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hot cross buns being glazed

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are an Easter recipe must-have. With a how-to video and directions for regular oven and combi steam oven baking, my version of the classic Easter buns will ensure you never want to eat a store bought bun again!

Hot Cross Buns was first published in 2015; this post was updated and republished in March 2022 to simplify the method and add conventional oven baking directions as well as steam oven baking directions.

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What is a hot cross bun?

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Easter food. A yeasted dough is spiced with cinnamon, ginger and other warming spices, and a cross is piped or marked onto the tops of the buns, signifying a crucifix. They are usually served and eaten on Good Friday, although nowadays you’ll find them in stores from Christmas right through to well after Easter.

What do hot cross buns taste like?

hands holding a hot cross bun

A classic hot cross bun should taste subtly of spices and dried fruit. The dough is made with yeast for a fluffy, risen texture and is enriched with eggs and butter. Hot cross buns are a little sweet but not overly so, and they’re glazed with a sugar syrup for shine and a little extra sweetness on the tops.

The usual dried fruit in hot cross buns is raisins, sultanas or currants and mixed candied citrus peel. We aren’t big fans of the peel here, so my preferred inclusion is dried apricots with the sultanas/raisins.

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How to make hot cross buns (regular and steam oven methods)

You can make hot cross buns using a regular oven or a convection steam (combi steam) oven. Both turn out excellent buns, but the steam oven version is faster because you can proof in the oven. I think the steam oven buns are a little fluffier and have a lovely sheen on the crust, too.

Making the dough and shaping is the same whichever proofing and baking method you use, so let’s go through that:

milk, yeast and sugar

If you’re using active dry yeast, as I have today, you’ll have to activate it before mixing your dough (if you want to use instant yeast it’s a straight swap and you won’t need to activate it, but the first rise may take an extra 10-15 minutes). Put a teaspoon of sugar and the yeast into warmed milk and set it aside for 5-10 minutes until it’s slightly foamy.

Mix the dough

ingredients for hot cross buns in mixing bowl

Onto the dough. Put the flour, remaining sugar, spices, salt, egg, water, butter and the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer (yes, you can make the dough by hand but it’s arm-breaking work so the mixer is my preferred method!). Mix on low speed to combine and then on medium speed until the dough gets elastic, smooth and slightly glossy.

dried fruit and yeasted bun dough

Add the fruit and mix again to combine. I’ve listed apricots and raisins or sultanas in the recipe card below, but feel free to use other dried fruits. As long as you keep the weight the same it’s up to you.

hot cross bun dough

Proofing

Time to proof! Form the dough into a ball and either put into your steam oven on the dough proofing setting for 30-40 minutes, or cover and stand in a warm place in your house for 45 minutes to an hour. The dough should double in size in this stage.

proofed fruit bun dough

After the first proof, gently knock down the dough and divide into even sized portions. I make 12 generous buns from this quantity but you can make smaller rolls if you prefer.

forming dough into round buns

Pinch the dough portions together in the center to make a smooth ball, then flip over so the pinched bits are at the bottom. Gently roll the balls under a cupped hand to even them up. Take a look at the video for this recipe to see how I do it.

Put the dough balls into a baking pan and let them proof again. In the steam oven this takes about 15-20 minutes, on the counter it’ll take roughly double that.

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Crosses for hot cross buns

You’ll need a cross mixture for your buns; this gets piped on just before they go into the oven, once they’ve finished their second proof.

To make the crosses, mix together flour and water. The exact quantities are less important than the texture; you want something akin to runny yoghurt. You’ll find it easier to pipe the cross mixture if you leave it to sit for 10 minutes after mixing so the gluten can relax.

cross mixture for hot cross buns

Put the mixture into a piping bag, or a small sandwich bag, and snip off the corner or end. Be careful how you’re holding it at this point, the mixture is runny! Pipe lines across the buns to form a cross on each one.

piping crosses

Baking hot cross buns

Bake your hot cross buns according to the method for a steam oven or a regular oven (both options below). Make the glaze while they bake, and brush over the tops as soon as they’re done.

brushing glaze over buns

You might have a hard time waiting to tear into your glorious baking, but these are better if you wait. I know it goes against the name, but if you cut into hot cross buns while they’re actually hot the centers will seem doughy. They need time to set and cool a little before they’re ready to eat.

Hot cross buns are best eaten on the day they’re made, but they toast well the following day, too. If you aren’t going to eat the whole batch withing 24 hours of baking, freeze extras for another time.

fresh hot cross buns

I can’t wait to hear if you make this recipe! It’s one of my all time favorites and a satisfying way to try yeast baking if you haven’t before.

