Marked with a cross on the top, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns are enjoyed every Easter. Baking hot cross buns at home is part of our Easter tradition. But we know that working with yeast can be a daunting prospect, especially for the novice baker. So we've put together our best hacks, straight from the ex-pastry chef we keep on staff for these purposes. We’ve explored how to make the best tasting buns and recommend following these tips before attempting our recipe for homemade Hot Cross Buns. Our seasonal Hot Cross Bun Spice is key to making the perfect, fluffy and fragrant buns every time. Containing the festive tones of cassia, ginger, cloves, plus a hint of citrus and ground coriander seed, this spice blend will bring out the fragrance of Easter into your kitchen.
What ingredients does a traditional hot cross bun contain?
As a spiced and fruity sweet bun, a traditional hot cross bun is usually made with the right combination of fruit and spices: raisins, currants, candied citrus or other mixed fruits, as well as cassia, clove, nutmeg, among others. They're decorated with a white cross on the top, either marked into the dough or made using icing or glaze. Our Hot Cross Bun Spice gets added into the mixture at the dry ingredient stage. But you might want to add more or less ginger, ground cloves or star anise, or even chocolate chips, to suit your own tastes – that is one of the benefits of making your own hot cross buns.
What's the ultimate ingredient to add to hot cross buns?
If you like to experiment, then we suggest going a little wild and adding in some rum-soaked raisins (Mmmm!): Soak raisons overnight in some rum. Add a hint of Hot Cross Bun Spice, too.
What temperature should the milk mix be when it's added to the flour and yeast?
The temperature of the milk will affect the outcome of your hot cross buns, so it’s important to make sure it’s the right heat level. Milk should be lukewarm, ideally – not too hot else it can deactivate the yeast. Put some on the back of your finger; it should be warm, not burning.
When you add the yeast to the milk, let it sit for a moment to absorb some of that warm goodness. Work from the inside out for a less sticky bowl at the end.
How do you know when you have kneaded the dough enough?
If you're kneading with your hands, then work that dough like your life depends on it. Use your palms to stretch it out. Put your weight into it.
Gluten is the protein in the flour that stretches as you knead it. As gluten provides the structure for the buns and gives it its elasticity, it needs to be activated for your buns to rise. This means if your buns turn out hard, the gluten was not sufficiently worked. You may need to give it extra kneading as fat from the butter and the eggs can prolong gluten development.
Tip – Little hands love dough and give you a break for a cuppa.
If you're kneading using your stand mixer, then take a tea break while it's kneading. Use the lowest speed of your mixer and periodically check the dough. On the lowest speed, expect the dough to take approximately 20 minutes (if you're following our recipe which calls for 500g of plain flour. More flour may require more time).
When is the dough ready?
To test if the dough is ready, take a small piece and roll it into a ball, then stretch it out gently with your fingers. The dough should stretch without tearing and you should be able to stretch it until it forms a thin, translucent film, without having any thick spots or tears.
If it looks tough and stretchy – like this – keep going!
Another way to test whether your dough is ready is to indent it. Form the dough into a ball, and press onto it with your finger. If it springs back, your dough has been kneaded enough. To get perfectly even buns, use a scale to weigh your portions. That's what the bakers do. Make sure the top surface of your bun is smooth and any seams or joins are underneath.
What type of glaze goes on hot cross buns?
Our glaze uses Vanilla Bean Sugar, Orange Peel as well as a little bit of Hot Cross Bun Spice, but you can also do a classic apricot-jam-and-dash-of-water glaze.The buns should be glazed as soon as they come out of the oven.
It’s time to try out our Hot Cross Bunsrecipe and make your own. When they're baked, enjoy them smeared with a slew of butter, toasted and always with coffee or with a cup of Easter Bun Tea. And if you’re feeling a bit experimental, try out the Hot Cross Bun Spice with our Hot Cross Cinnamon Scrolls recipe (with a browse through our tips and trick blog first, of course!)