Hot Cross Buns (2) Recipe

Hot Cross Buns

If you have a book to write, I recommend hiding out for a few days in the comfort of a mountain house, preferably in a region where spring is a bit tardy, so the weather will make it easy for you to stay in and type. For fresh air, throw in a few healthy walks to spot the first daffodils (the mist will also make your hair nice and wavy) and a few morning visits to the market. For distraction, a daytrip to Munster and Colmar, and lots of reading.

For nourishment and in no particular order, some nice knepfle (an Alsacian pasta made with fresh eggs, a bit larger than spätzle), an excellent choucroute, a tarte flambée (a thin disk of bread dough topped with cream, onions, and smoked lardoons, baked in a wood-fire oven), smoked pork meat and roïgabrageldi (a dish of potatoes slowly cooked with onions and smoked lard, called töffel in the Vosgian dialect), some Munster cheese infused with elderberry flowers, and an outstanding sheep’s milk Barikaas, a mountain cheese most commonly made with cow’s milk. (All of this in moderation of course, and with a salad on the side so you’ll get your daily intake of greens.)

A bit of baking is also quite welcome, especially if it is Easter and you feel like making hot cross buns. This year, my mother and I decided to try the recipe that Pascale had featured on her blog, adapted from a Delia Smith book. We made them by hand (I had wisely left the race car at home) but with just ten minutes of kneading, it is hardly strenuous.

I was much more confident this time than the last, and I am now quite convinced that yeast is sensitive to that: the buns rose and baked beautifully, and they were a delightful treat for tea, spread with a bit of butter, my mother’s wild raspberry jam, or some mountain honey. The only thing we didn’t love were the crosses on top of each bun: they were simply made of flour and water, and of course this baked into something bland and crispy, which didn’t add much aside from decoration. The buns would merit something softer and sweeter, perhaps strips of a more supple dough or a thick frosting (all suggestions are very welcome).

Hot Cross Buns

[Slightly adapted from Pascale’s recipe, itself adapted from a Delia Smith recipe.]

For the buns
– 450 g (3 1/2 cups) flour
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon French four-spice mix (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves)
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
– 2 envelopes (12 g) active dry yeast (I use the SAF brand)
– 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
– 100 g (3.5 ounces) raisins
– 150 mL (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lukewarm milk
– 50 mL (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) lukewarm water
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 50 g (1/4 cup) softened butter

For the crosses and glaze
– 3 tablespoons flour
– 1 to 2 tablespoons water
– 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Makes 12 buns.

– I don’t recommend the flour/water mix for the crosses (see above) but I am writing out the method anyway, in case you want to try it.
– We halved the recipe to make six buns, and used the remaining half of the egg for the glaze.
– In addition to or in place of raisins, you can use candied orange rind, diced. We would have liked that, but didn’t have any on hand. A bit of lemon or orange peel would be lovely too.
– Instead of the spices listed, we used a spice mix called épices à gâteaux purchased in Gérardmer.

Combine the flour, salt, spices, yeast, sugar, and raisins in a large mixing-bowl. Form a well in the center, and pour in the milk and water. Stir with a wooden spoon in small circular movements from the center, to gradually incorporate the liquids into the dry ingredients. When the liquids are just incorporated, add in the butter, and keep stirring until the dough has swallowed it up. Gather the dough into a ball, add a little flour if it feels sticky, a little water if it feels dry.

Knead the dough (inside the mixing-bowl or on a lightly floured surface) for ten minutes — after a minute or two, the dough will start to get stickier than it was at first, but it will become smooth and elastic again as you keep kneading.

Lightly sprinkle the mixing bowl with flour, put the dough in, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm spot for an hour — it should double in volume. Punch the dough down, divide it into twelve squarish buns, and arrange the buns on two parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 5 centimeters (two inches) of space between them. Cover with kitchen towels, and let rise again in the same warm spot for 30 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, prepare the crosses: combine 3 tablespoons flour with enough water to form a ball of dough (start with one tablespoon, and add just a little more water to reach the desired consistency). Spread it out thinly on a lightly floured surface, and cut 24 thin strips, about 15 centimeters (6 inches) in length. Pour two tablespoons water into a shallow plate, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F). When the buns have completed their second rise, top each one with two strips of dough, lightly dipped in the prepared plate of water, and arranged crosswise. Brush with the eggwash, and slip into the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until browned and beautiful (they should make a hollow sound if you tap the bottom lightly with the back of a spoon). Let cool, slice horizontally, toast, and eat with butter and jam.

