Hot cross buns are an Easter staple that everyone loves sinking their teeth into. With a delicious aroma and a pillowy soft texture, they're hard to resist! However, working with yeast can be a little intimidating, especially for those new to baking. If that's the case, we've got you covered with some expert tips from our very own pastry chef, and we're excited to share their best hacks with you. To start, we highly recommend using our seasonal Hot Cross Bun Spice to make the most delicious and fragrant buns every time. With a blend of cassia, ginger, cloves, coriander seed and a touch of citrus, your kitchen will be filled with the festive aromas of Easter.
As a spiced and fruity sweet bun, a traditional hot cross bun is usually made with a 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 perks of making your own hot cross buns. If you like to experiment, some rum-soaked raisins could make a fine addition to your baked good. Simply soak the raisins overnight in a mix of rum and Hot Cross Bun Spice.
The temperature of the milk will affect the outcome of your hot cross buns, so it’s important to make sure it’s at the right heat level. Milk should be lukewarm because excessive heat may deactivate the yeast. Test the temperature by placing some milk 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.
When kneading dough by hand, it's important to apply firm pressure and work the dough thoroughly. Use the palms of your hands to stretch and fold the dough, putting your weight into it to create a smooth and elastic dough. This process is critical for ensuring that the gluten in the flour is properly developed, which is essential for creating light and fluffy baked goods. If your buns turn out hard, it means that the gluten was not sufficiently worked. Remember that fat from butter and eggs can prolong gluten development, so don't be afraid to put in the effort - your hard work will be rewarded with delicious, perfectly textured dough.
If you're kneading using your stand mixer, use the lowest speed of your mixer and periodically check the dough. On the lowest speed, expect the dough to take approximately 20 minutes (note that the timing is based on our recipe which requires 500g of plain flour. More flour may require more time).
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 keep kneading!
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.
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.