Homemade hot cross buns are an Easter tradition! This hot cross bun recipe pairs spiced yeast bread with orange zest, currants, and sweet frosting for a tasty treat.
If you’ve ever had to play the recorder in music class, you probably can’t look at the name of this recipe without humming the song “Hot Cross Buns” to yourself. But hot cross buns are more than just a song, they’re also a traditional recipe served on Good Friday. They get their name from a cross that marks the center of each bun.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Hot cross buns look a little bit like dinner rolls, but instead of being savory, they’re sweet, almost like cinnamon roll dough without all the cream cheese icing on top or the cinnamon sugar swirls.
Although I like to make hot cross buns with currants, you can use raisins or dried cranberries instead, or a combination of any of these. The dried fruit adds sweetness and a nice contrast in texture, similar to raisin bread.
Because hot cross buns are made with yeast, you’ll need to account for the two rises in your planning, and also allow time for piping a cross onto each bun. This is a great step for your kids to help out with!
For The Buns:
- Active dry yeast
- Whole milk – The milk should be warm.
- Granulated sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground allspice
- Kosher salt
- Ground nutmeg
- Large eggs – Let the eggs come to room temperature.
- Unsalted butter – The butter should be softened so it’s easy to incorporate into the dough.
- Currants – Or use raisins or dried cranberries.
- Orange zest
For The Frosting:
- Whole milk
- Powdered sugar
For The Glaze:
- Egg – Here’s the best way to crack an egg.
- Whole milk
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
1. Proof the Yeast
In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of warm milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it’s foamy.
2. Combine Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients.
3. Form the Dough
Add the eggs, softened butter, and remaining milk to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until a wet, sticky dough forms. Fold in the currants and orange zest.
Knead the dough for 7 to 8 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as needed, until it’s slightly tacky but doesn’t stick to your hands.
Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature, away from drafts, for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size.
6. Form the Hot Cross Buns
Gently punch down the dough to release the air and divide it in half, keeping one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other half. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut each half into 8 small portions and roll them into balls. Place each ball on a greased baking sheet about an inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.
7. Rise Again
Cover the buns with plastic and let them rise again at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Whisk together the milk and egg, then brush this mixture over each bun. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let the buns cool completely. Whisk the milk and powdered sugar together, then use a piping bag (or zip top bag with a corner cut) to pipe a cross of frosting onto each bun.
How to Store Hot Cross Buns
You can store hot cross buns covered at room temperature for a day or two. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months and thawed on the countertop at room temperature before serving.
What is the cross on hot cross buns made of?
The cross on hot cross buns can either be made with a flour paste that’s applied before baking or frosting that’s piped on after the buns have baked. I prefer frosting because it adds a touch of extra sweetness!
Why are hot cross buns eaten on Good Friday?
The cross on the buns is a sign of the crucifixion, which is why hot cross buns are traditionally served on Good Friday.
How are you supposed to eat hot cross buns?
You can eat them as is, or cut them in half and spread butter or jam on the inside. They’re also great with honey butter!
More Yeast Bread Recipes to Try
Hot Cross Buns
For the Buns:
- 1 (¼ oz package) active dry yeast
- ¾ cup whole milk warm
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup currants
- sest of 1 medium orange
For the Frosting:
- 2 tsp whole milk
- ½ cup powdered sugar
For the Glaze:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp whole milk
- In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of warm milk, 1 tsp of sugar, and the packet of yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
- In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups of flour with the remainder of the dry ingredients.
- To dry ingredients, add eggs, softened butter, and remaining milk. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a wet, sticky dough. Add currants and zest.
- Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour if needed, until the dough is still slightly tacky but doesn’t stick to your hands. Knead dough for about 7-8 minutes.
- Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature to rise and double in size, about 2-hours.
- Gently compress the dough and divide in half, keeping one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other. Divide each half into 8 small portions and roll into balls. Place each ball on a greased baking sheet about an inch from each other. Cover with plastic and let rise again at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- While the oven preheats, prepare the glaze by whisking together the milk and egg. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over each bun.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely before frosting.
- To make the frosting, whisk together the milk and powdered sugar until smooth.
- Using a piping bag (or zip top bag with a corner cut,) pipe a cross of frosting onto each bun.