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HOT CROSS BUNS

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Make this easy hot cross buns recipe during the season of Lent. These aromatic rolls are perfectly spiced, pillowy-soft, and so delicious. Serve them on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And don’t forget the butter!

PIN HOT CROSS BUNS

Freshly-baked batch of hot cross buns on a serving table.

If you’ve been searching for the softest hot cross buns recipe, this is it! I’ve also included an exciting Japanese technique (it takes just a few additional recipe steps) to keep the rolls tender and fresh for several days.

As the buns are baking in the oven your kitchen will smell like a bakery. It’s such a comforting, satisfying feeling to make these rolls from scratch. And while the aroma is fabulous, these sweet rolls of spring taste even better!

Once the buns come out of the oven, we brush the warm rolls with a tasty citrus glaze. Serve them with pats of butter plus a spread like marmalade or jam. Or when they’re cut in half, drizzle some honey over the pats of butter.

These lightly-sweet hot cross buns are worthy of being served all spring long. Enjoy them for brunch on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Bring them to church socials and potlucks. Gift a batch to a friend who could use a smile.

Batch of freshly-made Hot Cross Buns in a white ceramic baker.

INGREDIENTS

Hot Cross Buns

  • WHOLE MILK: Milk is the main source of moisture in the buns– I like whole milk for the added richness, but in a pinch skim milk or 2% milk would also work. If desired, use buttermilk instead.
  • ACTIVE DRY YEAST: Helps the dough rise so the hot cross buns are light, tender and fluffy. If you’re using instant yeast rather than active dry, there’s no need to let it proof– just add it to the bowl of dry ingredients (the dry flour and spice mixture).
  • LARGE EGG: Enriches the dough to make the rolls even more delicious.
  • LIGHT BROWN SUGAR: Sweetens the dough and adds more depth of flavor than regular granulated sugar. I’m using light brown sugar but dark brown would work well too, giving the rolls a slight caramel taste.
  • VANILLA EXTRACT: Adds a subtle vanilla taste to the hot cross buns, while enhancing the other flavors in the recipe.
  • ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: Gives the dough structure and ensures the rolls aren’t too wet. If chewier buns are desired, use bread flour instead.
  • FRESH ORANGE ZEST: Gives the rolls a citrus flavor and smell.
  • GROUND CINNAMON: Adds warmth and spice to the hot cross buns. But as cinnamon can inhibit yeast rolls from rising, don’t increase the amount of this ingredient. But if desired, you can reduce it.
  • SEA SALT: This seasoning is important for flavor development.
  • GROUND NUTMEG: Adds a nutty, warm taste. It pairs well with the orange zest in this recipe.
  • GROUND ALLSPICE: Adds an earthy flavor to this lightly sweet-and-savory recipe.
  • GROUND CLOVES: Adds a rustic sweet spicy flavor to the buns.
  • BUTTER: Enriches the dough and adds a delicious, savory, buttery flavor that’s important for this recipe.
  • BLACK RAISINS: Are a traditional ingredient in hot cross buns. They add a sweet flavor to this recipe.
Ingredients for hot cross buns recipe.

Piped-on Cross

  • ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: Provides structure for the piped-on cross.
  • GRANULATED SUGAR: Adds a touch of sweetness to the mixture.
  • VANILLA EXTRACT: Adds vanilla flavor and bakery aroma to the mix.
  • COLD WATER: When mixed with flour it creates a thick pipeable paste.

Citrus Glaze

  • POWDERED SUGAR: Is the primary ingredient for the glaze. It dissolves quickly in liquid, producing icing with a smooth consistency.
  • ORANGE JUICE: Moistens the powdered sugar and thins it out to the correct icing consistency.
One dozen hot cross buns in a 9x13 baking dish.

Technique FOR SOFT HOT CROSS BUNS

Increase the pillowy softness and shelf life of hot cross buns with a simple Japanese method: the tangzhong technique.

These added recipe steps are completely OPTIONAL, but they’ll keep the buns tender and fresh for several days.

  • STEP 1: Measure out the flour and milk that will be used for this recipe.
  • STEP 2: Put a saucepan on stovetop over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the measured milk plus 3 tablespoons of the measured flour to the pan. Whisk the mixture constantly as it cooks (about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes) until it thickens to the consistency of pudding.
  • STEP 3: Transfer the thick slurry to a bowl and let it cool. Once it’s lukewarm, gradually add it to the mixture of wet and dry ingredients (see “Step 3” of the hot cross buns recipe) as they’re being combined in the stand mixer to form the dough.
  • STEP 4: Continue the hot cross bun recipe, as directed.
Hand lifting a hot cross bun from a ceramic baker.

RECIPE STEPS

RECIPE PREP: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or non-stick cooking spray. Set it aside. Butter down a 9×13 pan or baking dish. Set it aside.

