With Easter only days away I knew I had to come up with a great recipe for you all to try this Easter: Hot Cross Buns. It’ll be the first year I’m spending Easter without my family so it wasn’t really on my mind but I made something that would’ve been perfect for my family’s Easter as it’s always celebrated as a brunch rather than an Easter dinner.
I’ve made something new the last couple of years, whether it was my own chicken curry spread, sesame bagels or bagels with salmon and cream cheese, I always try to bring some new to the table. I must say I wasn’t familiar at all with hot cross buns until my friend Helen brought them up and I started noticing them in stores as well.
As they were unknown to me I went to find out more about their history, which I learned all about thanks to Miss Foodwise: “The tradition of baking bread marked with a cross is linked to paganism as well as Christianity. The pagan Saxons would bake cross buns at the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre – most likely being the origin of the name Easter. The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters of the moon, as well as the four seasons and the wheel of life. The Christians saw the Crucifixion in the cross bun and, as with many other pre-Christian traditions, replaced their pagan meaning with a Christian one – the resurrection of Christ at Easter.”
When I looked into how people made the cross, I was a bit surprised to learn it’s usually made from dough, instead of sugar. So I went and made my first batch using dough, but I wasn’t too sold on it. As I have quite a sweet tooth I ended up making buns with a sugar icing instead. It may be too sweet for others though as I also use apricot jam as a glaze so it’s up to your own taste to decide if you go for dough or sugar. I did make these with rice milk and gluten-free flour, but you can substitute my “free from” ingredients with strong white bread flour and milk as the quantities remain the same but it will look different of course (it’ll have more of a soft look). I’ve added all the options in my ingredients, keep in mind thought that using some types of milk and flour require additional ingredients to help it rise, but again you can find all that in the ingredients.
It does take a long while to make these buns as the dough has to rest not once but twice for over an hour (seriously, I wish I was hot cross bun dough, sitting my bowl for hours and do nothing!), anyway make sure to keep it in mind as you may end up without buns if you were planning on making them an hour before your Easter brunch. There are 2 ways of making them: you can bake them as individual buns, which will result in harder sides, or you can have them sort of bake into each other into a pull-apart layer of buns, with softer sides.
I hope you’ll enjoy these buns and your Easter plans, feel free to let me know in the comments below what your favourite Easter meal is and I may make it next year!
Makes: 15 buns
- 500g gluten-free bread flour / 500g strong white bread flour
- 150ml rice milk + 1 teaspoon xanthan gum* / 150ml full fat milk
- 100ml cool water
- 75g light brown sugar
- 50g sunflower spread / butter
- 175g sultanas
- 10g active dry yeast + a pinch of sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp olive oil
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons of apricot jam
- 4 tablespoons of icing sugar
- If you’re using instant yeast then you don’t have to dissolve it into milk but can just add it like that.
Bring the milk to a boil, then divide it over 2 bowls. Let the milk cool down so that it’s warm but no longer hot. Add yeast in one (unless it’s instant yeast) and let it stand for 10 minutes, add butter to the other one so it can melt down as well.
Now sift flour into a large bowl, add your spices, salt, zest and sugar. Make a well in the centre, add the egg, milk – butter and yeast mixture. Mix it using a dough hook or a wooden spoon if you’re mixing manually. Gradually add the water, stop when you have a dough that is soft and springy.
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave it to prove in a warm place for 1,5 – 2 hours until doubled in size.
Uncover the dough and put it on a flour dusted work space. Using your fists to knock the air out of it then knead in the sultanas.
Divide your dough into 15 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Place them in a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Keep in mind they will expand a bit, so if you want them to all be cooked separately from each (result: harder on the outside) other keep them well apart (5 cm), if you want them all to end up sticking together (result: soft sides), only leave 1-2 cm in between. Cover with a clean damp towel and let them rest for another 30 minutes until doubled in size again.
Preheat your oven to 200°. Either mix in equal amounts of tablespoons of flour (3 – 3) and pipe them into a cross or only make a very shallow cross and wait for the buns to come out of the oven to add the sugar cross.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes or longer for a harder result. Once they are out of the oven, put the jam in a bowl and heat it up in the microwave for a minute, until it’s soft enough to spread onto the buns. Use a cooking brush and glaze all your buns. If you’re making an sugar cross, , add just a dash of water to some icing sugar so you get a thick paste and use a spoon to place it onto the crosses.