Hot Cross Buns Recipe
These Hot Cross Buns are made with an enriched dough that’s lightly sweetened and soft as a cloud. Filled with plump dried berries and chocolate it’s sure to impress your tastebuds and family! Also, check out my recipe for Easter Bread and Brioche Dough.
These Hot Cross Buns use a well-enriched dough with eggs and buttery, then filled with all of our family’s favorites. Traditional Hot Cross buns use raisins and/or currants, but we like the combination of dried blueberries, craisins, and white chocolate. Yes, it’s not a common combination, but well-loved in our family.
If this choice of fruits and chocolate is not to your liking, feel free to replace them with raisins and currants.
If you make this dough once, you will absolutely fall in love with it! It’s a basic sweet dough that works not only with these delicious and moist Hot Cross Buns, but it’s also good for any kind of sweet pastries and buns, with or without filling.
Spices for Hot Cross Buns
A traditional Hot Cross bun has a spice mixture of cinnamon, cloves (or allspice), and nutmeg. In our family, the kids are not fans of the spices, so I usually leave all of them out just like I did in the ones pictured in this post. But if it’s something your family does enjoy, feel free to add them to the dough.
Happy Resurrection and Easter!
Ingredients for Hot Cross Buns:
- The basic ingredients for the Hot Cross buns are all typical for a sweet yeast dough – flour, eggs, sugar, butter, yeast, and milk.
- This dough is based on a mix of Easter Bread and Brioche Dough with some of the eggs being replaced by milk. Feel free to use one or the other dough interchangeably. Both will give you one 9″x12″ baking dish worth of buns.
- Spices: nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon are traditional for Hot Cross Buns, but in our family, we don’t use it. Feel free to use it or not, depending on preference.
How to make Hot Cross Buns:
- Check if your yeast is active: Dissolve yeast in the warm (100F) milk with a teaspoon of sugar. Let rise for 5-10 min. This step is important if you need to check how active your yeast is or if you’re not using instant yeast. If you’ve used the yeast recently and sure that it’s fresh or if you’re using instant yeast, you can skip this step and just add the yeast and milk separately into the dough.
- Make the Hot Cross Buns Dough: When you mix the dough, it will be very runny. Do not be tempted to add more flour. The high hydration in the dough is what makes these Hot Cross Buns so soft and fluffy. Adding more flour will make them more bready and dense. Once the dough is done mixing though, you should be able to take a piece of the dough and stretch it into a thin window. If your dough keeps ripping and tearing, you might’ve not kneaded it enough of your flour doesn’t have enough gluten content to create a strong gluten network,
- Once the hot cross bun dough is doubled in size, you will need to shape it. Since the dough is very runny and sticky it will be hard to shape the easter buns unless you oil your hands and the working surface very well.
- I baked my hot cross buns in a 9″x12″ baking dish and they come out dinner roll style, where they all touch each other. If you would like them perfectly round and not touching each other, you can bake them on a 12″x18″ baking sheet, spacing them out further apart.
How to make the Royal Icing:
- This recipe uses Royal Icing glaze for the crosses on top of the buns. If you are afraid of using the raw egg whites, you’re welcome to use 2 tbsp or 30 ml of pasteurized egg white that are typically sold in the cartons.
- OR, you can also use 2 tbsp of milk in place of egg whites for an egg-free version of the sugar glaze. For this version, just whisk the milk and powdered sugar until thick and it pours in a ribbon. Add more powdered sugar if the glaze feels thin and doesn’t form a ribbon when falling off the spoon or a whisk.
- If your icing is not thick enough it will just fall flat. Make sure to either whip it enough (if using egg white) or add enough powdered sugar (if doing egg-free version) so that it stays in a nice thick ribbon.
My dough is too runny or looks like batter
This hot cross bun dough uses high ratio of liquids and butter to flour so it will be a lot more loose than you’re probably used to.
If after mixing the dough for about 15 minutes you still don’t notice it becoming stretchier with gluten becoming stronger, add 1/4 cup flour and continue mixing. Depending on the flour you use you might have to add up to 1/2 – 2/3 cup more flour.
My dough is rising too slowly
There are several reasons why this might be happening. Here are several of them
- Old yeast – if the yeast is expired or was not properly stored it might have become inactive or less active. The older the yeast the less active it is. Using old yeast will extend the rising time exponentially. You can still get fluffy, well risen dough, but it can take even up to 10 hours to rise, depending just how old the yeast is.
Don’t rush it though, and give it as much time as it needs to get to the proper volume (double in size) and you’ll be rewarded with nice and fluffy buns.
- Yeast was killed by heat – if anywhere along the recipe process the yeast was heated to above 120F the yeast was killed. Avoid adding yeast into milk that is too hot, or proofing the dough in too hot of environment.
