Hot Cross Buns

Oh to have a stand mixer to make hot cross buns! With a dough hook.What galls me with cookery books sometimes is that their instructions just aren’t sufficient: knead until dry and no longer sticky – that’s all it states in the cookery book this recipe is based on. It’s just not enough information. And I’m not exactly a novice either as I did study to be a chef. Okay, not a pastry chef. There’s a difference. But I did learn about bread making. So I know the principles behind the necessity of kneading. I just couldn’t remember what to look out for, or when it’s time to stop. In this case it seems to be even more difficult as the dough is spiced and full of dried fruit, an enriched dough. So the dough itself, regardless of kneading it until I was nearly blue in the face, doesn’t end up dry and elastic anyway. Certainly not like normal bread dough should. Here’s a link that helped enormously: How to knead bread dough. The video itself is only 1.58 mins duration and invaluable. Suffice to say the ingredients list and instructions below are based on my third attempt at making these. And I’m so glad I persevered as they turned out beautifully.

Following text is from the original post (first attempt): These tasted far nicer than they look! And are even more flavourful at room temperature. In that case, why are they called hot cross buns? Were they served hot in the past? I’ve no idea of the actual history of these. And they’re not something I had growing up. As they’re possibly more of an English type bun. Certainly they’re for sale in practically every shop in Southern England at this time of year. Yet, it’s something I would never normally contemplate buying. Partly as they’re usually made with currants, that just aren’t my favourite. So, like my Easter biscuits, I’ve gone with raisins instead. That aside, there’s a slight problem with these. And it’s not purely as this is the first time for me to bake with yeast. The book I’ve taken the recipe from informs, at the end of their brief instructions, that it’s possible to prepare the dough and leave it overnight in the fridge to prove. Great! That’s exactly what I did, after going online to check the equivalent amount of fast action yeast to use. As it’s the only yeast available locally. What I didn’t realise is that this sort of yeast isn’t really suitable for overnight proving – certainly not for these. Oh yes it is! Third attempt worked beautifully, thanks.

Oops! It didn’t occur to me to check that aspect of. Because of that, even though my dough rose beautifully there was no further rise. As in just before and during baking. And these turned out too dense for my liking. So! When I was out food shopping earlier I happened to squeeze a pair of buns (now, now! Less tittering, please.) in the local supermarket, just to compare. Shop-bought are almost as dense but have a softer crust. Hah, a very definite learning curve going on. At least, and at last, I’ve gotten over this fear of using yeast. Especially as my flat is so very cold and damp – even during summer. As the fast action yeast worked wonderfully well that in itself is massively encouraging to start baking breads with yeast from now on. And this isn’t going to be the last of these particular buns, either. As I’m hoping to make another batch next week. When I’ll prove the dough for a couple of hours at room temperature instead (which I did, but far better to prove overnight). That way I’ll be able to compare notes and update this post with any changes. In the meantime, think of this as an ongoing project.

And it’s Fiesta Friday #11. If you click on the icon directly below it’ll take you over to the fabulous Angie’s cyber party, which I missed last time. Let’s hope the guests don’t show their disapproval and use these buns as missiles!

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: makes 12 - 14
  • Print

PREP: at least 1 hour ~ COOK: 17 – 18 mins oven time ~ READY IN: 24 hours – dough has to prove overnight

ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED: baking trays + mixing bowls + silicon spatula + cling film

INGREDIENTS: with details of the original recipe in square [ ] brackets

Bread recipe from: Good Housekepping’s Country Cooking by Elizabeth Ray

  • 100g (3.527 oz) x strong (bread) flour, sifted
  • 7g (2.646 oz) x fact action dried yeast [25g (0.882 oz) fresh yeast OR 15ml or 1 level tablespoon dried yeast + 1 level teaspoon caster sugar]
  • 1 x teaspoon golden granulated unrefined natural cane sugar
  • 200ml (6.763 fl oz) x full fat organic milk, heated but only tepid
  • 350g (12.35 oz) x strong (bread) flour, sifted + extra for dusting a work surface
  • 1 x teaspoon table salt
  • 1 x teaspoon ground mixed spice [1/2 x teaspoon]
  • 1/2 x teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 x teaspoon ground ginger (next time I would use 1/2) [not in recipe]
  • 1/4 x teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, grated using the puckered side of a box grater [1/2 x teaspoon]
  • 1/2 – 1 x teaspoon ground cardamom [not in recipe]
  • 50g (1.764 oz) x golden granulated natural unrefined cane sugar [same amount caster sugar (superfine)]
  • 50g (1.764 oz) x unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 x organic egg, beaten
  • 100g (3.527 oz) x raisins [currants]
  • 40g (1.411 oz) x mixed peel, chopped [25g (0.882 oz) x mixed peel]
  • sunflower oil, to oil the bowl used for proving dough

For the glaze:

  • 60ml (2.029 fl oz) or 4 tablespoons x semi-skimmed long-life milk
  • 3 x tablespoons golden granulated natural unrefined cane sugar [same amount caster sugar]

For the pastry crosses (my recipe):

  • 75g (2.646 oz) x plain (AP) flour
  • 35g (1.235 oz) x unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/8 x teaspoon table salt
  • 1 x tablespoon icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 1/4 x teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, grated using the puckered side of a box grater
  • 1 x tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cold water

Measurements within ( ) brackets above are approximate only.