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  • These look a little poufier than the last. I always enjoy comparing recipes. Sounds like you had a wonderful Easter weekend. Hope it’s a good week.

  • lynn

    For the cross, I think heat a mixture of powdered sugar and lemon juice and use a spoon to or blade of a knife to form the cross.

  • grazie, per questo reddito.

  • I use kitchen scissors to heavily snip a cross into the tops of the buns before baking, then (sometimes) drizzle a thin glaze into the canyons afterwards. It makes them fun to eat, too, because then they fracture into four bite-sized parts.

  • Jude

    Those look lovely :) Perhaps you could use fondant to create crosses? That might be overly sweet though. Thankyou for your recipe, I enjoyed your blog so much I read right back to the beginning!

  • Wow ! They’re so gorgeous !!

  • I was shocked at hearing that the cross was flour and water. Here in America the cross is made with a nice, white glaze which is powdered sugar, lemon juice and maybe zest, vanilla and I think sometimes a tiny bit of almond extract. I always thought the cross was the best part and wished that the entire top was covered in icing instead of just the two intersecting lines.

  • sam

    Ok – Brit weighs in. Fondant is NOT acceptable cos then you can’t put the buns in the toaster and that, my friends, is the whole point! These look great to me, Clotilde, just like the real mcoy. How about if you just roll the cross pieces out a whole lot thinner so that they are purely decorative and the flour/water paste has a far less impact on the taste?

  • I’d also recommend a frosting of powdered (confectioner’s) sugar with a little dribble of milk, lemon or orange juice until you get the desired consistency. A little nutmeg would add a nice touch too. This is my favorite frosting period. Great on bread rolls, cake, cupcakes, EVERYTHING.

  • Mel

    I agree with the other Americans — cut a heavy cross into the buns before baking, then make a thin icing of powdered sugar, lemon juice and a bit of milk and drizzle the cross over the top. Delicious when still warm!

  • Why not two thin strips of almond paste, rolled out into the requisite size and fitted neatly onto the tops of the buns? You could gild the lily by flavoring the paste with rosewater, but plain it’d be just as delicious, especially brushed with the egg glaze and burnished in the oven…

  • I’m off to Alsace this week and I cannot wait to try out all of the delicacies you described! Your hot cross buns look beautiful! Way to go.


  • salmonista

    The bakery where I buy them makes the crosses with either a sort of custardy stuff or a lemon jelly stuff, but I don’t know how they make either one. I don’t like frosting crosses because they tend to melt and disappear when you heat the buns. I’ve never had the flour and water paste–maybe it would be better with some flavoring in it, like almond essence. BUT, I do feel strongly that the cross needs to be cut into the dough before it’s baked. Without that, it’s just a bun with a cross drawn on top, not a real hot cross bun.

  • salmonista

    I think luisa is onto something there with the almond paste crosses. Sounds like the perfect solution.

  • When I was a kid, during Easter Sunday, the priest would visit each house to bless it and it was tradition to have oranges on the table–I think we gave them to the priest but I can’t remember for sure. So my suggestion to make the cross would be sliced candied orange peel.

  • What would be excellent for the crosses instead of the flour/water paste is a nice roll of mazipan. It would brown a little so it would probably have to be added later. So I would suggest slashing the cross buns, letting them cook most of the way and adding a marzipan/amond paste ribbon towards the end of cooking time. Enough time for the ribbon to get all gooey and melty but not enough time for it to brown and crisp.

    And yes… yeast can sense fear. Much like large dogs and computers.

  • Alisa

    Those are so pretty!

    I have never tried a hot cross bun – but I know the nursery rhyme :)

  • I love hot cross buns,but I make mine with many fewer spices…only nutmeg! I will try it this way next time.

    I had 3 French friends over for Easter dinner yesterday and none of them were familiar with hot cross buns! One of them didn’t like them at all, while the other two devoured theirs.