- Yeast was killed by sugar – if you mix the yeast directly with the sugar, the sugar might kill or render your yeast inactive. Take great care to follow the recipe instructions precisely and don’t mix the yeast directly with sugar, or salt for that matter.
Try these other Easter Recipes:
- Paska Easter Bread – soft as a pillow!
- Brioche Bread – so many uses for it
- Olivier Salad – the Russian Potato salad you need to make
- Pavlova Cake – gluten-free and so delicious!
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns recipe makes the softest, lightly sweetened buns that will be perfect for your Easter table. Use your favorite dried fruits to make this recipe a family favorite.
- 1/2 cup whole milk, warm (110F°)
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (Platinum Red Star Yeast brand is best)
- 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature (3 eggs = 2/3 cups)
- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour (measured by fluffing the up the flour, then scooping and leveling off the top (2.5 cups = 375g)
- 1/2 cup unsalted temperature butter, room temperature, but cold malleable 1/2 cup = 113 g
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp orange zest
Add in's – Rum Soaked Dried Fruits
- 1/4 cup Bacardi Rum or hot water
- 1/4 cup dried blueberries
- 1/4 cup dried orange cranberries
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp water
Powdered Sugar Glaze
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg white (you can replace regular raw egg with 2 tbsp of pasturized egg whites from the carton)
- 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
Hot Cross Spice mix
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Measure out all of your ingredients and get them ready for the Hot Cross Buns. It is best to weigh all of your ingredients for the best accuracy and results.
When zesting the orange, only grate the orange part of the outer orange, not the white. The white part is bitter while the orange part is the fragrant part that we need.
Re-hydrate the dried fruits:
Cover 1/4 cup dried blueberries, 1/4 cups cranberries or any other dried fruits you like with enough warm water to cover them or with 1/4 cup rum. If using rum, keep tossing the dried fruits to allow all of them to soak. Set aside to plump up.
How to make Hot Cross Bun Dough
Proof yeast: Dissolve 2 1/4 tsp of dry active yeast and 1/2 tbsp of sugar in a 1/2 cup of warm (100F) milk. Let stand for about 5 – 10 minutes. The mixture should visibly increase in size and foam up because the yeast is active. If it does not, discard the yeast and start over with unexpired yeast.
Whisk eggs & sugar: Combine the 3 eggs with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl and whip/whisk in a mixer on medium speed for several minutes. Next, add the proofed yeast mixture and mix to combine.
Add and knead Flour: add 2 1/2 cups flour and spices (if using) in halves, mixing with a spoon until the dough is chunky and somewhat mixed. Then, fit the mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead for about 10-15 minutes or until the dough starts to pull in strands (this indicates gluten formation) away from the bowl.
You can check for proper gluten formation by stretching a piece of dough into a thin "window". If the "window" gets very thin and translucent, move on to the next step otherwise continue kneadig until it does.
Add Butter and salt: Add 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 cup of butter in several additions, mixing after each until fully incorporated into the dough, about 10 minutes. Sometimes tearing the dough in chunks helps the mixer incorporate everything together.
Add the fruit & chocolate: Strain the soaked dried fruits in a sieve, then thoroughly dry with a paper towell to remove excess moisture. Add the dried fruits (raisins, craisins, dried blueberries or any other ones you'd like) orange zest, and white chocolate, and also knead in until fully incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
Proof the Hot Cross Bun Dough: Transfer the dough to a large well-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel then allow to proof in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until the dough is doubled in size. Depending on many factors this may take more or less time, go by the volume not by the time.
Tip: You can turn your oven to 200F for about 2-3 minutes, then turn the oven off, place the dough inside the oven, turn the oven light on and close the door. Make sure the oven is not hotter than 100F or it will kill the yeast and prevent the dough from rising.
Right before the buns are done proofing for the second time, prepare the egg wash.
Whisk together 1 egg yolk with 1 tbsp of water, cover and set aside.
Shape & Bake:
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and tuck the ends of each piece under itself until you get a round ball. Place into a greased 9"x12" or a 12"x18" baking dish, spacing them evenly and allow to proof for about 1 – 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size (you can use the trick with slightly preheating the oven again).
Brush the tops of buns with the prepared egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350F with the baking rack in the middle.
Bake the hot cross buns for 20-25 minutes or until nicely golden on top and the inside registers 190F – 200F. Loosely tent with foil if the tops brown to fast.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the Royal Icing glaze
In a bowl of a mixer combine 1 egg white (or 2 tbsp of pasturized egg whites, 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of lemon juice in a mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy, but still flowy.
Drizzle the glaze
Transfer the glaze to a ziplock bag and fill it with the prepared glaze. Snip the end of the bag and pipe out crosses on the cooled buns with the glaze.
