It was a tradition in my family to have hot cross buns every year on Good Friday –we’d cut them in half and slather them in soft, salted butter – such an indulgence! There are many ways to make hot cross buns, and here’s my version, a simple dough made with instant yeast and flavored with orange and lemon zest, warm spices and golden raisins. The cross on top can either be made with a flour paste or shortcrust pastry and baked on the buns, or made with royal icing and added after baking. I went with the royal icing, because I love the look, and it’s a bit easier to do. Feel free to use 2 ¼ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice in place of the four spices.
Makes 12 buns
- 3 ½ to 3 3/4 cups (455-487 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (242 grams) milk, warmed to between 105-110˚F
- 3 tablespoons (43 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ cup (97 grams) golden raisins or currants
- Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water). for brushing on buns
- 3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey, for glazing buns
- ¾ cup (75 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) freshly squeezed orange juice
Make the dough:
- In a large bowl, gently whisk together 3 1/2 cups (455 grams) of the flour, the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Whisk in the sugar, yeast and citrus zest. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
- Whisk the egg into the warm milk, then whisk in the melted butter. Add the mixture to the well in the dry ingredients along with the golden raisins. Use your hands or a Danish dough whisk to mix the ingredients together to form a dough. If the dough seems too wet, add more of the remaining ¼ cup (32 grams) flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it seems right. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently until it turns into a smooth, elastic dough, about 5 minutes. Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature to rise for about 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume (or refrigerate the dough and bake the buns the next day, if you like; let the dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before shaping).
Shape and bake the buns:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces (about 79 grams per bun). Form each piece into a ball by pinching it together from all sides in one spot, then rolling it, seam side down, into a perfect ball. Arrange the balls on the baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Cover the rolls with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 60 minutes, until the buns have risen and look puffy (when you poke a bun with your finger, it should gently spring back, but should not leave an impression).
- About 20 minutes before the end of the proofing time, preheat the oven to 400˚ Brush the top of each bun with egg wash. Bake the buns until they are a beautiful deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Brush the tops of the hot buns with honey as soon as they come out of the oven. Transfer them to a wire rack and cool until just warm.
Make the glaze:
- Make the glaze while the buns bake. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and the orange juice until smooth. If the glaze seems too thin, add a little more confectioners’ sugar; if it seems too thick, add a little more juice. Transfer the glaze to a small pastry bag or sealable plastic bag. When the buns have cooled a bit, pipe a cross of glaze on top of each one.