Hot Cross Bun Recipe

I’m normally a long-fermentation snob where it comes to bread, but frankly with all the spices in these little guys it’s mighty hard to pick up the subtleties that a long rise offers. A full tablespoon of instant yeast blows this dough up in no time — foom — which means from mixing to glazing, you can have these done in about four hours.

1 lb. 9 ounces (5 cups) bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups warm milk
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
egg wash
simple icing

Place the raisins in a bowl and add enough water to barely cover them. Microwave them for about a minute until the water boils. Allow them to sit about 15 minutes to plump and cool. Put flour, yeast spices and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater (paddle) attachment. Turn on low to blend. In a medium bowl combine milk, honey, eggs and whisk lightly to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of the mixer as it’s running and continue to stir until the flour mixture is completely moistened. Turn off the mixer and switch to the dough hook. Turn the mixer up to medium and add the butter and raisins. Knead 5-7 minutes until the dough comes together in a soft ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 18 pieces (they should weigh a little over 3 ounces each). Shape the pieces into buns according to the How to Shape Buns and Rolls instructions under the bread how-to’s on the right. Place the rolls on parchment-lined sheet pans and spray lightly with cooking spray. Cover gently with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about another 30-45 minutes (they should be puffy, but the dough should spring back some when you poke it).

Paint the buns with egg wash and score the tops of them in a criss-cross pattern. Bake for about 20 minutes or until well browned. Cool thoroughly on a wire rack. When completely cooled, drizzle on simple icing in a cross shape, or use a pastry bag if you prefer!

19 thoughts on “Hot Cross Bun Recipe”

  1. I’ve always wanted to do hot cross buns where the cross on top is made with a flour/water paste, or some other baked-on substance. Last time I tried it, if I recall correctly, I found recipes where you rolled out thin pastry strips, and ones where you painted the paste on top, and maybe another variant. All I can recall of my attempt was that the cross disappeared during the baking. 🙁

    Got a technique for something like that?

    1. Hi Nancy!

      Reader Bronwyn just commented about that. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve always thought it looked great. I’ll see if I can find any other wisdom about it. Cheers,

      – Joe

  2. I have made sourdough Hot Cross buns, and they are actually not as nice as yeast ones. The sourdough flavour clashes a bit with the spices IMO.
    I don’t use eggs and butter though, I love my buns chewy instead of soft. Don’t add sugar or honey either, the fruit is enough sweetness.
    To make a baked cross (I always do it like this, icing is too sweet) you make a paste of flour and water with a bit of oil or some other fat, and pipe it over the buns just before they go in the oven. The fat is just to stop it turning to concrete. Consistency should be pipe-able, obviously. You can roll out a thicker dough, but it’s bit of a pain.

    1. Nice tips, Bronwyn! I know there are some readers out there who’d like to do this sort of cross on top. Thank you!

      – Joe

  3. Joe, I’ve seen recipes for hot cross buns which use malt powder / malt extract to sweeten and darken the buns slightly. Have you seen this, and where do you stand on it?


    1. I’ve seen that as well, Chris. Malt powder is used in many breads for the same reason. I’m not against it, I just generally try to write recipes that don’t call for much in the way of harder-to-find ingredients. You can add half a cup or so of malt powder to this recipe if you like (diastatic is best if you can find it).


      – Joe

  4. How timely your blog post is! I’ve just moved to the USA, but back home in New Zealand, grocery store bakeries will be churning out hundreds of hot cross buns every day. They’re usually fantastic quality, and so delicious split in half, toasted and slathered generously with salted butter. Since I can’t easily get my fix here, I did a little searching for a recipe yesterday and came across several with the piped icing cross on top – something I’ve never seen or heard of!! In NZ buns always have a baked cross on top, made like Bronwyn says – simply butter rubbed into flour, mixed to a pipeable consistency with milk or water.
    Anyhow, do you think it would be possible to make this recipe without a stand mixer?

    1. Hello Ana!

      Yes, we here in the States do like a little indulgence on our hot cross buns — hence the icing!

      But test you certainly can do this without a stand mixer. I’m just addicted to machines. The dough can be easily mixed and kneaded by hand like any other bread. Just flour your hands if it get sticky.

      Let me know how they turn out!

      – Joe

  5. In my family it’s traditional to make crosses from thin pieces of marzipan, placed on-top before baking. The marzipan goes all gooey and caramelised. It’s what Jane Grigson suggests in English Food, and it’s great if you like marzipan.

  6. Joe, is it a reasonable option to fridge/freeze at some step? Whether it’s pre/post baking, I don’t want to devote hours in the wee of the morning to make these fresh for church on Sunday, but I’d like to have them be ‘great’ when I bring them in. Of course the icing will have to wait for the morning, but if I can do the majority of the other steps today, that’d be great.

    1. Hey Roger!

      Sorry for the late reply. You can refrigerate or freeze them after shaping (forming them into buns). Just add an extra half hour or so to the proofing time of they’re refrigerated, and thaw them overnight in the refrigerator (then add an extra half hour to the proofing time) if they’ve been froze.


      – Joe

  7. I make hot cross buns every year and we love them! I think I am going to give your recipe a whirl this year because it looks SO good. Thank you for sharing Joe!

  8. Hi Joe! I had a lot of trouble scoring the cross into the top of my proofed buns. They taste delicious (especially with extra icing- I made mine with browned butter and nutmeg) but they are not the beautiful little spheres they were.

    Have you ever had any trouble with this? I was using a very sharp knife.

  9. Hi Joe, I made these with white whole wheat flour (from King Arthur,) substituting one and half cups of the flour with wheat gluten. Now I can pretend they are health food! Seriously, they look, smell, and taste great (though admittedly I am more tolerant of whole wheat than some other pastry fanatics).

    1. Glad to hear these worked so well, John! I keep try to remember to remake these, adding a light syrup glaze to the top (more traditional). Maybe next spring!

      Cheers and thanks for the note,

      – Joe

  10. Dear Joe
    Do you have any thoughts about the spices and the fruit having antibacterial qualities and thus killing the yeast? I prefer the buns to be very fruity and spicy yet getting the balance right seems to be finite. Maybe you have a culinary trip to overcome this dilemma. Great site by the way; clear, extensive and a pleasure to come back to again and again. Thanks Jamie

    1. Hey Jamie!

      Thanks very much. Very glad the site has been so useful to you.

      Regarding your question, I generally don’t worry about things like spices, fruit or garlic killing yeast in breads. I’ve never had an instance where the yeast growth was retarded to the point that I noticed. I think of those ingredients a bit like salt: deadly to microbes but the bugs generally find a way to deal with it.

      Though that is a point. You could always subtract a little salt if your other ingredients were causing slow yeast growth.

      – Joe

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