English hot cross buns are scented with allspice and baked with dried currants and candied citrus peel. The buns are traditionally enjoyed for breakfast on Good Friday, but that doesn’t keep me from baking these all year round. It’s ready in about three hours so it’s quick as far as yeast rolls go.
The dough is also an excellent base recipe for pillowy, moist, and lightly sweetened rolls. Even with the cookie-like cross on top, most of the sweetness comes from the additional dried fruits and candied citrus peel. Variations with spicing, fruits, and even nuts makes this recipe an easy way to use up odds and ends from baking other stuff.
The crossing paste is piped right before baking. The cross ends up crisp, much like lemon vanilla cookies, and goes well with the softness of the buns. Most versions I’ve tried are topped with a thick cross of icing after baking and tend to be way too sweet to my liking.
I should mention that the cross adds an agreeable vanilla-citrus crunch and is definitely not just for decoration. I’m thinking of using different extracts and flavorings for the paste, perhaps as an addition to brioche. It’s kind of fun to doodle on dough and bake.
Traditional English Hot Cross Buns
makes 12 buns
Simple Syrup Glaze
Hot Cross Bun Dough
- A pastry bag
- A #11 or #12 round pastry tip (about 1/4-inch opening)
For the Sponge:
|whole milk, warm||3/4 cup + 2 tbsp||6.7||190|
|granulated sugar||2 tsp||0.3||9|
|instant yeast||2 1/4 tsp||0.25||7|
|bread flour||1/4 cup||1.3||37|
- Whisk together the warm milk and sugar to dissolve. Add the instant yeast and flour and continue whisking until smooth.
- Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the sponge is 3 to 4 times its original height. The sponge will be frothy and slightly jiggly.
For the Simple Syrup Glaze:
|granulated sugar||1/2 cup + 1 tbsp||4||113|
Simple Syrup Glaze Directions:
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- The simple syrup can be used as a glaze while still hot or made ahead and refrigerated.
For the Hot Cross Bun Dough:
|bread flour||2 2/3 cups||12||340|
|unsalted butter, softened||4 tbsp||2||57|
|granulated sugar||1/4 cup + 1 tsp||2||57|
|allspice, ground||1 tbsp||0.1||3|
|all of the sponge|
|dried currants or raisins||3/4 cup||4||113|
|candied citron, minced||1/4 cup packed||1.3||37|
For the Crossing Paste:
|unsalted butter||8 tbsp||4||113|
|sugar||1/2 cup + 1 tbsp||4||113|
|whole milk||1/4 cup + 2 tbsp||3||85|
|vanilla extract||1 tbsp||0.5||14|
|lemon zest||from 1 lemon|
|large egg, beaten||1/2 egg|
|all-purpose flour, sifted||1 3/4 cups||8||227|
- Make the crossing paste just as the shaped rolls are almost done proofing. The paste may stiffen if made too far ahead.
Hot Cross Bun Directions:
Mix. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and softened butter. Add the egg, sugar, salt, and allspice and continue mixing until evenly incorporated. Add the sponge and continue mixing until a shaggy ball of dough is formed.
Knead for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is only slightly sticky. Add dried currants or raisins. Fold the dough over itself gently until the dried fruits are evenly distributed in the dough.
Bulk Ferment #1. 30 minutes at room temperature
Lightly knead the dough inside the bowl.
Bulk Ferment #2. 30 minutes at room temperature
Prepare a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Divide. 12 pieces
Shape. tight round rolls
Final Proof. 60 minutes at room temperature, or until about 1 1/2 times its original size
Preheat Oven. 440ºF / 225ºC
Make the Crossing Paste. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly (the sugar won’t be completely dissolved at this point).
Remove from the heat. Add the milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and egg. Continue whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the sifted flour and mix only until a smooth paste is formed.
Pipe the Crossing Paste. Use a round pastry tip with a 1/4-inch opening. Pipe the paste after the dough is done proofing and right before baking.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes at 440ºF / 225ºC, until the buns are well browned and the crossing paste is lightly colored.
Glaze. Brush with the simple syrup glaze immediately after removing from the oven.
Serving / Reheating. This just in: hot cross buns are best when fresh and served hot. Reheat day-old buns at 350ºF / 175ºC for about 6 minutes before serving.
This is a first. Half the buns are usually gone in the time it takes to shoot a camera.