  • STEP 1: In the microwave or on stovetop, warm the milk to 100°F – 110°F. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. Add the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast over the milk. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.
  • STEP 2: Add egg, brown sugar, and vanilla to the bowl. Mix to combine.
  • STEP 3: In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, orange zest, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients (a little at a time) while mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • STEP 4: Continue mixing until the dough moves away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball around the dough hook.
How to make the yeast dough for hot cross buns in 4 easy steps.
  • STEP 5: Add in the soft butter, a few cubes at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the raisins and continue mixing until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough. Turn the mixer to medium speed. Knead the dough (about 2 to 3 minutes) until it’s smooth and just barely sticky.
  • STEP 6: Transfer the dough to the large greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap or a lint-free cloth. Set the bowl in a warm, breeze-free place so the dough can rise until doubled in size – about 90 minutes.
  • STEP 7: When the dough has risen, gently punch it down and transfer it to a clean, floured surface. Evenly divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, pinching it at the bottom to seal it. Arrange the balls in a buttered 9×13 pan. Set baking dish in a warm spot so dough can rise a second time and fill the pan completely – about 30 minutes.
  • STEP 8: While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F. Assemble the mixture for piping-on crosses: combine the flour, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and water. It should be a thick pipeable paste. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (or a zip-top bag with a corner cut off).
Four images: hot cross bun dough rising, dough shaped into rolls, mixture for the cross.

STEP 9: Pipe the thick flour mixture over the top of the rolls in series of 3 long horizontal lines and 4 short vertical lines. The end result: a cross on the top of each bun. Bake the hot cross buns for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top of the rolls are golden brown. Remove buns from the oven. Let them cool for 5 minutes before brushing on the citrus glaze (see Step 10).

Piped-on flour mixture in the shape of crosses on hot cross buns before baking.

STEP 10: While the buns are baking, assemble the citrus glaze. In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and orange juice together until smooth. Gently brush the glaze over the top of the warm hot cross buns. Serve the rolls (warm or at room temperature) with pats of butter.

Hand lifting a freshly-baked Easter roll from a baking dish.

CITRUS GLAZE VS. GOLDEN SYRUP FOR BRUSHING

In the USA, it’s common to brush a delicious glaze over warm hot cross buns. For this recipe we’re whisking together a citrus glaze that is super delicious. But the tradition in Great Britain is to brush the rolls with golden syrup.

While golden syrup is a staple product in the UK, found at supermarkets near the honey and maple syrup, it’s not widely available across the USA.

So if you’d like to brush the hot cross buns with golden syrup instead of the citrus glaze included in this recipe, you can make this product at home with just 3 simple ingredients. (I like to make sure everyone is happy!)

Side view of a hot cross bun set on the edge of a white ceramic baker.

How to Make Golden Syrup

  • STEP 1: In an uncovered saucepan over medium heat, combine granulated sugar (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) and 1/4 cup water. Stir just until sugar is dissolved.
  • STEP 2: When it comes to a boil, immediately turn down the heat to low. Add 1 tablespoon (strained) lemon juice and stir. The lemon will help prevent the syrup from crystalizing. Simmer 1 hour. DO NOT STIR.
  • STEP 3: While simmering, the color of the mixture will gradually turn from clear to amber. After 60 minutes, remove pan from heat. Let the syrup shed heat.
  • STEP 4: Pour warm mixture into a heat-safe jar. Keep the lid off until completely cool. As it cools, the syrup will thicken to the consistency of honey. Seal the jar with a lid. Store golden syrup at room temperature.
A ceramic baker with one dozen hot cross buns on a serving table.

RECIPE FAQ

These are the most commonly-asked questions when making hot cross buns, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

WHY ARE MY HOT CROSS BUNS HARD?

If too much flour is used, it can result in dry hard buns. Measure flour by gently sprinkling it into the measuring cup with a spoon, then swipe off any excess with a knife.

Another culprit for hard buns: the dough was not sufficiently kneaded. If the gluten (protein in the flour) is not worked and stretched enough during kneading, the dough will not rise properly and the hot cross buns will be hard and dense.

HOW TO TELL WHEN THE DOUGH IS FULLY KNEADED?

The dough is sufficiently kneaded when it’s smooth and elastic. Press down on the dough. If it doesn’t spring back, or if it tears when pulled, the dough needs more kneading. When the dough is fully kneaded, it will spring back when lightly pressed and it won’t tear when stretched.

HOW TO ADD FLAVOR TO THE RAISINS?

Thirty minutes before starting the recipe, soak raisins in 1/4 cup rum. Afterwards, use a colander to drain excess liquid. Gently pat raisins dry between lint-free tea towels. The softened fruit will be full of flavor.

HOW TO KEEP HOT CROSS BUNS FRESH?

Arrange the rolls inside an airtight container. Store the hot cross buns in a cool dry place. They’ll stay fresh at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

HOW TO FREEZE BAKED ROLLS?

