One of my favorite Easter treats are hot cross buns. I love these soft, fragrant buns filled with raisins and citrus peel! The glossy finish of sieved marmalade and the simple icing cross really adds another level to the flavor of these classic springtime treats.
As a child, I remember our family making them a few times. Sometimes we would buy them from the local grocery store around Easter if we didn’t feel like making them. Having tasted both homemade and store bought, I think that homemade is so much better. My opinion was confirmed when we recently checked out a package of hot cross buns, and were shocked at the huge ingredient list. It’s definitely healthier to make your own!
One thing that makes these English buns so special at Easter is the cross on top. They’re traditionally served on Good Friday, and the cross reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on Calvary. Plus, a cross made out of icing tastes pretty good! 😊 Actually, the authentic cross on the buns was a thick flour-and-water paste that was piped on the buns just before they were baked. While this looks nice, it doesn’t taste that good, so the icing is a better option. I think the extra burst of sweetness adds to the flavor!
While your buns are rising, you can sing this little nursery rhyme with your kids or grandkids:
Hot-cross buns!Hot-cross buns!One a penny, two a penny,Hot-cross buns!If you have no daughters,Give them to your sons;One a penny, two a penny,Hot-cross buns!
Hungry for more spring desserts? Try these other delicious recipes!
Super Easy Coconut Macaroons: no mixer is required for these chewy coconut cookies.
How to Make French Macarons: your family and friends will be amazed with these meringue cookies.
This recipe for hot cross buns makes a dozen soft, pull apart Easter buns with candied fruit, marmalade glaze, and a simple icing cross. They’re sure to be a hit for an Easter breakfast or brunch. Mixed spice, lemon and orange peel, fresh apple, and raisins flavor these yummy buns. Sing the nursery rhyme while you bake!
For the Buns
- 4 cups bread flour (500g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (100g)
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (50g)
- 1 large egg
- scant 1 1/2 cups milk (350 ml)
- 2.8 ounces homemade candied lemon and orange peel (80g)
- 2/3 cups raisins (100g)
- 1/2 small tart baking apple, peeled and finely diced (75g)
For the Decoration
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
- 2 1/3 cups icing sugar (300g)
- 2-4 tablespoons cool water
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- In a small saucepan on medium heat, bring the milk to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour into a measuring cup with a spout and set aside to cool to 115 F.
- Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl, adding the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir in each one with your finger, then mix in the caster sugar, mixed spice, and orange zest.
- Crack the egg into a separate bowl. Add it and half of the milk to the flour mixture, then stir with your hand. Gradually add more milk as needed to bring the mixture into a soft, somewhat sticky dough; you may not need all the milk. Keep working the dough until all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is silky smooth and no longer sticking to your hands or the work surface. Test the dough by stretching a small piece of dough between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. The dough should stretch until it’s translucent in places. If not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove in a warm place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until at least doubled in size.
Preparing the Fruit & Shaping the Buns (20 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- While the dough is proving, measure out the candied peel and raisins. Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep. Just before the dough is ready, peel and finely dice the apple so it doesn’t go brown.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out the gas pockets. Gradually knead in the peel, raisins, and apple until everything is evenly mixed.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy. Roll each piece into a taut ball, rolling each ball lightly in flour if sticky. Evenly space them in four rows of three in the prepared pan.
- Place the pan inside a large, clean garbage bag and inflate the bag, tucking the ends under the pan to seal. Set in a warm place and let the buns prove for about 1 hour, until the buns have doubled in size and their sides are touching.
- About 10 minutes before the buns are done proving, preheat the oven to 400 F.
Baking & Decorating the Buns (20 minutes baking + 20 minutes decorating + cooling)
- Bake the buns in the middle of the oven at 400 F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Cover the buns with a sheet of aluminum foil if the tops are getting too dark. Bake until the buns are well browned and have an internal temperature of 200 F.
- While the buns are baking, warm the marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Push the marmalade through a sieve into a small bowl.
- Remove the buns from the pan and let them cool completely on a wire rack. Brush the tops of the hot buns with the sieved marmalade for a glossy finish.
- While the buns are cooling, sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and gradually stir in just enough water to make a thick but pipeable icing. Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a 1 centimeter round nozzle and twist the top of the piping bag so a skin doesn’t form on the icing.
- When the buns are fully cool, pipe a cross onto each one. Serve the buns hot or at room temperature with salted butter.
- Using homemade candied peel really adds a lovely citrus flavor that can’t be matched by store bought.
- In a pinch, substitute pumpkin pie spice for the mixed spice. I suggest using mixed spice, though, as it’s a traditional British spice blend that tastes great in these buns.
- Don’t have a piping bag on hand? Use a sandwich bag instead.
- Since these buns don’t have preservatives in them like the store bought ones, I recommend putting them in the freezer if you’re not eating them within 12 hours of baking. This will prevent them from going hard and stale.