Bake nutmeg-and-cinnamon-spiced Hot Cross Buns anytime--especially at Easter.

Hot Cross Buns
Bake the traditional English nutmeg-and-cinnamon-spiced Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday or for Easter breakfast. Lemon icing is easily piped through a zip-top bag to form the traditional cross on top.
| Credit: Photo: Ralph Anderson

Hot Cross Buns Recipe:

Bake these beautiful buns--they're truly a treat. Make it a family project, or call a friend, so you can knock them out in an afternoon. You will need a heavy-duty stand mixer to make these yeast rolls. If necessary, borrow one from a neighbor, and pay her back with homemade Hot Cross Buns.

We started our quest for the best hot cross bun recipe with a quick Internet search. We found the verses to the nursery rhyme--"One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns." Another site reminded us they were sold by street vendors in the movie Oliver based on Dickens's novel. One told of an English widow who baked them each Good Friday in hopes her lost sailor son would return home. And some accounts point to hot cross buns as part of pagan rituals each spring. Many Southerners serve hot cross buns during the Lenten season in recognition of the death and resurrection of Christ. Your family can decide what meaning to ascribe to this fine bread.

The recipes vary, so we baked buns until we found just the right combination of spices, spice levels, dried fruit, and icing that pleased everyone at our tasting table. Have no worries about the yeast--our method avoids the step of dissolving it in a warm liquid. All the tips here ensure your success. We even asked a first-time yeast bread baker to try the recipe--with excellent results--so rest assured, you can bake them too.

Hot Cross Buns Tips & Tricks

  1. Use a heavy-duty stand mixer to mix and knead. The dough will be too sticky to be kneaded by hand. The dry yeast goes directly into the flour. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; then level it with a straight-edge spatula or knife. Don't scoop the flour directly out of the container. Too much flour will compromise your results. A rainy, humid day will require the full 5 cups of flour; a dry, cool day will take less. Definitely start with the minimum amount.
  2. It's okay to let dough rise in a glass, metal, or pottery bowl. Spray the top of the dough with vegetable cooking spray to prevent the dough from drying out and crusting, which could inhibit rising.
  3. Your oven is the ideal warm, draft-free place for the dough. Heat the oven, and then turn it off. Allow oven to cool to 85° or below. Put dough in oven, along with a cup of hot water to add moisture and keep the dough soft. Leave on the oven light, and close the door.
  4. You'll have to work those arms to knead in the raisins and currants. But you can goof off during the rising times.
  5. It's tempting to pinch off dough to shape rolls, but don't. Pinching will stretch the dough, resulting in tough rolls. Instead, use a bench scraper or sharp knife to cut dough in half; then cut each in half again, and so on until you have 20 pieces. Let rolls rise one more time, and bake.
  6. Let baked rolls cool 15 minutes before icing them--otherwise the icing will melt, rather than hold the shape of a cross.