Do not glaze the warm hot cross buns when they come out of the oven. Instead, let them cool completely. Wrap them in parchment paper, then in a layer of aluminum foil, and place them in an airtight container. Freeze up to 2 weeks. Thaw at room temperature. Apply citrus glaze.

OVERNIGHT INSTRUCTIONS FOR HOT CROSS BUNS?

After the rolls are shaped, arrange them in a buttered pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to 15 hours. The next day, at least 2 hours before baking, remove hot cross buns from the fridge. With the dish still covered, let them rise on the countertop for 1 to 2 hours. Apply the piped-on cross and bake according to recipe instructions.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO REHEAT HOT CROSS BUNS?

To reheat a batch of hot cross buns, the best rewarming method is a hot cozy oven. Preheat oven to 300°F. If the buns are dry or hard, spritz them with water. This will create hot steam in the oven and restore tenderness. Transfer the rolls to a baking dish or a baking tray. Tent it with foil. Heat 5 to 10 minutes, or until soft and warm.

RECIPE VARIATIONS?

Instead of black raisins, try golden raisins, sultanas, currents, dried cranberries, dried cherries, or dried apricots. Or in addition to raisins, add mini chocolate chips or white chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or (diced) candied orange or lemon peel instead of the fresh orange zest. But make sure the total add-ins don’t exceed 1 1/2 cups.

A silver serving utensil lifting a glazed hot cross bun from a baking dish.

MORE EASTER RECIPES

If you enjoyed this easy recipe for hot cross buns, then you’ll also love these tasty springtime recipes. They’re perfect for Easter brunch. Print out your favorites for later, or pin them to Pinterest.

RATE THIS RECIPE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Friends rave about these tender hot cross buns! They claim they’re better than those purchased at high-end bakeries during the Lenten season.

If you agree these homemade Easter rolls are something special, give them a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero! Share it with a friend.

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Freshly-baked batch of hot cross buns on a serving table.

HOT CROSS BUNS


  • Author: Denay DeGuzman
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 45 Minutes
  • Yield: 12 Rolls 1x

Description

These aromatic, tender, hot cross buns are super easy to make! Each roll features a traditional cross on top. Fresh from the oven, the warm buns are brushed with a tasty citrus glaze.


Ingredients

Units Scale

HOT CROSS BUNS

  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed to 105°F to 110°F
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting work surface)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup black raisins

PIPED-ON CROSS

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cold water, or adjust as needed

CITRUS GLAZE

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions

RECIPE PREP: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or non-stick cooking spray. Set it aside. Butter down a 9×13 pan or baking dish. Set it aside.

Warm the milk to 100°F – 110°F. Add the milk to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast over the milk. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add egg, brown sugar, and vanilla to the bowl. Mix to combine. 

  1. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, orange zest, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.
  2. Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients (a little at a time) while mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Continue mixing until the dough moves away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball around the dough hook.
  3. Add in the soft butter, a few cubes at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the raisins and continue mixing until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough. Turn the mixer to medium speed. Knead the dough (about 2 to 3 minutes) until it’s smooth and just barely sticky.
  4. Transfer the dough to the large greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a lint-free cloth. Set the bowl in a warm breeze-free place so the dough can rise until doubled in size – about 90 minutes.
  5. When the dough has risen, gently punch it down and transfer it to a clean, floured surface. Evenly divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, pinching it at the bottom to seal it. Arrange the balls in a buttered 9×13 pan. Set baking dish in a warm spot so dough can rise a second time and fill the pan completely – about 30 minutes.
  6. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 350°F. Assemble mixture for piping-on crosses: combine flour, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and water. It should be a thick pipeable paste. Transfer mixture to a piping bag (or a zip-top bag with a corner cut off).
  7. Pipe the thick flour mixture over the top of the rolls in series of 3 long horizontal lines and 4 short vertical lines. The end result: a cross on the top of each bun. Bake the hot cross buns for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top of the rolls are golden brown. Remove buns from the oven. Let them cool for 5 minutes before brushing on the citrus glaze (see the next step).
  8. While the buns are baking, assemble the citrus glaze. In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and orange juice together until smooth. Gently brush the glaze over the top of the warm hot cross buns. Serve the rolls (warm or at room temperature) with pats of butter.

Notes

HOW TO STORE HOT CROSS BUNS: Arrange the rolls inside an airtight container. Store the hot cross buns in a cool dry place. They’ll stay fresh at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.

HOW TO REHEAT THE ROLLS: Preheat oven to 300°F. If the buns are dry or hard, spritz them with water. This will create hot steam in the oven and restore tenderness. Transfer the rolls to a baking dish or a baking tray. Tent it with foil. Heat 5 to 10 minutes, or until soft and warm. 

  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Rise Time: 2 Hours
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: English

Keywords: Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

HOT CROSS BUNS > JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Did you enjoy this easy tutorial for hot cross buns? What will you brush over the warm rolls after they come out of the oven? Will it be the delicious citrus glaze or some golden syrup? Share your thoughts on this recipe below!

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