INSTRUCTIONS: If using dry active yeast only! And instructions will be updated when my second third batch of buns have been made.

  • Sift the first 100g (3.527 oz) of flour, add the yeast and sugar (it’s probably not necessary to add the sugar as that’s for mixing a dry yeast) into a large mixing bowl. Have your milk to hand as it needs to be warm, but only just. Add to the flour mixture and stir to make a batter. Leave in a warm place until frothy (mine didn’t exactly froth, but did rise significantly) for about 30 minutes.
  • Sift the second lot of flour into a separate bowl, then add the salt, spices and sugar. Add the butter and cut it into the flour with an eating knife, then blend the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until you get the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and add it to the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the dried fruit and mixed peel and mix to combine. Pour or scrape in the flour/batter and combine to give a soft dough (that will leave the sides of the bowl).
  • Scrape this out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until dry and no longer sticky (that’s the only advice given in the book). Mine took at least 20 minutes of serious kneading, and even then it wasn’t completely dry. It’s best to add a little flour to your hands rather than keep dusting the work surface as less flour will be incorporated into the actual dough. Knead firmly by using the ball of your hand, with the other hand twisting the dough in a circular motion, and moving your palm forward and stretching the dough. Bring it back into a ball shape, folding if necessary, and keep doing this. Remembering to flour your hands periodically. For a really good demonstration video (only 1.58 mins) then do click on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/techniques/kneading.
  • Gather dough into a ball shape and place in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with cling film, that has been lightly oiled as well, and prove (in my case) overnight.
  • Next day, make the pastry dough (which needs to rest for 30 minutes) for the crosses by adding those ingredients – except the water – to a large mixing bowl and, using a pastry blender, combine until the texture of breadcrumbs is achieved. Add the larger amount of water and mix by bringing this together with either a pastry blender or spatula. Do not over work. Add a little more water if necessary, bring that to a ball shape and set aside to rest. Cover bowl to prevent the pastry from drying out if necessary. When needed scrape the pastry out on to a floured surface. Knead lightly so the pastry is pliable. Roll into a log, or several if space is tight, and cut those logs into quarters, then roll out each log with a rolling pin until thinner and rectangular. Then cut slices of equal widths lengthways. Both sections or lengths of the cross need to be about 8 or 9 cm or 3 inches  in length. And about 6mm or 1/4 inch wide.
  • After proving the dough it states to knock out the air and knead again. This time I didn’t knead the dough again. Instead, after pressing into the dough whilst still in its bowl I simply emptied it out on to a lightly floured work surface and rolled it gently into a log shape, which I then cut in half. Each half was again shaped into a log and cut into 6 or more equal pieces. Roll those in the palms of your hands lightly, dusting your hands before doing so, and set on a baking sheet lined lightly greased with butter.
  • Preheat oven to 200°C or 392°F.
  • To add the crosses I did cut into the bun dough (as suggested within the site listed below) from 12 to 6 o’clock with a sharp knife. This isn’t necessary, as the buns can end up misshapen after baking. Instead, literally just make small cuts at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock close to where their base is, grab one length of pastry and place its end within 12, nip the bun dough slightly to keep the pastry in place, bring that cross section loosely over (do not stretch the pastry!) and into the cut at 6 and nip the dough again. Repeat with the other length of pastry from 3 to 9 o’clock and reshape, not only the cross itself but also the bun dough if necessary so it’s more circular and nicely domes. Repeat this process for all of the buns, placing each back on to the baking tray and straightening up the cross on each if necessary.
  • According to info within this site on How to Make Hot Cross Buns (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Hot-Cross-Buns) they do cut a cross into each one. As stated I don’t think this is necessary if adding the pastry cross. And they glaze theirs (with an egg wash) before baking. Which I wouldn’t do. If you don’t want to go with adding a pastry cross there are two other options. Firstly, cut a cross, as instructed in the video, with a very sharp knife. This is fairly traditional, apparently. Or, combine flour and water until a thick paste and pipe the pastry batter on to the tops of the buns before baking.
  • Bake the buns on the second shelf up in the preheated oven for 17 to 18 minutes, according to size. Mine took 17 minutes in total.
  • Remove from oven, glaze over their tops with a pastry brush held over a plate, or something large enough to catch any drips, as the glaze is very sticky. I transferred each bun on to a rack, placed the baking tray underneath to collect excess glaze, and then glazed them individually as otherwise the buns can and will stick to the baking tray itself. Allow to cool completely.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Flours n Dainty Buns:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnnysenough Hepburn


