A typical Good Friday treat is hot cross buns. Spiced with cinnamon and flecked with currants, citron, and orange zest, these yeast-leavened buns are mildly sweet.
What are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten every Good Friday in Christian communities around the world. The hot cross bun symbolizes the crucifixion (a significant event even in the Christian religion). Each bun is decorated with a flour paste or icing cross that represents the cross on which Christ died. The spices used in the hot cross buns are said to represent what was used to wrap Christ after his death.
What are the flavors of hot cross buns?
A hot cross bun is a combination between a dinner roll and a cinnamon roll. They’re delicate and flavorful thanks to cinnamon, nutmeg, and spices. You can experiment with the spices, including adding a pinch of cardamom. The buns are largely sweetened with brown sugar before being iced with a beautiful orange frosting. We occasionally add a pinch of orange zest or candied orange peel to the dough for added flavor. They are nice with a little butter straight out of the oven, or my husband likes to toast them and add butter. Both taste delicious.
Crosses pattern on buns
There are a couple different ways to put the cross on top of your hot cross buns.
- Flour crosses: The most conventional method is to use flour and water to pipe your cross. The flour and water solidify and become a touch chewy once baked. This is, in my opinion, the most popular way for making hot cross buns.
- Icing crosses: After the buns have baked and cooled, you will put a cross on the buns made from icing sugar and water. This is the method I prefer.
Use a piping bag or a freezer bag to pipe the frosting or flour mixture. Remove the corner by cutting a small corner off. Make sure the corner opening is small when constructing the flour cross since you want a thin line. With the icing cross it can be thin or a little wider.
Tips for the Greatest Hot Cross Buns!
- Check your yeast expiry date. Make sure your yeast isn’t past its expiration date. Your yeast will expire if you don’t use it too regularly. Your bread will not rise if your yeast has expired, which might be upsetting.
- Yeast test If you’re worried, combine 2 TBSP of very warm tap water, a touch of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a small bowl. Place in a warm place for 5–10 minutes. If the surface begins to froth, your yeast is active and ready to use.
- Dough consistency Because soft dough equals easy rise, the stickier the dough, the softer and more moist your buns will be. As a result, you’ll need to use the smallest amount of flour possible so that the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl while mixing but remains soft.
- Too much flour Dry hard dough + no rise = rock-hard buns. You don’t want this.
- Start with less flour. It’s easier to add additional flour to attain the appropriate dough consistency than it is to try to save a dough that is too dry by adding extra liquid.
- Don’t skip cooling the buns. I know you want to tear into these buns as soon as they come out of the oven. But don’t do it! If you do, they’ll appear doughy on the inside, and you’ll will think they are not good or not cooked because they will have a doughy quality to them and that does not taste good at all. It will take 20 minutes for them to finish cooking and dry up on the inside.
1. Yeast: Use any yeast labeled “instant” or “rapid-rise” yeast. I use Fleischmann’s Instant Dry Yeast.
2. Milk Warmth: Scalding hot milk kills the yeast. I heat it for 45 seconds on high in the microwave. I put in an instant thermometer and it should read 110 F°.
3. Flour bread is fluffier and more tender if made with bread flour, but this recipe works great with all purpose flour as well.
- Spices: I love to use cinnamon and nutmeg but have learned over the years that too much doesn’t taste very good. I love the variety of spices in this recipe and have recently started adding cardamom and it really works well with all the other warming spices. A little bit goes a long way.
- Raisins or currents I like to add the raisins or current to hot water for about 5-10 minutes so they plump up really nicely. Then add them to the mix with the yeast and water. Otherwise, adding them once the dough is combined, I find the raisins or currents are not dispersed well enough.
- Orange Use 2 oranges if you want a more prominent orange flavor. I use dried orange zest that keeps for a long time and always have it on hand.
- Vanilla The vanilla adds a little bit of caramelly taste. I like to use pure vanilla extract, but artificial vanilla works as well.
5. Dough, It takes about 5 minutes with a stand-up mixer. You want it to pull away from the bowl slightly. If you don’t have a stand-up mixer, you can use a medium-sized bowl, a good sturdy mixing spoon (I like to use a wooden spoon), and some good arm strength, and it will work well too.
6. A warm place for the dough. A warm place for the dough. This is what I like to do when I’m not sure if it’s warm enough in the house. I will turn my oven on at around 225° let it come up to temperature, and then shut it off and put my dough in there to rise.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
- 1 electric mixer optional
- ¾ cup milk warmed to about 110°F
- 2-1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 5 tbsp butter
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp cardamom optional
- 1 tbsp orange zest optional
- 3-1/2 cups flour or bread flour
- 1 cup raisins or currents
- 1 Cup Icing Sugar
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- Prepare the dough as follows: In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the milk, yeast, and granulated sugar. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is frothy on top. If you don't have a mixer, you can do this in a big mixing bowl and then combine the dough with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula in the next step. It will take some arm strength. A hand mixer will work, but the sticky dough will get stuck in the beaters again and again. It's preferable to mix by hand using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
- Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and 1 cup (125g) flour. Using the dough hook or paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining flour and the raisins. Beat on low speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Dough should be a little sticky and soft. If it’s too sticky and not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, mix in additional flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.
- Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 3 minutes.
- 1st rise Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat it in oil on all sides. Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel can be used to cover the bowl. Allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place, or until it has doubled in size. (I always leave it on the counter to rise.) It takes roughly 2 hours to complete. If your house is quite cool i will sometimes preheat my oven then shut it off and put my bowl in the oven.
- Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan You can also bake the rolls on a lined baking sheet.
- Punch the dough down to release the air when it's time to shape the rolls. Cut the dough into 14-16 pieces that are equal in size. (It doesn't have to be perfect– just eyeball it!) Form each piece into a smooth ball, pressing the bottom to keep it together. This is something I perform exclusively with my hands. Arrange in a baking pan that has been prepared.
- 2nd Rise: Cover shaped rolls with plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Add the cross: If you are doing the flour and water cross whisk the cross ingredients together, starting with 6 Tablespoons of water. You want a thick paste that will pipe easily. Add remaining water if needed. Spoon paste into a piping bag Snip off a small piece at the corner. Pipe a line down the center of each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
- Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, or until golden brown on top. If the tops start to brown too rapidly, cover the pan loosely with aluminium foil. Remove the rolls from the oven and set aside to cool while you prepare the icing.
- To make the frosting, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, then drizzle or brush on warm rolls. Serve right away.
- Refrigerate leftover rolls for up to 1 week or store them tightly covered at room temperature for 1-2 days.