Hot Cross Buns are a traditional British treat reserved for Good Friday. They are lightly spiced yeasted sweet bun, studded with currants or raisins, and marked at the top with a cross that’s either etched into the dough, or piped in icing.
Origins of Hot Cross Buns:
By some accounts, their origins date back to the 12th century when an Anglican monk marked baked buns with a cross in honor of Good Friday. Later, they gained popularity in 16th century Elizabethan England. Some say that the reason was to ward off evil spirits or to protect sailors at sea from shipwreck. There’s even a children’s nursery rhyme about Hot Cross Buns that starts like this:
Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One a penny,
Two a penny,
Hot cross buns.
Whatever the source, the Master Taste Tester suggested that I should try my hand at making the Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.
I used the following ingredients: Egg, water, milk, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, Kosher salt, bread flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, yeast, and currants. I could have used raisins in place of the currants.
Making the Hot Cross Buns:
As always, I used my bread machine to do most of the work. I added all of the dough ingredients except for the currants to the pan of the bread machine in the order listed. Then, I selected the dough cycle, and let the bread machine start doing its work.
Once the dough had come together, I added the currants, and walked away.
When the dough cycle had finished, I formed the dough into 15 (1.13-ounce) balls. I flattened the balls and placed them on a silicon lined baking sheet.
I covered the baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel, and placed it in my electric oven that I had heated for exactly 1 minute and 45 seconds. This is a trick that I learned from Julia Child. It produces the ideal environment for the dough to rise!
After about 20 minutes, I piped crosses on the buns using a mixture of flour and water. Then, I returned the buns to the oven to complete their rise.
I let the buns continue rising for another 90 minutes. Then, I popped them into a preheated 350° F oven for 20 minutes. Half way through the 20 minutes, I removed them from the oven, and brushed the buns with an egg wash.
After that, I returned the buns to the oven for the final 10 minutes.
Traditionally, Hot Cross Buns are brushed with a simple syrup when they come out of the oven. However, the Master Taste Tester didn’t want that because of the added sweetness and, more importantly, because of the stickiness. That’s the reason that I used an egg wash.
I ended up with 15 delicious Hot Cross Buns just in time for Good Friday. The Master Taste Tester gave me a thumbs up on both appearance and taste. Yum!
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Bun Dough
- 1 large egg beaten, plus enough water to equal 7 ounces (½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons to ¾ cup )
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) whole milk
- ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
- 4 Tablespoons (½ stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- ¾ cup (3 ounces) currants*
- ⅓ cup (1.67 ounces) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup water
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 egg
- Combine all dough ingredients except for currants in pan of bread pan in the order listed. Set select dough cycle.
- Once dough has come together add currants.
- Transfer dough from bread machine at completion of dough cycle to a floured surface. Divide dough into 16 pieces ( ounces each). Form into ball; place on parchment of silicon lined baking sheet, leaving space between balls to allow for rising. (I put 8 per baking sheet.)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Allow to rise for 20 minutes in a warm location.** Pipe cross on buns. Allow buns to rise additional 60 to 90 minutes, or until doubled in size from original ball.
- Bake in 350° F preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Return to oven and cook for additional 10 minutes.
- Combine flour and water in a small bowl until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to pipe. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with #5 round tip. Set aside.