Monday, April 4, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

Scary as it is, Easter is only a few weeks away. Actually, I don't think it's scary at all and am pretty pleased, as despite having only been back from Melbourne for three weeks and getting an extra hour of sleep this weekend I am ready for a long weekend. Such a shame Anzac Day couldn't be on the Tuesday to make it five days long, though...

Anyway, the approaching holiday means hot cross bun time - what could be better than spiced bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter?

Hot cross buns are pretty easy to make, but they are one of those things you have to plan ahead for - there are wait times of 10 minutes + 60 minutes + 30 minutes + 25 minutes - so if, like us, you put off starting until 7.30pm you'll probably go to bed bloated, since once they're ready the whole house will smell delicious and you won't be able to stop eating them. 

The first step is activating the yeast, and I don't know what it is but sometimes mine goes frothy and sometimes it doesn't - this time it didn't. The buns were fine, though, so apparently that's not a cause for concern. Once the yeast has been sitting in its milk bath for a while you beat in the eggs and butter. The way I do it the resulting mixture looks awful - lumpy and gross - but it doesn't really matter, you're just trying to break up the butter and mix the yeast evenly through the wet stuff. Once you add it into the flour mixture it'll all smooth out. 

When you've got a dough - you will need to get your hands dirty to get everything incorporated and smooth - you add your fruit. You can do whatever you like - we actually split our dough and made half with raisins (for Mr Cake) and half with chocolate (for me). You can increase or decrease the amount you add depending how fruity or not you like them, and put whatever dried fruit you like in the mix. We just used raisins but a mixture is nice, though I recommend steering clear of that nasty mixed peel stuff that always ruins the store-bought variety. ;-) (I guess some people must like it, since it's so commonly used, but I can't remember ever hearing anyone admit to it)

After a couple of phases of rising - first in the bowl and then on the tray once you've made the dough into buns (bonus points if your teatowel is as appropriate as ours!) it's time to make them cross. 

I just used a paste - a little melted butter, flour, baking powder and milk - to make my crosses, though I read somewhere recently that if you half cook the buns and then put strips of almond icing on them before finishing them you get a sticky almondy cross, which sounds tastier than this way. I'll be trying that next time!

I just add milk until I get the consistency I want - basically, as thick as possible, but you have to be able to squeeze it out of a piping bag, so unless you have lots more muscle than me you'll still need the milk. ;-)

If you plan ahead and place the buns closer together (they only rise a little in the oven) you can just pipe the crosses as lines, but I'm not that clever. You could also be more creative - I see Hell Pizza are offering buns with an inverted pentagram on top of them, which sort of goes against the sentiment of Easter but I guess seems more fitting for their brand... 

They are definitely at their best straight from the oven, but reheated (in the microwave if you're too impatient, or the oven if you need that crispy toasted goodness) they are good the next day too. And I bet they'd make a delicious bread pudding if you didn't manage to get through them all in time...

What's your favourite way to have hot cross buns? Do you like the traditional ones, peel and all? A lighter fruit version? Or are you a complete non-traditionalist like me and go for the chocolate version? 

Hot Cross Buns

4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp each of mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp yeast
1 cup milk, warmed
100g butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup mixed dried fruit or chocolate, chopped into small pieces (optional)
Paste for crosses
½ cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp baking powder

Blend flour, salt, spices and brown sugar. Stir yeast and warm milk together and leave to stand for 15 minutes in a warm place. Beat eggs and softened butter into the yeast mix, then add to dry ingredients and fruit, and mix until at a dough consistency (add a little extra flour if too sticky). Place dough in a greased bowl and leave covered in a warm place for an hour to rise.

Turn onto a floured board and divide into 16 portions, rolling into balls and placing on a greased oven tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190 C. Brush each bun with milk. Mix extra flour, butter and baking powder and just enough milk to make a paste and pipe crosses on top. Bake 20-25 minutes.


  1. I do like peel! But last year Carl insisted on hot pentagram buns instead...

  2. i love the peel and find it wrong that they make ones with choc chips... but that is just me.

  3. I hate the peel too! Everyone always laughs at me because I sit there and pick it out, but it ruins a perfectly good bun otherwise.

    These look fantastic and the recipe is so easy, I don't know why I've not thought to try making my own before. Will definitely be giving this a go (without peel!).

  4. Chocolate! Last year I sampled the chocolate ones at Brumby's... oh my!

  5. I like the traditional hot cross bun, but if I find large pieces of peel, I'll pick them out
    Chocolate hot cross buns are yummy, but you can't beat the smell of the spicy fruit ones toasting

  6. I love peel but I'm not as keen on raisins,I'd use sultanas instead.Regarding the chocolate chip buns though,they just seem wrong! I bought some by mistake as PnS had them on a stand along with the usual ones,and although we ate them I will look more carefully next time.

    Your HC buns look good too.

  7. Cesca, did he just? Hope he made them himself... ;-)

    Sandra, I guess you balance it out for me. At least we wouldn't be fighting over the same ones!

    Kate, I would be picking it out too - but usually I forget about it till I chomp down on a bit of it, ugh!

    Kirstin, ooh, perhaps I should visit Brumby's - strictly for research purposes, of course. ;-)

    Kaz, true, spiced fruit definitely wins on aroma.

    Cheryl, yes, sultanas are good - you can have all the peel, though! ;-)

  8. I like peel too! Have made 2 batches over the past week using Jo Seager's recipe - which I can recommend! Jo's recipe is a bit quicker because it only has one period of rising time. I struggle to make good crosses - Jo says to just make a paste from flour and water but mine went all lumpy, had to do some serious whisking. I like your recipe which has a bit of butter in the crosses as well as milk :) The only problem I have is who to give my buns away too - my batch makes between 36 - 42 buns. That's a lot of buns....


  9. Thanks Sophie, will have to try that one - but yikes, that is a lot of buns! Could you halve or even quarter the recipe? I still had to beat my cross mixture into submission, but I do prefer it with the butter.

  10. TRying this recipe tonight. ALthough I'm not sure 16 will be enough for my hungry hordes!

  11. makeitgiveit you could always double it. Or make them smaller - maybe they won't notice. ;-)


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