Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are a traditional Good Friday treat! These slightly sweet yeast-leavened buns are spiced with cinnamon and speckled with currants, citron, and orange zest.

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Rising time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 16 buns

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground spices (for example, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (if taking right out of the fridge, let sit in warm water for a few minutes to take the chill off before using)
  • 3/4 cup currants (can sub half of currants with chopped candied citrus peel)
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

For the glaze:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the frosting

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Method

1 Proof the yeast: In a bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of the warmed milk and one teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

Yeast in small glass bowl

2 Whisk the dry ingredients: In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, vigorously whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving additional flour for later step), the salt, spices, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Flour, sugar and spices in glass mixing bowl Hot Cross Buns dry ingredients whisked together in glass bowl with whisk

3 Make the dough: Create a well in the flour and add the foamy yeast, softened butter, and eggs, and the remaining milk.

Eggs, butter and wooden spoon in glass bowl with dry ingredients Hot cross buns dough mixed in glass bowl with wooden spoon

Using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients until well incorporated. The mixture should be shaggy and quite sticky.

Add in the currants, candied peel, and orange zest.

cross buns batter with currants in glass bowl

4 Knead the dough, adding more flour as needed: If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and start to knead on low speed. (If not using a mixer, use your hands to knead.)

Slowly sprinkle in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition, until the flour is still slightly tacky, but is no longer completely sticking to your fingers when you work with it.

Total kneading time should be about 7 minutes in a mixer or 10 minutes by hand.

5 Let sit 2 hours to double in size (first rise): Form a ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit, covered, at room temperature (or in a warm spot) for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

batter in glass bowl covered with plastic wrap hot cross bun dough risen in glass bowl

6 Form the buns: Press down on the dough to gently compress it. Roll the ball of dough into a log shape and cut it into two halves. Place one half back in the bowl while you work with the other half. Take the dough half you are working with and cut it into 8 equal pieces.

Take the individual pieces and form them into mounds, placing them 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on a greased baking sheet.

Cover with plastic wrap and then work the remaining dough into 8 equal pieces and place them in mounds on a baking sheet, again cover with plastic wrap.

uncooked hot cross buns on pan covered with plastic wrap

7 Let sit 30-40 min (second rise): Let the dough mounds sit at room temperature (or warm place) to rise again, until the mounds have doubled in volume, about 30-40 minutes.

Cooked cross buns on sheet

8 Preheat oven to 400°F. 

9 Brush with egg wash: Prepare egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk.

If you want, you can score the top of the buns with a knife in a cross pattern. You will want to make fairly deep cuts, for the pattern to be noticeable after they're done.

Using a pasty brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough mounds. The egg wash will give them a shiny appearance when cooked.

Red pastry brush on a hot crossed bun

10 Bake and cool: Place in the middle rack of the 400°F oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the buns are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.

browned hot cross buns on sheet Baked hot cross buns on baking sheet

10 Make and pipe frosting in cross pattern on buns: To paint a cross on the top of the buns, wait until the buns have cooled (or the frosting will run). Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get a thick consistency.

Place in a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag and use the bag to pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross.

Frosting being put on hot bun Finished hot cross buns