33 comments

  1. I am so glad you conquered your fear of yeast. I like hot cross buns, don’t have them often and only occasionally this time of year. Your buns look great, the yeasted ones. Now I use instant yeast exclusively, buy it in bulk and I almost always proof overnight in the fridge and it rises well a second time. Did yours not rise a second time?

    • So am I! At last I’m using yeast. Yes, this rose surprisingly well overnight. That is, if you mean the second rise as the same thing. But then it didn’t rise any further. So what I shaped actually baked. That’s what disappointed me as I was expecting more of a bread like bun. Well, maybe that’s not the case with these. If these are supposed to be quite dense, as in crumb, then the crust itself needs to be softer. Or is it the case that home-made is going to be very different to commercial. I’ve just found this short article on hydration, which I know nothing about: http://www.artisanbakers.com/crumb.html
      Maybe the amount of water, and that I probably kneaded this over enthusiastically, is the cause of the density. I’ll figure it out, somehow!

  2. Squeezing buns in the store, huh? Lol…confession time…I’ve done the same :) I think these hot cross buns can go in the success column Johnny! Delicious…and there’s nothing more rewarding than conquering a fear. Can’t wait to see where your “yeast isn’t so bad” attitude takes you!

    • Hah! And which do you prefer? Firm or springy? Well, these were supposed to be the latter but turned out too firm. Their flavour profile is good, and I can vouch for that as I’m eating a couple more as I write. I just need to get to grips with, or in this case not, kneading dough. As these were definitely overworked. All it states within the cookery book is to knead until dry. Hmm, my dough (after its first rise) took forever to get to that stage. At least this hasn’t discouraged. If anything I’m now chomping at the bit to try more. :)

    • They could’ve been better. If I had’ve had the time to continue with them after their second rise (of about two hours) chances are they would’ve turned out okay. It was way too late. So I left them overnight instead. Because of that there was no further rise after shaping. Not even during baking.

  3. Bahahaa! Bun squeezer! If you pass one over, I’ll gladly eat it rather than throw it. ;-) Dunno about the other party-goers, they are getting pretty rowdy!
    I’m trying a recipe for sourdough hot cross buns today, which will be my first time using the sourdough starter for real bread/baking. Here’s hoping it actually rises, or I’ll be blogging about rock cakes. Eeeep!

    • I seem to be establishing a bad reputation here. Hoping so, as any rep would be better than the nothingness that exists!
      The flavour of these is actually quite good. So I think the recipe is good to go with. I just need to try them out with a shorter rise time. I wish you well with your sourdough (and that we won’t end up discussing how good rock cakes are!). It’s one of my favourite breads. I’ve even read up on how to create a starer. But I think I’ll stick to simpler yeast breads initially. I don’t even fully understand the aspect of hydration. But I do have one of those water misters/sprayers for lightly spraying dough before it goes in to the oven. Looks like I’ve lots of research to do. :)

      • The sourdough buns turned out more like hot cross buns than rock cakes!! woot!! They were a bit denser than I wanted, but that’s prob because my starter wasn’t as active as it should have been – my bad.

        Hydration is, as I understand, the flour/water ratio in a starter or in a bread dough. So 100g flour + 100ml water is 100% hydration (and a very loose dough resulting in big bubbles in the bread, like ciabatta), but 100g flour + 50ml water is 50% hydration (and lower hydration means a denser bread). But there’s a lot more to it than this…. yeast baking seems to be an endless research assignment sometimes! :-)

        • Pleased to hear about your hot cross buns. Grief, you have to be careful what you write when mentioning other peoples buns! With the first sentence I wasn’t going to bother adding hot cross.
          Hydration I just happened upon within this site (that uses imperial – eeks!): http://www.artisanbakers.com/crumb.html
          I’ll have to find either a book in the library or info online for grammes. Still, your info makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that. I’m just pleased right now that fast action yeast will work in my flat. And now I’m thinking that my fridge, set to lowest point, isn’t cold enough for an overnight rise. As my dough rose by easily three times its size, then no further rise after. I do find all of this quite fascinating. The best part is the HC Buns tasted really good today with a coffee. So at least storing isn’t a problem.

