Hot Cross Buns are a must for Easter! Lightly sweetened, warmly spiced buns, studded with raisins are baked until fluffy and topped with a vanilla icing cross.
Easter is this Sunday and I’ll be sticking to a tradition that’s been in our family since I was a kid, making hot cross buns. Every Easter my mom would make a big batch of hot cross buns. She would make some to share with friends and our pastor at church and the rest would be waiting for us when we got home from the Easter Sunday service.
There’s something comforting and nostalgic about keeping with family traditions. It’s something that’s definitely needed for me this Easter. If you aren’t familiar with hot cross buns, here’s the scoop.
What Are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot cross buns are simply a spiced, slightly sweet bun that’s studded with dried fruit. Traditionally currants or raisins are used. The tops of the buns are either etched with a cross before baking or piped with icing after baking. I have always made mine using the icing method.
History of Hot Cross Buns
Hot cross buns have been around for centuries, perhaps as early as the 12th century. They first gained popularity in England where they became the symbol for Easter weekend. In the 1500’s, London had a ban on the sale of the buns because there were superstitious beliefs that they had medicinal or magical powers.
The queen passed a law that permitted them to only be sold at Christmas and Easter. This prompted people to start baking them at home and made them grow in popularity. Eventually the law became too difficult to enforce and was repealed. These days hot cross buns are eaten year-round, but are most often seen during Lent, on Good Friday and Easter.
What Do I Need To Make The Buns?
- All purpose and whole wheat flour
- Active dry yeast
- Brown Sugar
- Cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg
- Vanilla extract
- Raisins or currants
- Dark or spiced rum (optional)
- Orange (optional)
- Powdered sugar
If you’ve ever made yeasted rolls the process is basically the same to make the buns. You’ll start by combining warm milk, yeast and a bit of sugar. Let it sit for 5 minutes until it’s activated and bubbly. The butter, eggs, brown sugar, spices, vanilla and a portion of the flour get mixed in. Once it’s combined the remaining flour and raisins are added in.
The dough is mixed with a dough hook (if using a stand mixer) until it pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. The first rise for the dough will take 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. After that you’ll punch the air out of it and divide it into 12-14 pieces and roll the dough into balls.
The balls go into a 9×13 baking pan and are covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap so they can rise again. The buns will bake for 18-22 minutes depending on the size of them. Once out of the oven make the icing and then pipe a cross on top of the still warm buns. Like any yeasted bread the process is long, but most of it is hands off time.
Do I Need A Stand Mixer?
A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment is very helpful when making yeasted breads, but not required. You can use a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix the dough, just be aware that you’ll be getting quite the arm workout!
Why Do The Raisins Need To Soak?
Technically they don’t need to soak, but they will plump up and be much softer if you do this step. If you choose to soak them in rum it also adds a nice warm spiced flavor that goes well with the spices in the buns.
Is It Necessary To Use All The Spices?
I like this particular combination of spices, but if you don’t have them all feel free to use a mixture of what you do have. I recommend making cinnamon the predominant spice that you use
The hot cross buns are best served warm and eaten the day they are made. Some people like to butter them like you would a roll or they can be eaten as it. If there are leftovers they can be stored on the counter in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
More Easter Brunch Recipes
- 3/4 cup milk, warmed to 110° F.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 packet
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons dark or light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup raisins or currants soaked in boiling rum or water for 5 minutes.
- 1 egg white whisked together with a tablespoon of water
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk the milk, yeast, and granulated sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer using either a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover with a clean dish towel and let it sit for 5 minutes. It should look foamy and bubbly when ready.
- Add the brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, spices, and whole wheat flour to the yeast mixture. Beat on low for 30 seconds then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining flour and raisins (or currants). Beat on medium speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This will take approximately 2-3 minutes. If the dough looks too sticky and is stuck to the sides or the bottom of the bowl, add additional flour a tablespoon at a time. Knead the dough for another 2-3 minutes either in the mixer or by hand on a lightly floured surface.
- Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and place the dough in it, turning to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place the bowl in a warm space to rise until doubled in size. Depending on how warm the environment is this will take 1-2 hours. Mine took 2 hours.
- Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.
- When the dough has risen, punch it down to deflate it. Divide the dough into 12-14 equal pieces, they don't have to be perfect. Shape into smooth balls then place them in the prepared baking dish. Cover again with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow them to rise a second time for about an hour or until puffy.
- Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake at 350° F. for 18-24 minutes depending on the size or until golden brown. Let the rolls cool slightly while you make the icing.
- In a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, pinch of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spoon the icing into a zip top bag and cut off a small piece of the corner. Pipe a cross on top of each roll. Serve immediately.
The buns are best the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 211Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 134mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 5g