Homemade Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Hot cross buns. Hot cross buns. One a penny, two a penny, unless you can’t buy them from the store and have to make your own instead.
Okay, that’s not really how the song goes. But those may as well be the lyrics right now because with the entire world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and Easter fast approaching, luxuries like hot cross buns aren’t as easy to come by at the grocery store or even your local bakery this year.
But that’s no problem for you, because YOU are about to learn how to make hot cross buns from scratch. And you’re about to discover that they’re actually really EASY to make at home, from scratch, using ingredients you likely have on hand already.
So, let’s begin!
Here is where I would normally tell you all about the history of hot cross buns (which is actually quite fascinating and dates back centuries to when an Anglican monk first baked an early version of these delicious sweet buns on Good Friday and marked them with a cross, for obvious reasons)…
Okay, I digress. I actually really enjoy learning and talking about the history of food, but there are lots of places on the Internet where you can learn about such things, and I know you’re here for the recipe. So let’s get to it.
How to make homemade hot cross buns
Hot cross buns are a sweet bread made with basic ingredients including flour, dry active yeast, milk, eggs, sugar and spices, plus raisins or, more traditionally, dried currants and/or candied citrus peels. You could also use dried cranberries or any dried fruit, really.
Start by proofing your yeast: Heat up ¾ cup of whole milk to about 110ºF and add it to a mixing bowl with one teaspoon of sugar and 2¼ teaspoons (or one packet) of active dry yeast. Mix it all together and then leave it to proof for about 10 minutes.
You’ll see the milk/sugar/yeast combo beginning to bubble and foam after a few minutes.
Add in another ½ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of melted butter, 2 large eggs, some vanilla extract, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cardamom (if you have some), and mix it all together.
Then add one cup of all-purpose flour and one cup of raisins (or dried fruit of choice) and mix together.
* I like to soak my raisins in some hot water for about five minutes first to soften them up because the ones in my pantry are a little old and dry. After five minutes, strain the water out (obviously). The softened raisins are much easier to work with when you roll out the dough, although they turn out nicely in the buns whether you pre-soak them or not.
Add remaining 2½ cups of flour and mix together until a wet dough begins to form. Flour your hands and your counter (or whatever large, flat surface you’ll be rolling out your dough on), and turn your dough out of the bowl onto the counter.
Knead dough by hand for about two to three minutes.
Kneading by hand vs. using a stand mixer
For this recipe you could use a stand mixer if you like, but I actually found the dough came out lighter and fluffier when I kneaded by hand. That could have also been because the yeast I used in the first batch was a little old.
Either way, you only need to knead this dough for a couple minutes, and kneading by hand is so cathartic. So if you find yourself in need of a little DIY therapy right now (and who doesn’t), then I highly recommend kneading by hand.
After you’ve kneaded your dough, place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl (to prevent it from sticking) and cover with a tea towel. Place it somewhere warm and let it rise for one to two hours, until it’s doubled in size.
(I like to put my dough in the oven with the light on to let it rise. Just be careful not to turn the oven on!)
Once your dough ball has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface again. Cut it into 12 equal pieces. This may take a little adjusting (ie. taking a little extra dough off some of the larger pieces and adding it to smaller pieces, etc.), but so long as your 12 dough balls are roughly the same size, you’re good to start forming them into buns.
Place your buns in a well-greased baking pan and place in a warm spot (like your oven with the light on) to let them rise again for about an hour.
Then, preheat your oven to 350ºF (remove your buns from the oven first if you’ve been letting them rise in there!) , and start mixing up the ingredients to make your cross.
What is the cross made of on hot cross buns?
For your homemade hot cross buns you can either make your cross the traditional way, with flour and water (which is what this recipe calls for), or you can make it out of icing sugar and water for a sweet, sugary cross.
Alternatively, you can go simple and carve a cross into the top of each bun with a sharp knife (like the monks of long ago), or you can go crazy and make an icing sugar cross with some food colouring added in or maybe add some cream cheese to make a cream cheese icing cross… It’s completely up to you.
I actually prefer the traditional chewy, doughy cross made from a super simple mixture of flour and water, so that’s what I’ve included with this recipe.
So, to make your cross, mix ¼ cup of water with 6 tablespoons of flour. Stir together to mix really well and then spoon it into a piping bag or a small plastic/Ziplock bag and cut the tip off a corner of the bag to make your own piping bag.
Add the crosses onto your buns by piping a straight line down each row of buns, and then doing the same thing across each row going the other direction.
Then, once the oven has preheated, bake your hot cross buns for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are just beginning to turn golden brown.
Glazing your hot cross buns
While your buns are baking, mix up your glaze.
While you technically don’t have to add a glaze onto your homemade hot cross buns, I highly recommend it. If you don’t, you should still brush some melted butter or a little milk or cream on top of your buns as soon as they come out of the oven to help keep them moist. But in my humble opinion, your hot cross buns will be so much better if you add a sweet, sticky glaze like the one I’m about to share with you.
I tried a couple different glazes, including a little straight maple syrup on one batch (which was a little too sticky), as well as a honey and milk glaze, which was just right.
(If you do decide to do a maple glaze, I recommend melting one tablespoon of butter and mixing it with one tablespoon of maple syrup and then brushing with that to help it absorb into the buns).
For the honey and milk glaze, mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of lukewarm milk. Now, you could stop there, but if you really want to take your home-made hot cross buns to the next level, add ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom to your honey and milk glaze mixture.
You could also try a little cinnamon or nutmeg or vanilla extract. But I found the flavour of the cardamom worked really well with these buns and I highly recommend it if you happen to have some on hand!
Brush buns with the glaze as soon as they come out of the oven. Then resist the temptation to stuff them directly in your mouth while they’re still scorching hot and let them cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Make-ahead and storage options
For best results, eat your homemade hot cross buns while they’re still warm and fresh out of the oven. Alternatively, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can also make the dough up ahead of time so the buns are ready to bake on Good Friday or Easter Sunday or whenever you’d like to enjoy them. Simply follow all the steps up until the point where you shape your buns. Then, before you let the dough rise again, stick them in the fridge. Take buns out of the fridge to let them rise at least a couple hours before you want to bake them and bake as normal.
And that’s it! Another simple recipe that will leave you wondering why you’ve been buying hot cross buns from the store or the bakery all these years when you could have just as easily been making your own.
Of course, let’s hope that by next Easter it won’t be as difficult to find them at the store as it is right now. But I’m pretty sure that after you try this recipe for homemade hot cross buns, you’ll be making them at home from now on anyway 🙂
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness:)
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