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Wow I love this recipe , my hot cross buns turned out so well and they taste so much better and fluffier than store bought ones !!
I’ll never buy them again thankyou for this delicious recipe
Is the powered egg white in cartons same as Meringue Powder? It’s what I use to make Royal Icing.
Weird, I heard the opposite: that sugar HELPS to activate the yeast..?
This sounds really good, I’ll be trying it out sometime
Yes, the sugar does help the yeast, if you add a small amount. Adding more sugar make the dough heavier and makes it harder for the yeast to do its job.
Definitely not my favorite, dough was sticky and needed more flour. I would not make them again
Hi Mary, this brioche-like dough take a little know-how to work with. It’s not the easiest, but if you don’t add more flour and just continue with the recipe as written you’ll be rewarded with the fluffiest, softest buns ever. Sorry to hear it didn’t work for you though 🙁
Does the calorie count include the add ins that are shown?
Yes, it’s including the add ins.
Loved the buns. I used candied orange peel, raisins, and white chocolate beans. Delicious! Ine thing, why isn’t the proofing time included in the recipe time?
Needed to add an additional 1/2 cup flour.
unfortunately they didnt work out for me 🙁
i am struggling with the texture, its so sticky and the dough didnt ever get together.
It was my first time with dry yeast but gotta try once more with fresh one.
Sorry to hear about your experience. Typically the yeast will only effect the rising time, or the fluffiness of the dough once baked, it’s not likely to effect how sticky the dough is.
As mentioned in the recipe, this dough is supposed to be sticky, so don’t be surprised at that. If after mixing for 20 minutes or so the dough doesn’t change texture to less sticky than when you started, I would look into either getting a different flour or as a last resort, adding more flour.
Absolutely sensational! I followed the recipe to the letter and they are perfection. I found the dough easy to work with and the timing was spot on. I’m going to try different dried fruits or maybe nuts next time. Thank you!
Absolutely delicious. I used chic chips instead. The only thing I can say is that definitely more flour needed. Think I probably nearly doubled the flour. But so light and tasty. Will definitely be making them again
Can you give me some advice? I bake a ton but a new by at yeasted breads and buns. Putting them in the oven now but they pancaked out on the sheet. I used cookie sheets instead of a 9×13. What did I do wrong? I avoided adding more flour because I was trying to keep it super wet like advised…
Sorry to hear that they flattened out 🙁
When kneading, did the dough look like the pictures? Sometimes it the flour has really low gluten content, it won’t hold shape as well, in which adding a little more flour can help.
So the reason could be either low gluten content of the flour, or not enough kneading to develop that gluten. If it’s the latter then you just need to knead the dough a little more until it looks like the pictures.
This dough is too wet for something like hot cross buns. The dough does not have enough structure to shape properly.
The buns shown in this post have flattened out too…you can tell from the pictures.
You don’t need high gluten flour for sweet breads like this…in fact recipes like this turn out better if you use low gluten flour.
So Sarah, slowly add more flour until you get a soft and tacky dough but not a sticky dough.
These Hot Cross Buns use a Brioche-like enriched dough which is what makes them so soft and fluffy. This also makes the dough more slack. In fact, after adding all the butter the dough can look like firmer cake batter. Kneading it until proper gluten development is what makes this dough take shape, gives it structure, and makes it not spread when baked.You can see how beautifully this Sweet Braid keeps shape with this same dough.
On the picture, you’re right, it does look like my buns have joined a little too much, but that is because I am using a smaller baking dish. This helps the buns retain moisture and keeps them nice and fluffy.
When I bake them on a larger sheet, they are just round buns, like they should be.
I do plan to update the pictures just to give a better visual of what they would look like in a bigger baking dish.
Would these work with self raising flour?
I’m not sure as I’ve never used self-rising flour.
No, you need yeast
Hi these look amazing! I’m trying to substitute fresh yeast for the active dry which is usually a 2:1 ratio but I noticed that the amount of yeast in the listed ingredients is 2 teaspoons but 1 tablespoon in the instructions? Just trying to figure out how much I should use!
Thank you Madeline!
The correct amount is 2 tsp.
My dough is so thin like cake dough!
You either need to knead some more, or add 1/2 cup more flour and continue kneading. Some flours have really low gluten content so they don’t have enough protein to bring the dough together.
Can these be made ahead of time and baked later? I’m hoping to have them for Easter breakfast but I’d like to make the dough tomorrow (Friday)if I can. Thanks!
Yep, you can make them tomorrow, allow them to proof the first time (until doubled), then shape and place in the baking dish. Allow to proof halfway, then place in the fridge until ready to bake on Sunday.
Love the recipes
These are so so good!
I baked some and put cranberry, raisins, and white chocolate.
The dough was so soft !
Thank you so much for such a great recipe ❤️