Celebrate the Easter season with this easy hot cross buns recipe. Studded with raisins and naturally sweetened with maple syrup, these buns will be the toast of the holiday.
Happy Friday, friends! How was your week? Mine was much better than last week. You know, when I knocked my head against a set of stairs at work and had to visit the ER? Yeah, fun times. I was definitely more motivated this week and got a ton of work done at both my day job and on this blog here. But I think my favourite part of the week was Tuesday – Pancake Day! I love pancakes and I’ll take any excuse to eat them for any and all meals of the day. Mine were sweetened with banana and topped with Greek yogurt, strawberries, and a drizzle of maple syrup (because, hi, Canadian).
But now that Pancake Day has passed, that means it’s time for all things Easter, amiright? And we’re starting off strong with this easy hot cross buns recipe!
Why are they called hot cross buns?
If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a bit of a food history geek, so we’re going start off by taking a little detour down history lane and find out why they’re called hot cross buns.
Nowadays we associate hot cross buns with Easter because they are traditionally consumed on Good Friday; the cross on top of the hot cross buns has also been assumed to honour the death of Christ.
But this isn’t strictly true.
While the cross has always been religiously significant, it wasn’t the Christians that coined the use – the cross is actually of ancient origin, going back further than the ancient Egyptians. The first known usage of a cross marked onto bread was done to signify that the bread was a religious offering and should not be consumed by humans. The Egyptians similarly offered small cakes marked with the crossed horns of an ox to Khonsu, the moon god. Greeks and Romans practiced similar rituals and the Saxons ate buns slashed with a cross to honour Eostre; Eostre was the goddess of light and her name was later translated to Easter.
In the 18th century, the Chelsea Bun House sold hot cross buns hot from the oven in great quantities, which we assume is where the “hot” part comes in. It’s modern tradition in England to serve hot cross buns toasted and slathered in melted butter.
What is the hot cross bun cross made from?
Originally, the cross was just a slash cut into the hot cross buns, but over the years, it’s evolved into various different forms. Traditionally, the cross is composed of strips of shortcrust pastry, but modern British bakers now use a paste crafted from flour and water. This is the method I used in this easy hot cross buns recipe. Because it’s easier.
There are also some recipes that will encourage you to top the baked buns with royal icing crosses, but this isn’t the traditional method.
How to make these easy hot cross buns
If you’re a bit intimidated by yeast baking, you are not alone! But these buns are a really good place to start because they require very little hands-on time. The most irritating part of this easy hot cross buns recipe is waiting around for the yeast to do its
A few tips to successfully make these easy hot cross buns:
- Before you add the warm wet ingredients into the flour, use a thermometer to ensure that the temperature is between 35-46ºC (95-115ºF). If it’s over, the heat will kill the yeast and you’ll have to start over. If it’s under, the yeast won’t rise as well and you’ll have some flat-ass buns.
- You can use a stand mixer to knead the dough, but I prefer to use my hands for this recipe because it’s easier to tell when the dough reaches the smooth, elastic stage. Plus, there’s not quite enough dough for my mixer to do the job properly. If you’re going to use a mixer, keep an eye on the dough after about 4 minutes.
- When you’re dividing the dough into balls, use a scale to ensure you’re dividing it correctly; otherwise, the buns may not bake up evenly. There should be about 60 grams to each ball.
- Make sure you have a piece of tin foil on hand to throw over the buns half way through baking. Because of the higher sugar content in maple syrup, these buns tend to brown faster than regular hot cross buns.
I’m relatively new to the hot cross buns club, but these easy hot cross buns have me converted. They’re slightly sweet from the maple syrup and orange honey glaze, packed with dried fruit, and deliciously warm from the spices. Bake up a batch for toasting and buttering on Easter morning and I promise you’ll forget all about the supermarket version.
Looking for more refined
sugar free brunch ideas?
- Chocolate Raspberry Baked Oatmeal
- Maple Bacon Twists
- Ginger Pear Muffins
- Almond Pancakes with Spiced Peach Syrup
If you make these easy hot cross buns, don’t forget to take a photo and tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #naturallysweetkitchen, so I can share your pictures! It makes my day to see these bakes come to life in your kitchen.
Easy Hot Cross Buns
Studded with raisins and naturally sweetened with maple syrup, these easy hot cross buns will be the toast of your Easter brunch.
Hot Cross Buns
- 75 ml milk
- 60 ml pure maple syrup
- 14 g unsalted butter
- 220 g unbleached bread flour
- ½ tbsp fast-action dried yeast
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground all-spice
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 50 g raisins or currants
- 40 g unbleached plain flour
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp unpasteurised honey or agave nectar
- 1 tsp orange juice or water
- Pour the milk and maple syrup into a saucepan and bring to a scald over medium low heat.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter; stir it into the hot liquid until melted. Set to the side until the mixture cools to 35-46ºC (95-115ºF).
- Sift the flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice into a large bowl. Whisk well to combine.
- Once the wet ingredients have cooled, make a well at the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into it. Mix together with a fork. Crack the egg into the bowl and continue mixing with a fork until the dough forms a rough ball.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and tip out the dough. Add the raisins and knead them into the dough for 5-6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball.
- Grease the bowl lightly with olive oil and return the kneaded dough to the bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Prepare a baking tray with a silicone mat or by lightly greasing it with olive oil.
Once the dough has risen, punch out the excess air and tip onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough into a long sausage and divide it evenly into 8. There should be about 60 grams of dough to a portion.
Roll each portion of dough into a smooth ball and place the balls 1 ½ in (4 cm) apart on the tray.
- Cover the tray with the damp tea towel and allow to rise for another 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Prepare the crosses batter 5 minutes before the buns are done their second proof. Combine the plain flour and water in a small bowl and whisk until it forms a smooth paste. You may need to add a little more water for it to reach a pipeable consistency. Fit a piping bag with a thin round tip (I used a Wilton #4) and add the cross batter to the bag.
- Preheat the oven to 205ºC (400ºF). In six straight lines, pipe the cross batter across the buns. Bake the buns for 15-17 minutes; they should be quite golden on top. You may need to cover them with a layer of foil around the 8-minute mark if they are browning too much. Remove the buns from the oven.
- Make the glaze by stirring together the honey and orange juice in a small bowl. Brush the warm buns with the glaze and allow to cool before serving.
These buns will keep sealed in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.