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 from the supermarket, 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, 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.
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.
Hot cross buns recipe: How to make hot cross buns
For this Easter recipe (opens in new tab) 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
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.
Turn it out on to a floured surface and knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place for about 45 mins to rise. Turn out dough and knead lightly for a few minutes.
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.
Mix the flour with 3-4 tbsp cold water to form a paste. Pipe a cross on top of each bun.
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.
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Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.