross buns: Step 4

Mix the flour with 3-4 tbsp cold water to form a paste. Pipe a cross on top of each bun.

Hot cross buns

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to make hot cross buns: Step 5

Set the oven to 200°C and bake the buns for 15-20 mins. Put the sugar into a cup with 1 tbsp boiling water and stir until syrupy. Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze while still warm. Cool on a wire rack.

Top tips for making hot cross buns

Even if you have a fancy mixer with a dough hook, it's best to knead these buns by hand and make sure you do it for a full 10 minutes. Kneading stretches the gluten in the dough. 

After good kneading, the dough should be smooth and shiny, and when you press your finger into it, it should spring back easily. However, kneading in a mixer can be too rough and actually break down the gluten in the dough, leading to dense, tougher buns.

Can you toast hot cross buns?

Hot cross buns can be toasted to reheat once baked or give them a crisp bite. People tend to toast hot cross buns if they plan on smothering them with melted butter for an indulgent treat. Toast a hot cross bun for around 60 seconds/1 minute for the optimum crispness.

Can you microwave hot cross buns?

If you want to reheat your hot cross buns, we've recommend cutting in half and toasting, however if you don't want a crispy finish, and would rather them be soft, melt-in-the-mouth style buns - 10-20 seconds in the microwave on medium heat should do the trick.

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Jessica Dady
Food Editor

Jessica Dady is Food Editor at GoodtoKnow and has over 12 years of experience as a digital editor, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the must-buy seasonal food hampers and advent calendars for Christmas to the family-friendly air fryers that’ll make dinner time a breeze, Jessica loves trying and testing various food products to find the best of the best for the busy parents among us. Over the years of working with GoodtoKnow, Jessica has had the privilege of working alongside Future’s Test Kitchen to create exclusive videos - as well as writing, testing, and shooting her own recipes. When she’s not embracing the great outdoors with her family at the weekends, Jessica enjoys baking up a storm in the kitchen with her favourite bakes being chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and a tray of gooey chocolate brownies