Easter has just gone by – how did you spend yours? I may or may not have gone on a baking binge and made three batches of Easter hot cross buns… in one week.
In my defense, that’s not the only thing I did for Easter, glutton though I am. We celebrated Christ at church, I did face-painting at an egg hunt, and had some quiet reflection time. I’m moved by the love shown and the hope held out by Jesus – hope that came at a point in history when the world was particularly dark and oppressive…
Deep thoughts aside, my Dad and I both love hot cross buns, which I always look forward to as part of the lead-up to Easter. Unfortunately for my cravings, I haven’t been able to find the buns in the shops since moving to the US. Anyway, being slightly too keen, I decided to DIY. Many hours and three batches later, here we are.
Hot cross buns? Isn’t that just an annoying keyboard tune?
For the uninitiated (ahem, Americans – but hey, no judgment ;p), hot cross buns are sweet breads containing raisins or currants and smell of cinnamon from the addition of mixed spice. Flour paste makes the crosses, the buns are served hot – and best with a glaze and some butter.
I’ve tried the icing-topped and choc-chip variants; delicious as they are, I just can’t get past the good old raisin bun. As I understand it, the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Which, I was surprised to learn, is not a national public holiday in the US. Neither is Easter Monday. #uselessfactoftheday
Learning to hot cross bun
Having never made hot cross buns before, I tried a taste.com.au recipe and found that it’s actually fairly easy, though it does take up half the day. Perfect for farting around in the kitchen.
Things I learned along the way:
- Raisins burn easily; hiding them (mostly) inside the buns helps
- Lactose-free milk works just fine
- Demerara sugar makes for a distinctly better flavour in the buns
- Adding steam to my oven was super easy and made for a better, thinner, crust with just the right level of browning.
Easter hot cross bun recipe
Sweet, soft, raisin-studded buns that are different to – and I reckon tastier than – the shops’ version. At a total time of about 4 hours (much of it passive rising), they are also probably too much work! Anyway, this recipe is an adaptation of Taste.com.au’s Hot Cross Buns.
These need to be fairly accurate; I’m starting to prefer dry weight measures but will also keep track of roughly equivalent US | Australian or metric volume measures.
- 580g all purpose flour + extra for dusting | 4 1/4 US cups | 4 metric cups plain flour
- 18g instant yeast | 4 1/2 teaspoons
- 80g demerara or extra fine granulated sugar | 1/3 US cup | 1/4 metric cup caster sugar
- 6g mixed spice* + a generous pinch of freshly grated ginger | 3 teaspoons
- Pinch of salt
- 310g raisins | 2 1/3 US cups | 1 1/2 metric cups
- 35g unsalted butter | 2 1/2 US tablespoons | just shy of 2 Australian standard tablespoons
- 300mL milk | 1 1/4 US cups | 1 1/5 metric cups
- 2 eggs
- 60g all purpose flour
- 60mL water
- 25g extra fine granulated sugar | 2 US tablespoons | 1 1/2 Australian standard tablespoons caster sugar
- 60mL hot water | 4 US tablespoons | 3 Australian tablespoons
- Butter, to serve
Step 1. Place dry ingredients for the buns into a large bowl. Microwave butter to melt, add the milk and microwave for another 30 seconds, or until lukewarm. Add to dry ingredients. Lightly beat the eggs and add. Stir until almost combined.
Step 2. Dust work surface lightly with flour. Use hands to finish mixing the dough; it’ll be quite soft. Tip dough out onto the floured surface and knead for about 10-15min or until you can form a smooth ball. Oil a large bowl (the used mixing bowl works) and place dough inside. Cover with plastic food wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until double in size, about 90min. Uncover the dough and punch down to original size, reserving the food wrap.
Step 3. Divide dough into 16 portions. Shape each into a ball, aiming to have most of the raisins covered. On a large oven or baking tray lined with baking or parchment paper, line up the buns with pinky- or little finger- width spaces in between. Cover with the plastic food wrap from earlier (use more if needed), and sit in a warm place until double in size, about 30-40min.
Step 4. Preheat oven to 375F [190C] with a cast iron skillet (or other shallow ovenproof pan) on the lower of two racks.
Step 5. Make the crosses: measure out the water, add the flour on top and gently combine. Don’t stir vigorously, or the paste will become chewy. The paste should be the thickness of lumpy toothpaste. Spoon into a piping bag, or a small plastic bag with a tiny corner snipped off, and pipe crosses onto the buns.
Step 6. Pour a mug of hot water into the hot ovenproof pan (be careful as the water will likely steam), then slide the baking tray of buns onto the middle rack. Bake at 375F [190C] until done and golden on top, about 20-25min.
Step 7. Make the glaze: dissolve sugar into hot water and heat in the microwave to slightly reduce. Glaze the buns while both are hot. Serve buns sliced and buttered. I love these for brekky, morning tea, arvo tea, or… any time of day really. They also freeze fairly well – slice first.
* Think of Christmassy or mulled wine ground spices. I couldn’t find this type of mixed spice so I improv-d with:
- 1 US tablespoon each of: allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon of cloves
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