How to make (and eat) Hot Cross Buns

Last week I saw that Dan Lepard (no Def Lepard jokes please, he has heard them all) was due to go on to do another webchat with bake-a-long after the success of the previous one. Great, thought I. Then I remembered that I am supposed to be on a diet. 

Never mind. The long periods of time between kneading the dough, leaving to rise, then forming the buns and again leaving to rise gave me ample time to fit a run in around my baking. Perfect way to spend a day.

Following Dan’s recipe pretty much exactly, I prepared the dough using raisins and mixed spice. I forgot the mixed peel, I am afraid. Leaving it to rise next to the radiator, I set off for a run. It is beautiful here today, wind still, the lake a mirror of the Jura mountains with their icing sugar peaks.

On returning home, found that the dough had indeed risen as promised. Forming the buns, I  tried to follow the instructions of shaping them into a smooth tight ball. I must admit that I weighed them to get the right size. Not like me, I am normally a bit more slapdash. 

Ok, the buns are formed and covered with a tea towel. Time for a quick shower and then a cup of Earl Grey. 

Buns not risen as much as expected, perhaps because I used half wholemeal flour / half plain flour. Have piped the crosses on to them, slightly wonky but done.

And into the oven with them.

Before glazing them. Not as squishy as shop bought ones. The house smells amazing, I do wish someone would come to the door and be amazed.

The finished buns, with glaze.

The plain flour gives the crumb a very tender texture. You can also use strong white or bread flour, but you will need a dash more water to keep the dough soft. Use a little flour, or lightly oil your hands and a spot to knead on if you like, but with this buttery dough I don’t use either and find it usually doesn’t stick much.
  • 175ml warm water
  • 1 sachet dry instant yeast
  • 550g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75g sugar, any sort
  • 4 tsp mixed spice
  • 75ml milk
  • 75g butter, cut into smallish pieces
  • 150g raisins or 100g currants
  • 150g chopped glacé ginger, or mixed peel
  • Finely grated zest of an orange or lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • Sunflower oil or extra flour for kneading
    1. Heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/390°F/gas 6.
    2. Measure the water into a jug, stir in the yeast and leave it while you get everything else ready.
    3. Bring the milk to the boil then remove from the heat and add the butter, stir until it melts, then add the dried fruit, ginger or peel, and beat in the egg.
Tip to keep the buns warm
Pour boiling water into the empty mixing bowl to about a quarter or third full. Sit the tray on the bowl and then cover the tray with a cloth. Top up the bowl with a little extra water after 30 minutes.
  1. Put the flour, salt, sugar, and spice in a large mixing bowl and give it a quick toss around to roughly combine it. Crumble any lumps of sugar finely with your fingers, but don’t worry about any hard ones that won’t break up.
  2. Stir the fruit and yeast mixtures together then pour this in with the flour.
  3. Stir everything together, or use your hands, and leave for 10 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky and soft.
  4. Lift the dough out of the bowl and onto the work-top then give it a good quick knead for 10-15 seconds. No, I don’t mean minutes. By giving the dough a quick knead now and leaving it for 45 minutes it will be in perfect shape when we divide and shape the buns.
  5. Next, divide the dough into about a dozen equal pieces, just under 100g each. Shape each piece into a smooth tight ball – that’s the tricky bit – and place them evenly spaced on a tray lined with non-stick paper. Cover with a tea-towel and leave somewhere warm for about 90 minutes until risen by about half.
  6. Mix extra flour with water to a paste and pipe crosses on each. Bake the buns for 25 minutes. Finally, mix a tablespoon each caster sugar and boiling water and brush over the buns while they’re still hot.