Have you made and enjoyed this recipe? I’d love if you’d be kind enough to rate and review it via the stars in the recipe card, or leave a comment below! Ratings and reviews help other readers to find and know whether one of my recipes will suit them.

Print Recipe
4.73 from 11 votes

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are fruity with just the right amount of warming spices. These will become a staple Easter treat.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time20 mins
proving time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Afternoon Tea, Breads, Breakfast
Cuisine: English
Keyword: easter buns, hot cross buns, steam oven hot cross buns
Servings: 12
Calories: 322kcal

Ingredients

For the buns

  • 2 tsp yeast active dry or instant, see notes
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar caster sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk lukewarm
  • 4 cups bread flour you can use all-purpose flour in a pinch but bakers flour has a higher protein content and will give better structure to your finished buns
  • 2 tsp mixed spice see notes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 3 oz unsalted butter very soft
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water lukewarm, you may need up to half a cup
  • 1 cup sultanas or raisins
  • 2/3 cup dried apricots diced

For the crosses

For the glaze

  • 2 tbs superfine sugar caster sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tsp liquid glucose optional; if you haven’t got any, don’t buy a whole jar for this. The buns will still look and taste fine, the glaze just won’t be as shiny/sticky without it

Instructions

Mix the dough

  • If you're using active dry yeast (see notes), mix the yeast, milk and a teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until it begins to look foamy. If you're using instant yeast you can skip this step and put these ingredients straight into your mixing bowl.
    2 tsp yeast, 1 cup whole milk, 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • Put the flour, remaining sugar, spices, salt, butter, egg, yeast mixture and water into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until a dough forms; add a little more water if you need it, you’re looking for a soft sticky dough (most of it should be mixing around the hook, but it won’t completely leave the sides of the bowl). Increase speed to medium and mix until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes.
    1/3 cup superfine sugar, 4 cups bread flour, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp fine salt, 3 oz unsalted butter, 1 egg, 1/3 cup water
  • Add the dried fruit to the dough and mix again on low speed until it's mostly combined. Don't worry if it doesn't look very evenly mixed, you'll fix this in the next step.
    1 cup sultanas, 2/3 cup dried apricots
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and give it a couple of gentle kneads with your hands. Fold it over on itself a couple of times to make sure the fruit is evenly mixed through, then shape the dough into a ball and put into a clean bowl.

Conventional oven method

  • Cover the bowl of dough and let it sit in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Turn the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it down to knock out any large air bubbles. Shape it into a rectangle so it's easier to portion, and cut the dough into 12 even pieces (if you'd like smaller buns feel free to cut into more pieces). Form each portion into a ball. There are lots of ways to do this; I gently turn and pull the edges into the center until a nice round shape forms. Flip it over and give it a roll around with a cupped hand, and you’re left with a lovely smooth ball. Put the balls, evenly spaced, into a 9×12 inch (23x30cm) pan.
  • Cover the pan and let the buns proof a second time until they're doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C while this is happening.
  • While the buns proof, mix the flour and water for the crosses and put into a small piping bag (a sealed sandwich bag with the corner snipped makes a good substitute).
    ¼ cup all-purpose flour, 2 tbs water
  • When you're ready to bake, pipe crosses onto the tops. Bake until risen and golden, about 30 minutes.

Combi steam or convection steam oven method

  • Put the bowl of dough into your steam oven (uncovered). Set to 100°F/38°C, steam setting, or use the dough proofing setting if your oven has one. Proof for 30 minutes; the dough should double in size.
  • Turn the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it down to knock out any large air bubbles. Shape it into a rectangle so it's easier to portion, and cut the dough into 12 even pieces (if you'd like smaller buns feel free to cut into more pieces). Form each portion into a ball. There are lots of ways to do this; I gently turn and pull the edges into the center until a nice round shape forms. Flip it over and give it a roll around with a cupped hand, and you’re left with a lovely smooth ball. Put the balls, evenly spaced, into a 9×12 inch (23x30cm) pan.
  • Proof the buns in your steam oven again for about 20 minutes, until they double in size.
  • While the buns proof, mix the flour and water for the crosses and put into a small piping bag (a sealed sandwich bag with the corner snipped makes a good substitute).
    ¼ cup all-purpose flour, 2 tbs water
  • When your buns are done proofing, remove them from the oven so you can pipe the crosses while the oven preheats. Preheat oven to 400˚F/200˚C, combi steam setting. If your oven has variable steam settings, use 60% steam. If not, don't worry! Just set to combi steam at the correct temperature and the oven will figure out the humidity for you.
  • Pipe crosses onto the buns, then bake until risen and golden, about 20 minutes.

