Hot cross buns are one of the most classic British bakes for Easter, so of course I have got a recipe for you this week to make them yourself. I had never heard about hot cross buns before I moved to England a few years ago, but since I tried them for the first time I’ve loved them. Generally they’re made of a really soft yeast dough, enriched with milk, butter and eggs, flavoured with spices and with added dried fruit. In the case of these ones, they’ve got added cinnamon, orange and sultanas and are just so fluffy and soft and lovely to eat warm spread with the spiced butter. They’re a firm favourite in our house and always seem to disappear rather quickly. 😉
The recipe is not originally by me – it’s this one from BBC Good Food – but I’ve changed a few small things to make them my own and they are hands down my favourite recipe for hot cross buns! The flavours of the cinnamon and the orange are just such a great combination, there’s just the right amount of dried fruit in them and the dough is lovely to work with. They work out brilliantly every time I make them, the dough rises perfectly, they bake beautifully and brown really evenly in the oven. The spiced butter is a great accompaniment with its flavours of honey, cinnamon and ginger – it’s best spread onto the warm buns (either fresh from the oven or warm again in the oven or in a toaster) so it melts slightly and soaks into the bread, yum! If you have any left after finishing all the buns, it’s also great spread on toast.
If you’re a bit scared of making yeast dough and making rolls, don’t be. It can be a bit intimidating at first, because it can seem like quite a technical thing to do, but really it’s not too bad. When mixing the ingredients together you just have to make sure that the milk is not too hot, otherwise it will kill off the yeast and the dough won’t rise. Test it with your finger and if it feels nicely warm but not hot, then it’s perfect. After mixing all the ingredients together comes the kneading – if you have a stand mixer it’s incredibly simple: put it on to knead for a few minutes and you’re done. If you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t fret, it’s still not very complicated. Tip the dough onto your work surface and knead it with your hands until it’s smooth and soft. This can take about 10 minutes, so don’t worry if it’s not coming together yet after 2 minutes. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky, so if it’s still sticking to your hands a lot after about 5-7 minutes of kneading, add a little more flour. Once the dough has been kneaded sufficiently, plop it back into the bowl and cover it. Lots of people seem to cover it with cling film now, but I find that a clean tea towel is just as perfect for it. I have a specific tea towel I just use for covering rising dough and I’ve never had any problems with that, plus there’s a little less rubbish afterwards. 👍
After rising and adding the dried fruit into the dough, the next step is to shape the buns. This is going to be slightly awkward to describe, but I will do my best, so bear with me. To get a nice smooth and tight top, you have to pull the dough from the top of the bun to the underneath. You can do this either by kind of pulling the sides down and pinching the dough together repeatedly on the bottom of the bun until you have a nice tight ball. Or you can put the dough ball onto your work surface, place your hand over the top of it in a kind of claw position, with the fingers touching the work surface all around the ball and the palm of your hand touching the top of the ball. Then you move your hand in a circle motion and the ball of dough will kind of roll around a bit under your hand and the shape of your fingers pull the dough underneath the ball. I hope that description was ok to understand, if you have any more questions about the shaping, feel free to pop them in the comments below! Once the shaping is done, they will need another rise on the baking tray, an egg wash and then the crosses on top. The quickest way to get the crosses is to just pipe lines along the middle of the rows of buns, rather than pipe a cross onto each individual bun. And then it’s just in the oven with them and you can enjoy some lovely hot cross buns! ☺️
Makes 12 buns
You will need
For the dough
1 orange, zested
500g strong white flour
1 tsp cinnamon
80g caster sugar
7g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
1 egg, plus 1 for the egg wash
For the crosses
100g strong white flour
For the spiced honey butter
250g salted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp runny honey
- Warm up the milk with the orange zest in a saucepan or the microwave until it is steaming, then add the butter in cubes and melt in the hot liquid. Leave to cool until warm but no longer hot.
- Put the flour, cinnamon, sugar, yeast and salt into a bowl and mix to combine. Add the milk mixture and the egg and mix to combine. Knead on a lightly floured work surface for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Alternatively, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead for about 7 minutes with the dough hook and leave in the bowl to rise.
- Knock the dough back and knead in the sultanas until they’re evenly distributed throughout. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Put them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper in a 3×4 rectangle spaced about 2cm apart. Cover with the tea towel again and leave to rise for another hour, until they’re doubled in size and almost touching.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. For the crosses, mix the flour with some water until you have a thick paste and put into a piping bag. Brush the buns with the egg, snip a small tip off the piping bag and pipe crosses over the buns. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then put onto a cooling rack to cool completely, or serve warm.
- While the buns are in the oven, put all the ingredients for the butter into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until evenly combined. Serve with the buns. The buns will keep for 3 days in a bread bin, the butter will keep for at least 1 week in the fridge.