    • You can call me anything you want! :) And I’m pretty certain I’ve been called worse.
      Thank you for the A+. Hopefully, if I get the chance to make these again during next week, they’ll turn out how I would like them.

    • They tasted better than they squeezed! Unfortunately, as this was the first time to use yeast I think I was probably over enthusiastic with kneading. All it states within the book is to knead until dry. Well, I must’ve thought I was in the gym!
      So glad you’ve found my little baking blog, and that I’ve found yours. As I adore cooking with spices. There’s so much to learn!

  4. Oh dear, I’ve missed a few Fiesta Friday’s now – I’d better come up with a recipe for something soft and spongy for next time I show up! ;o)
    I love the idea that you’ve put a number of different spices into these buns – all too often the ones I’ve tried are pleasant, but nothing exceptional… flavour is always the key!

    • To be honest, I wouldn’t call these exceptional. Having said that, I happen to like the balance of flavours and sweetness. And wouldn’t change the ingredients used. I’m just wondering about the 3d cross that I’ve ended up using. Chances are it’s normally a paste that’s piped on to represent the cross. Hmm, maybe I like the designer version, if I can call it that. As it’s quite fun picking off the pieces. The crosses do need to be a little sweeter, though.

  5. Wow. Your photos are gorgeous. I too have a bit of a fear of yeast. I”m glad that yours kind of turned out how they were supposed to anyway. Hot cross buns have a really interesting history actually. Very beautiful post, Johnny.

    • Hah, not quite. As in, how they were supposed to. I’m hoping to make them again tomorrow. As I’m sort of fascinated by this whole world of yeast and its possibilities. I’m thrilled that the fast action yeast worked so well. Just not happy with overworking this particular dough. What does, ‘knead until dry’ actually mean?! Hopefully I’ll figure that tomorrow as well.
      Thanks re photo. Couldn’t resist hiding some Easter eggs. Oddly, I never eat them. They’re just props. :)

  6. Good for you, for overcoming your fear of yeast. Really, there’s nothing to fear (so says someone who just only recently understood the difference between active dry yeast, fresh yeast, instant yeast, blah blah blah!). You’ll get used to and be better at it in no time. I know you will! :-)

    • Thanks for that. When, exactly?! My second attempt was even worse. That lot went in the bin earlier. But, having gone online, I think I’ve sussed the problem – not enough liquid. And oven isn’t hot enough. Looks like I’ll have to adapt this recipe even further. Until then this post is going back to draft.

    • And it’s just been brought out again! Sometimes it’s worth it to persevere. This third batch turned out beautifully. Okay, very rustic looking. I’m worn out! Kneaded the dough last night until I was nearly blue in the face. Still, I’m now more than happy with the recipe. Shame about the photos. And that I probably won’t be going with a post in time for F&F.

      • Bravo! Pictures look awesome! You should still come, even if you don’t make anything new. You can link an older post, a privilege reserved for featured guests. Yup, you made it on the notorious list! :-)

        • Thank you! I’m hoping to take more photos today as the light yesterday was especially dull. Yes, glad I’ve made this three times. As the crust turned out to be nicely spongy with a soft/dense crumb – if that makes sense. I still feel that this recipe needs at least 10% more fat, as in both butter and full fat milk. After making them three times I’m not sure if I can deal with the idea of eating even more!

          Just might take you up on the featured guests privilege. As I was hoping to go with profiteroles. I’m itching to try my hand with choux pastry. Who knows, maybe I’ll catch up and get those done tonight.

          In the meantime, I’m sure you’re trying hard to enjoy your Spring break. Must be difficult! :)

  7. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #12 | The Novice Gardener

  8. Lots and lots of tittering!! Beautiful recipe and photos as always! From my own research, I believe that homemade hot cross buns are always a little more yeasty tasting and dense. I’m sure that even your rock cake-like hot cross buns were super tasty :)

    • What’s to titter about?! Actually, it’s difficult to write about buns (or should that be ones buns!) without getting into difficulty.

      Don’t know about yeasty tasting. Yes, to a certain extent that’s inevitable. But I think the spices and fruit are predominant. And their first cousins, the not so rock cake lookalikes, were very edible. Maybe rock cakes are calling me!

  9. Congratulations on your Fiesta Friday feature Johnny! These are indeed special buns :) I hope you’re bringing something equally good this week!

    • Thank you. And let’s hope so. If I start baking them over the weekend they just might be ready in time! Seriously, I didn’t expect these hot cross buns to be so difficult. And to take so long. Worth it? Hmm, I’d still like to tweak this recipe and include a little more fat. Up to 15 or 20% more should do it. On the other hand, I don’t think I can eat many more of them – no matter how good they taste!


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