Hot cross buns. Photo © Aimee Herring | Amy’s Bread.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
For Good Friday & Brunch Anytime
Hot Cross Buns Overview
Hot cross buns are sweet yeasts buns made with raisins or currants and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Made tender with milk and eggs, the tops are decorated with a cross made of icing (or more simply, by knife cuts in the dough). The cross symbolizes the crucifixion, and the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
The currant bun is believed to predate Christianity, eaten by Saxons in to honor the goddess Eostre (the cross is believed to have symbolized the four quarters of the moon; Eostre is probably the origin of “Easter”). The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” appears in 1733.
While this Easter bread is traditionally “saved” for Good Friday, says Amy Scherber, founder of Amy’s Bakery, “Once you’ve made them, you’ll want them all year round. Be careful not to overbake them, or their delicate flavor will be lost.”
So make a batch for brunch this weekend.
For more Amy’s Bread recipes, take a look at AMY’S BREAD Revised and Updated: Artisan-style breads, sandwiches, pizzas, and more.
See all the different types of bread in our Bread Glossary.
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Equipment: two 17 x 12-inch baking sheets, parchment paper.
Makes 18 small buns, best eaten the same day they are baked.
Recipe Note: Hot cross buns completely lose their delicate texture and flavor if the dough is too dry. The dough should be very sticky, soft and moist. If the dough feels too stiff and hard as you knead it, add more warm water (85ºF to 90ºF, 24°C to 32°C), none tablespoon at a time, until it is pliable.
- 1/2 cup very warm water (105º to 115ºF)
- 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus flour for work surface
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for work surface
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup warm milk (90ºF)
- 2/3 cup (3 ounces) dried currants
For The Frosting
- 1 large egg white, for egg wash
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make The Dough
- Place the very warm water and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Allow to stand for 3 minutes.
- Whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using a wooden spoon or your hand, stir the beaten eggs, oil, sugar, and warm milk into the yeast mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring until a shaggy mass forms and all of the flour is moistened.
- Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until it is silky-smooth and elastic. The dough is wet and sticky at first, but it becomes easier to work with as the gluten forms to make it springy and give it strength. Keep your hands and the table very lightly floured, using a dough scraper to lift the dough as needed. Shape the dough into a loose ball, cover it with oiled plastic wrap, and let it rest for 20 minutes to relax the gluten strands.
- Flatten the dough and stretch it gently with your fingers to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Spread the dried currants evenly over the rectangle. Fold the dough into an envelope shape (it’s actually the shape of the folded letter you put into the envelope) and knead gently for 2 to 3 minutes, until the currants are well distributed. The dough should be soft, smooth, and springy. If it resists, let it rest for 5 minutes and then continue kneading it. Some of the currants may pop out of the dough, but they can easily be incorporated again after the first rise, when the dough has softened.
- Shape the dough into a loose ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, along with any loose currants. Turn to coat the dough with oil, and cover the bowl tightly with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature (75º to 77ºF) for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume. A finger pressed into the dough should leave an indentation that won’t spring back.
Make The Buns
- Line two 17 x 12-inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Gently pour the dough onto the floured work surface, pressing any loose currants into the dough.
- Flour your hands lightly and divide the dough into 18 equal pieces weighing about 2 ounces each (57 grams). Shape them into rolls and place 9 buns on each prepared baking sheet, leaving several inches between them so they won’t grow together as they rise. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let them rise about 1 hour or until almost doubled in volume. A finger pressed lightly into the dough will leave a slight indentation.
- Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt to make an egg wash. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400ºF, and prepare the oven by placing a cast-iron skillet and a smaller pan (a mini loaf pan) on the floor of the oven or on the lowest possible rack in an electric oven. Place one oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Fill a plastic water sprayer with water. Fill a teakettle with water to be boiled later, and have a metal 1-cup measure with a straight handle available near the kettle.
- Five to 10 minutes before the buns are ready to bake, turn the water on to boil, and carefully place two or three ice cubes in the small loaf pan on the bottom of the oven. This helps to create moisture in the oven prior to baking.
- When the buns are ready, use a lame (pronounced LOM, a French blade used to score bread) or a pair of kitchen scissors to cut a shallow cross on the top of each bun.
- Lightly brush the buns with the egg wash, being careful not to deflate them (reserve the remaining egg wash). Place the pans in the oven. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the skillet and immediately shut the oven door. After 2 minutes, quickly pour another half cup of boiling water into the skillet, then shut the oven door.
- After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and rotate the pans if necessary to ensure even browning. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the buns have turned a nice golden brown and the surface feels slightly firm but not hard when you press it lightly. These rolls should have a thin soft covering, not a hard, crunchy crust. Transfer the rolls to a rack and let them cool for 10 minutes.
Make The Frosting, Frost The Buns
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the reserved egg wash and the vanilla, and whisk to mix well.
- While the rolls are still warm, use a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip, or a teaspoon, to make an X of frosting over the cross on each bun. The frosting will harden somewhat as the buns cool. These are best eaten the same day they are baked.
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Recipe © Copyright Amy Scherber. Additional material © Copyright 2005-
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