The Best Hot Cross Buns

An easy recipe for the best fresh baked hot cross buns that are perfect for any Easter brunch or Good Friday breakfast.

A rectangular baking dish full of fresh baked buns.

A traditional part of every Easter season for our family is to have fresh baked hot cross buns. While they are easy to find seasonally at most supermarkets, they can easily be made at home. This recipe makes the best hot cross buns. These even have the classic baked in cross on the top of the bun.

Cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves give these baked goodies the taste of spice you expect in a hot cross bun. Throw in some raisins, and even some dried fruit and orange rind for an extra special treat!

Overhead picture of hot cross buns.

Hot cross buns are perfect for an Easter brunch or a Good Friday breakfast. They are so tasty, that we will make them any time of year.

If you are interested in making these for a holiday morning meal, then check out these Easter Brunch Recipe Ideas! There are plenty of options that will go great with hot cross buns.

Step by step photos of dissolving yeast in warm milk and kneading with dry ingredients to make the dough.

Knead the Dough

The first step for making hot cross buns is to prepare the dough. I like to use a stand mixer with a dough hook. This makes kneading bread and bun dough so much easier. It is definitely possible to knead this dough by hand, but it will take longer than when using a stand mixer.

  1. Dump the dry ingredients into the bowl for the stand mixer and give it all a whisk. This will ensure that all the spices are evenly mixed throughout the dough.
  2. The milk needs to be warmed to about 105F so that the yeast will be activated when it is dissolved. I warm up the milk using the microwave on about half power. It is possible to warm the milk on a stovetop, but be careful not to heat over too high heat. I use a digital thermometer to ensure warm the milk to precisely 105F. Stir in the yeast until it all dissolves. Let rest for 5 minutes so that the yeast will activate.
  3. After letting the yeast activate for 5 minutes, stir in the melted butter, egg and egg yolk. I stir it vigorously with a fork until the egg is completely scrambled in with the milk.
  4. Using a dough hook, turn the electric mixer on medium low. Pour in the milk mixture into the bowl slowly. You will see the wet and dry ingredients quickly start to come together and form the dough. Increase the mixer to medium speed and continue to let the stand mixer knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and coil around the dough hook as seen in step 4 in the picture above. It will be tacky to the touch but should not be too sticky.
  5. Dump in the raisins and continue to let the dough knead for a couple more minutes so that all the raisins get incorporated into the dough.

Dough in a glass bowl before proofing.

How to Proof Dough

Proofing dough for hot cross buns is very easy to do. Once it has finished kneading, the dough requires some time to rise. Typically, you are looking for dough to expand to at least twice its original size, sometimes even more. Make sure that wherever you let the dough rise is warm and there are no drafts. My oven actually has a proofing function and it is the perfect place for the dough to proof.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that has been lightly greased with some oil. Flip the dough over so that the dough has been coated in a little bit of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm location for 90 minutes to rise.

Risen dough in a glass bowl.

After the first rise, the dough should be at least double in size as you can see in the pictures above for comparison. If the dough has not fully doubled in size after 90 minutes, leave it for a little longer.

Dough resting on a floured surface.

Place the risen dough on a floured surface to prevent sticking. Lightly dust your hands with flour and knead it on the floured surface for 30-60 seconds. 

Twelve equal sized portions of dough.

Divide the Dough

The easiest way that I have found to get 15 equal sized hot cross buns is to roll the dough into a long log and then cut it with a pastry cutter or knife to divide it into 15 pieces. Try to keep each portion as close to the same size as possible.
Portion of dough formed into a roll.

Shaping the dough into rolls by stretching and folding the one portion of the dough into a round ball.  Try to make the bun as smooth as possible so that it will rise and bake evenly. Any folds, seams or marks, will expand during the final rise and the bake.

Rolls of dough evenly spaced in a metal baking dish.

Into the Baking Dish

Place each of the buns in a greased 13×9 baking dish. It should fit three rows of five buns perfectly. Keep them all evenly spaced so that they can rise and bake equally. If there are any folded or pinched parts, place that part of the bun with the folded side down.
Risen rolls of dough in a baking dish.

