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Small buns with white cross on top on a wire rack

Easy Hot Cross Buns Recipe

These are traditional little sweet Easter buns. They are super soft, tender, with a hint of cinnamon, and studded with raisins. They can be made ahead and frozen. 

  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 15 buns 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (see Notes, below, for other types)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup dried currants or raisins (light, dark, or a mix)

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk

Instructions

  1. Line 9x13-inch baking pan with high sides, spray with oil, and dust lightly with oats or flour. Do not use a baking sheet for these buns as they need sides to contain them and rise upwards and not to the sides. 
  2. Place the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve with a fork or spoon. Allow to stand for about 3 minutes until it foams and maybe large bubbles form. If this doesn't happen your yeast is not active as it should be. You need to buy fresh and start again.
  3. Add the warm milk, oil, sugar, and 1 cup of flour to the yeast mixture and stir with a fork or spoon to combine.
  4. Add cinnamon, and nutmeg, stirring with a wire whisk until the ingredients are well combined.
  5. Add salt, and the eggs and mix well.
  6. Attach bowl to the mixer fitted with the dough hook and gradually add 2 ½ to 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while kneading on medium-low speed until it all mixed well.
  7. On medium speed, knead for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough will be wet and sticky but will start to come together. I added about ¼ cup more flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  8. Knead the dough for 1 or 2 more minutes, or until it becomes smooth, supple, and elastic but not too firm.
  9. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and, with your hands lightly floured also, stretch into a rectangle. It will be sticky but workable.
  10. Spread the dried currants evenly over the rectangle.
  11. Fold the whole mass like an envelope, and knead it gently until the currants are well distributed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Some of the currants may pop out of the dough, incorporate them again.
  12. Shape the dough into a loose ball and place it in a lightly oiled or greased bowl.
  13. Turn to coat the top of the dough with oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid or a dry kitchen towel.
  14. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. If after a half hour the dough is barely moving, cover it with a blanket or even a sweater so that it has enough temperature to rise. (See Notes, below, for overnight rising).
  15. When the dough has doubled, gently deflate it with your closed fist and turn it onto a clean work surface, pressing in any loose currants. You probably won't need to lightly flour the counter, but you can it if it's sticking too much that that makes it hard to work with.
  16. Flour your hands lightly and divide the dough into 15 pieces or so (each weighing about 2 oz / 50g).
  17. Shape the rolls, cupping the pieces with your rounded palm and making circular movements until you have a rounded bun. There's a video clip in the post above showing how this is done.
  18. Place them on the prepared pan, leaving 1/2 to 1-inch space between them.
  19. Cover them loosely with oiled plastic wrap or a dry kitchen towel and let them rise at room tº until almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  20. About 15 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF / 180ºC.
  21. If you like to brush with egg wash (for a shinier surface) see Notes, below.
  22. When the buns have doubled, bake them for 15-20 minutes or 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.
  23. Transfer the rolls to a rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.
  24. Carefully slide a smooth bladed knife along the sides to make sure they're not stuck, and carefully remove them onto a wire rack. Let cool for 10 more minutes before making the crosses on top.
  25. While the buns are cooling, make the frosting by mixing the powdered sugar with the milk in a small bowl. It should be very thick. If you feel you need more liquid, add it by drops (literally).
  26. Put on a pastry bag, fitted with a small plain tip, or don't use a tip and simply cut the plastic bag, or a teaspoon, to make an X of frosting over the cross of each bun. The frosting will harden somewhat as the buns cool.
  27. They are best eaten the same day they are baked.
  28. Store leftovers at room temperature in a plastic bag or airtight container, and warm slightly before eating. Or freeze them, wrapped in plastic first and then in foil. Thaw at room temperature before serving. And warm in a medium oven before eating. 

Notes

Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!

Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust. 

Milk and water - make sure they're warm, but just barely. Hot liquids will kill the yeast and it will not rise as it should.

Yeast - I use active dry yeast that needs to be hydrated before adding the flour. The same goes for fresh yeast (the ratio is 3 times more than the dry amount). If you use instant yeast (it looks just like active-dry) it goes directly with the flour, there's no need to hydrate it first and wait until it foams and it probably will not foam if you mix it with water first, as the other types do. 

Glazed crosses - you can use a piping bag with a very thin tip or simply cut the tip of the bag and use it directly. You need to use the thick, sturdy plastic ones if not using a metal or plastic tip. Alternatively, use a small spoon and trace the lines.

Overnight rising - Dough: after you added the raisins and the dough is placed in the oiled bowl and covered, place it in the fridge and let rise slowly until the next day. How much it rises will depend on how cold your fridge is. Buns: or you can form the buns, cover the pan with plastic wrap (be careful to leave space for the buns to rise if the pan doesn't have high sides), and pop it in the refrigerator. In this case, make sure your fridge is very cold (sometimes when it's packed it loses temperature) because this is a shorter rise and you don't want your buns to rise too much. In both cases: take out the next day and let come to room t° before continuing with the recipe. It might take several hours, especially for the dough.  

Egg wash - I don't use it, but you can if you want the surface to be shiny. In a small bowl mix an egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush the top of the buns right before they go into the oven being careful not to deflate them, and try not to let it drip to the sides.

Variation: you can use brown sugar (instead of white) and some other type of dried fruit, or candied lemon and orange rind with the raisins for a spicier variation. Or some citrus zest. 

  • Author: Paula Montenegro
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Rising times: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: International

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/15
  • Calories: 265
  • Sugar: 15.2 g
  • Sodium: 174.9 mg
  • Fat: 8.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41.5 g
  • Protein: 5.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 37.4 mg

Keywords: hot cross buns