How to Make Hot Cross Buns

These come together so quickly and easily you’ll want to bake up a batch every Friday (or Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday…). They’re light, slightly sweet with a hint of spice and candied fruit. Delicious but not so much of a Lenten indulgence that you’ll have to go to confession afterward. Use whatever dried fruit is handy. Raisins are very common, currents are very English, citron is very hip, dried apricot is very, um…Louisville. Mix and match them to your heart’s content. Start by assembling your ingredients. Put the dried fruit in a medium microwave-safe bowl and zap until he water starts to boil. Let them sit, plump and cool.

Whisk your liquid ingredients in a medium bowl.

Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle.

Give the dry ingredients a stir to blend them, then add the liquids all at once.

Mix just long enough to moisten them…

…and switch to the dough hook. Knead several minutes until the dough comes together in a soft ball, about like this. If it’s too wet, just add a few tablespoons of extra flour. The dough will be rather sticky and will cling to the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer back on and add the soft butter.

Once it’s all incorporated, add the dried and/or candied fruit that you’ve thoroughly drained and pressed in a strainer.

Let the dough rise for about an hour and a half or until doubled in volume.

About like this:

Now cut them into pieces between 2 and 2.75 ounces. I did the larger and got 18 buns. 2-ounces dough pieces will give you about 25.

Shape the pieces into rolls according to the directions in the post How to Shape Buns and Rolls. Paint them with egg wash….

…and let them proof 30-45 minutes or so until the balls are again almost doubled, but still spring back when you poke them. Meanwhile, paint them with egg wash again and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake them about 20 minutes until they look like this:

Let them cool and apply the icing crosses. I went a little heavy with the icing but hey, Lent is long. I like rack for this so the icing doesn’t pool up between the buns. Serve them warm.

Did I mention you don’t need to be Catholic or even Christian to enjoy a good hot cross bun? Jump in folks, the water’s fine.

31 thoughts on “How to Make Hot Cross Buns”

  1. It’s been interesting reading through this series – I do have a huge soft spot for hot cross buns. . .

    Quick observation though, I’ve never actually seen hot cross buns with icing added afterwards – the ones I’ve had all my life are scored and some ropes of dough are placed in the scored cross (I guess they don’t egg-wash the cross part? it stays quite light) on the top, and then baked. have you seen those buns?

    1. Hi Katherine!

      Yes I definitely have seen them. They weren’t the tradition where I grew up in Chicago, but I know they’re traditional in some places. You certainly can go that route if you prefer. A simple flour and water paste with a splash of oil will do. You can pipe it on right as the buns go in the oven.

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  2. I have never heard of the flour and water paste to make the cross on a hot cross bun and I am 63. I’ve heard of (and eaten) hot cross buns my whole life, but they always had icing crosses on them.

      1. The ones available in our grocery stores (here in Ontario, Canada) have had the paste crosses for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them with icing crosses.

        I’ll have to look in some of the indy bakeries here in Toronto to see what they do with them.

        Thanks for these, Joe! (Now work on the Italian rosemary sweet buns, would you? Please?)

    1. In New Zealand they never have icing. They are usually eaten hot (they are HOT cross buns after all), and icing would not work.
      Do you split and butter them in America the way we do? We always butter them, and mostly eat them either reheated in the oven or toasted after being split.

      1. You can use the simple icing and still serve them warm. A stiffer version is better of course since it runs less. As far as how people eat them, it runs the gamut. Mr. Pastry likes them split and toasted. I just take bites out of them. There’s no wrong way to go about it, as least the way I see it.


        – Joe

  3. Lovely, thank you, Joe! These will be wonderful for 8th Sacrament on Sunday at church.

    When I have made hot cross buns over the past few years, I use a sweet spice blend I found in Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and Yeast Cookery.” This includes nutmeg, white peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. If I use black peppercorn, it’s a real sinus clearer if too much is used.

      1. See the one that’s missing? This recipe is so good my husband couldn’t wait for them to be iced.

      2. Last week, one gentleman from our congregation came up to me, and wistfully mentioned how really good these were. Several times. I realized later that he was trying to politely hint that I should bring more.

  4. Hi Joe,
    These are beautiful! A question just occurred to me. Why do you have to soak the raisins/dried fruit in liquid to use them? I see this in many recipes where the soaking is either water or some type of liquor.

    1. Hi Eva!

      You don’t strictly have to plump the raisins, though this is a way of adding a little more moisture back into them so they aren’t as chewy as they’d ordinarily be. As you pointed out, you do the same thing in rum or in some sort of booze/water mixture.

      – Joe

      1. I find that soaking the raisins results in a moister dough. The raisins will pull moisture from somewhere – if you don’t soak them, then they will pull it from your dough, resulting in a drier bun. The raisins are also less likely to scorch in baking if they are moist. It’s also an opportunity to add some flavor. I usually add a little hootch (sherry, rum, brandy, etc.) to the soaking liquid, or add lemon or orange peel during soaking, and pull it out when draining the raisins before adding them.

        1. Makes a lot more sense than my answer! I’m going with Cynthia’s.

          Thanks, CC!

          – J

          1. You’re welcome! Thanks for the great recipe! BTW, the chocolate babka was a big hit here, too.

        2. I have the same belief about dried fruit in bread, but my solution for my weekly whole-wheat challah with dried cherries is to make a very wet dough so the cherries can plump without adversely affecting the dough. Since I bake this every Friday, the extra step of plumping the cherries separately seems like too much work. 🙂

  5. So if I used dried apricot, I’d think that chopping them up (post-plumping?) would be necessary to avoid having big chunks-o’-dried-fruit, right?

      1. So I went with raisins (my apricot stash was sadly low) for half the batch, and went completely off the reservation with chocolate chunks in the other half [hereby dubbed ‘sinners delight’].

        They weren’t bad, I actually got high marks from the folks who had had HCBs before… but they really didn’t end up being something I’ll be doing again. I was certainly thinking more ‘donut’-like than ‘dinner roll with zing’.

        Live and learn, I suppose!

        1. Donut verus dinner roll! I like that, Roger, and will remember it.

          Hope you had a great Easter!

          – Joe

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