A Second Proof

These buns need to rise before they go into the oven. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in a warm location. Let the buns rise for 45-60 minutes. They should expand to the point where they are bumping into the other buns and crowding the baking dish.

Brushing rolls with egg and milk wash.

Before the hot cross buns go into the oven, the tops of the buns need to be prepped. First, make a wash my whisking together the egg white with the 2 tbsp of milk. Brush the wash all over the buns. This will give them a beautiful golden brown finish once they are baked.

Piping the cross with flour and water paste.

Pipe the Cross Marks

The signature of a hot cross bun is the cross on the top of the bun. It is super easy to do and it makes them look so amazing and definitely gives them the Easter season look.

The cross is made of a flour paste that is simply a mixture of flour and water. You want to ensure that it is not too runny so that the cross holds its shape during baking.

To pipe the flour paste, I like to use a piping bag and tip. This makes the piping super easy and gives you lots of control for how much paste is piped. A fine #5 piping tip is perfect for the cross marks.

Buns ready to go in the oven.

How Long to Bake Hot Cross Buns

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the hot cross buns in the oven and they should take around 23 minutes to finish baking. They will rise a bit more while they are in the oven and the tops will turn golden brown highlighting the cross marks.

To check the doneness, I like to use a digital thermometer and stick it into the centre of one of the middle buns. Bread and buns are finished baking when the internal temperature reads 195F.

Hot cross buns fresh out of the oven.

After the hot cross buns have finished baking, allow them to rest on a wire rack, while in the baking dish.

Buns cooling on a wire rack.

After they have cooled slightly, they can be removed from the baking dish and placed on a wire rack to finish cooling. If desired, they can be served while they are still warm. The hot cross buns are so good.

Sliced hot cross bun with butter.

Hot cross buns are amazing warm with some butter. Our family loves to slice the buns in half and then toast them. The butter melts all over the warm buns and they are so good. Perfect for the Easter holiday weekend or any other time you get that craving for hot cross buns!

Buns resting on a wire rack.

More Baking Recipes!

If you are look some other ideas for breads, loaves and scones, then check out these recipes.

Hot Cross Buns

Fresh baked buns on a wire cooling rack.
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An easy recipe for the best fresh baked hot cross buns that are perfect for any Easter brunch or Good Friday breakfast.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Proofing Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 15 buns

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar , packed
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk , warmed to 105F
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp butter . melted
  • 1 cup raisins

Wash

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp milk

Cross Paste

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  • Dump the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves and salt into a stand mixer bowl and use a whisk to give the dry ingredients a quick mix. 
  • Stir to dissolve the yeast in a separate bowl with the warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the egg, egg yolk and melted butter in with the milk and yeast mixture until well combined.
  • Using the dough hook, turn on the stand mixer to medium low speed. Slowly pour in the milk mixture. Continue to let the stand mixer knead the dough for about 3 minutes. The dough should come away from the bowl and will be sticky/tacky to the touch.
  • Add the raisins and continue to let the dough knead for a 1-2 more minutes so that the raisins can be incorporated into the dough.
  • Grease a large bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place in the bowl and flip so all sides are coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place with no draft and let rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
  • Punch the dough down and hand knead it on a floured surface for about 30 seconds.
  • Divide into 15 equal portions.
  • Form each individual portion into a ball, pinching and folding it so the top of the bun is smooth. Place the ball in a greased 13x9 baking dish. Ensure that any pinched/folded part of the ball of dough is on the underside. Do this with the remaining 14 portions of dough so there are 3 rows of 5 balls of dough in the baking dish.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes.
  • Make the wash by whisking together the egg white with the 2 tbsp milk. Brush on the tops of the proofed buns.
  • Make the cross paste by mixing together the 1/3 cup of flour with the 1/4 cup water until smooth and there are no lumps of flour. Transfer to a piping bag and cut off the tip.
  • Pipe crosses on all the buns.
  • Bake in a 375F preheated oven for 23 minutes or until the internal temperature of the buns are 195F.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Nutrition

Per serving:

Calories: 218kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 6gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 119mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6g

Nutrition Disclaimer

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A rectangular baking dish full of fresh baked buns.

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