Glazing (for both methods)

  • While the buns cook, put glaze ingredients into a small pan and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and glucose. Brush the glaze over the hot buns when they come out of the oven.
    2 tbs superfine sugar, 2 tbs water, 1 tsp liquid glucose
  • Serve hot cross buns warm or at room temperature with good butter. Any leftovers can be split and toasted, and they freeze very well.

Video

Notes

  1. You can use either active dry yeast or instant yeast in this recipe. Instant doesn’t need to be activated first, so you can skip the first step of the recipe and add it straight into the mixing bowl with the other dough ingredients. 
  2. Want to bake your buns fresh at breakfast time? Make them up to the stage where you form into balls and put into the pan, and skip the second proof. Instead, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 12-18 hours. Take them out a half hour before you want to bake.
  3. You can substitute the specified fruit with an equal quantity of whatever you like. Sour cherries are nice, especially with some dark chocolate chips thrown in. Currants or raisins work in place of sultanas, and I’ve made a lovely date and apple version too (I finely diced a peeled apple, then steamed it for about 5 minutes to soften before mixing through the dough with a handful of diced dates).
  4. Because these are not full of preservatives and other delightful supermarket-bread goodies, they’ll go stale a lot faster. They’re great on the day of baking but if you’re not going to eat them all, freeze the leftovers and defrost when you’re ready to eat them.

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 116mg | Potassium: 280mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 492IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

 

10 thoughts on “Hot Cross Buns”

  1. Emily Rhodes

    It could be a few things, but my first guess would be the cup measures instead of weights. Flour especially can be so variable when measured in cups rather than by weight, so it’s possible the ratio of flour to liquid was ‘off’. The other big one to check is whether your yeast is active. Did your dough rise well in the proofing stages? If not, check your yeast by popping a teaspoon of it into a half cup of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of sugar. If it foams and bubbles after about 10 minutes then it’s fine, but if not chuck it and buy a new batch.

  2. Glenys Morris

    Hi Emily I made the buns but sadly they came out dense and very heavy, tasty enough I guess but definitely not light not fluffy. Where did I go wrong ? Any thoughts? I did feel the mixture looked very wet and wonder if the extra water wasn’t required? I also missed the toggle to metric so measure the ingredients with my metric cups? Perhaps that had an impact. Love your web site! Your Turkey was the start of the Christmas dinner show in our household

  3. Mine are proving as we speak. Fingers crossed.
    In the recipe it mentioned a note for the mixed spice- it’s not there. ( I googled a recipe for it). And using an iPhone I couldn’t get the video to work so hoping I can make the balls ok 🤪🤪
    Thanks for the recipe, next one is the choc truffle cake.

  4. 5 stars
    Magnificent recipe Emily. Just made them for TheVine 4 Th year since installation of Siemens steam oven. Just love all your recipes. Many thanks.

  5. Emily Rhodes

    A cup is 250ml (or 240ml if you’re using US cups), but that definitely doesn’t equal 250 grams, so yes, I imagine they may have been a little bland! Nothing some toasting and lashings of butter won’t fix, though. 😉

  6. Hi Emily

    Not noticing the US/metric switch I made this recipe today and soon realised something was wrong! I managed to resurrect the dough with extra liquid but, not adding extra spices, the final result was rather bland. To me 4 cups equals (4 x 250gms) 1kg and not 600gms! Now I have the metric measurements I will try the recipe once more.

    Mike

  7. Emily Rhodes

    Hi Johanna, there’s actually a little button at the bottom of the ingredients list in the recipe, if you click on the bit that says ‘metric’ all the measurements should toggle over to grams, ml etc. It’s a new-to-the-site feature but hard to find if you don’t know to look for it! 🙂

  8. I’m new to this delightful guide. I have only had my steam oven in use since this week. I live in The Netherlands and for me grams and kilo’s as given weights are much easier. Otherwise I have to convert for my metric weighing scales. Than, you so far for this very helpful guide.

  9. Johanna McKenzie

    Hi Emily

    I’ve noticed that the measurements on this recipe are now in cups and oz’s instead of grams. Is this something to do with my browser, or have you changed the way you are writing your recipes? I probably speak for most Australians, in saying that we prefer our measurements in grams.
    Johanna

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