As yet another severe winter storm whips its way through the eastern United States, bringing nearly a foot of snow and another round of dangerously low wind chills, I couldn’t help but daydream of sunny days, green trees, and warm spring breezes while shoveling the driveway, ankle-deep in crystalline cold. And, as my thoughts meandered towards spring, my appetite seemed to follow. Over the last several days, I’ve had an odd craving for hot cross buns, a classically springtime treat, marked by its symbolic association with the Easter season. But, even though Easter and warm weather are still so far away, I thought I’d still take the time to cross a few buns in hope of warmer days!
Composed of spiced dough speckled with fruit (typically raisins, currants, or sultanas), and topped with the eponymous cross, hot cross buns (or just “cross buns,” as they were known in their homeland of 15th century England) have captivated the hearts, minds, and spirits of the western world for at least 600 years. Although little evidence exists to support the claim, some food archaeologists believe the crossed bun actually dates to the religious rituals of the Saxons in 9th century England, where they were used to honor the goddess Eostre, an alleged deity whose impact on western culture is still hotly contested. Whatever their origin, the hot cross bun serves as a delicious staple to warm our way through the rest of this wintry weather, and keep our minds fixed on spring!
Now, as this recipe is of British origin, there are a few features to this process that are (unfortunately) foreign to the average American baker. First, because much of the world uses scales in the kitchen, many of the measurements for this recipe are by weight, not volume (though I’ll convert these measures as accurately as possible). Second, this recipe calls for “mixed spice,” a blend of warm spices not unlike pumpkin pie spice. To make a small batch of mixed spice for yourself, simply combine the following ingredients:
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon clove
With our British to American conversions out of the way, lets dig into some hot cross buns!
Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Makes 12 Buns
Ingredients for Buns
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm milk (100 F / 37 C)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 600 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon mixed spice
- 50 grams (about 1/4 cup) melted butter
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
- [Optional] 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Ingredients for Crosses
- 6 Tablespoons flour
- 1/4 cup water
Ingredients for Glaze
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and warm milk in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast proofs and becomes foamy.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mixed spice, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, melted butter, egg, raisins, and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture becomes a rough dough.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, springy, and only lightly sticky.
- Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location to rise for 1 hour.
- When the dough has risen, place the dough back onto a floured surface and roll into a log. Divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place into a greased, floured 8 x 8 cake tin, or a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Cover your pan(s) with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 390 F / 200 C.
- To make the crosses, combine the flour and water in a small bowl, then place in a ziploc or piping bag. Cut off the corner of your bag and pipe lines across your buns to make the crosses.
- Bake the buns for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the tops are well browned. When the buns are between 5 – 10 minutes from being finished, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan to begin making the glaze. Heat the sugar water over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside.
- When your hot cross buns have finished baking, remove from the oven and brush each bun with the glaze. Let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Enjoy a spiced, crossed morsel of English history with your own batch of hot cross buns. To truly maximize their flavor, heat the buns in the microwave for about 40 seconds and top with butter for a classic crossed bun experience!
As always, thanks for stopping by! May your weather be more pleasant than ours!
Stay warm and keep digging!