  • J. Bo

    Clotilde, you’re absolutely right about yeast being able to sense fear or trepidation in the baker; most doughs are sensitive that way.

    As for the crosses, my family recipe calls for the slash-and-drizzle method mentioned in some of the comments, and it’s nice, but if you like the 3-D effect, why not try using little snakelettes of the bun dough itself instead of the flour-water paste?

  • Mark

    I agree with the Brit’s comment about fondant/icing not being ideal – you want to be able to toast your buns!
    The hot cross buns I remember from my childhood in South Africa used a slightly sweet and chewy white dough – not just flour and water, but something pretty simple. Scrounging around on the web, it looks like flour, a little butter and water should do the trick.
    See TooManyChefs

  • Meg

    Another American vote here: definitely try the sugar glazing next time, Clotilde. You can always toast them in the oven if you don’t gobble them all up in the first 24 hours…as you undoubtedly will if you go with the sugar glazing.!

    I’ve actually posted both versions on if you are curious to see the his and hers/Brit and American versions:


  • Great buns Clotilde.

  • AmyB

    I, too, wanted to make hot cross buns for Easter. I had no ricotta for your recipe, so I looked up a recipe from Gourmet on epicurious. According to this recipe, one can make a cross out of butter pastry.
    I ran out of enthusiasm, so made challah instead. Very tasty and popular but I still have a “yen” for hot cross buns.

  • good god girl, you’re killin’ us!

  • I have been used to the sugar glaze on hot cross buns, and that is what I used when I made them for the first time this year. I like Luisa’s almond/marzipan idea, though. Actually, when I first saw the photo, that’s what I thought you’d used, and it seemed very clever. A person cannot have too much marzipan.

  • Kathy

    I vote for the marzipan too !! I was going to suggest it, but Luisa beat me to it. It seems logical not only that the crosses be edible, but that they should guild the lily !! Marzipan…yum !!

  • Marina

    Flour and water, definately. When I make them, the cross mixture is very thin and watery, not quite runny, so it has the effect of simply preventing the buns from browning there. It creates a nice visual but doesn’t have any taste or texture. I like it better than frosting because with these simple things, the sweetness is all inside! :)

  • Kyna

    Living in England, I have only ever eaten and made hot cross buns with flour and water crosses. I have always rather enjoyed these, either eaten with the bun, or carefully peeled off to be nibbled separately. However, when I have made them, I have used a slightly runnier mix, about 2tbs flour and 1-2 tbs water. Occasionally, I have used a milk glaze so the crosses are being added to a moist surface, making them even less firm. Admittedly, I’m only 16 and so have no cooking experience other than with my mother’s aga, which possibly leads to a different texture anyway, but this mix could be worth a try.

  • Gillian Norris

    The buns are traditionally glazed then a flour and water cross is added – a paste rather than a solid piece.
    The buns are usually toasted to eat as they are to be HOT cross buns

    Glaze – heat I tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp water with a good pinch of gelatine in a small saucepan. Add a strip of lemon skin and stir to dissolve sugar. Brush over buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

    Cross Mixture – Mix 2 level Tbsp of SR flour with about 2 Tbsp cold water to a smooth paste. Pipe mixture onto buns before baking.

  • Paris

    My hot cross buns came out like hockey pucks, confirming that yes, the yeast I thought might be too old was too old. But the cross glazing came out amazing. My recipe called for the sugar & water glaze that the Americans have recommended, but I substituted Mastiha sweet instead of sugar and it was divine.

    Mastiha sweet is a mixture of mastiha oil, sugar and glucose with a texture like thick honey. My Greek housemate left a pot of it behind when she moved out and I don’t know if she brought it from Greece or not, but I highly recommend tracking it down.

  • Even though Kyna is only 16, she’s right. The mixture for the crosses should be much runnier. There’s an excellent recipe for hot cross buns in Dan Lepard’s ‘Baking with Passion’ – I made them again today and they were brilliant.

    I’ve been reading & enjoying your blog for a while now – so it’s about time I commented.

  • Hello Everyone,
    Like Jane I have been lurking around here for a while so it is time I contributed. I thought you might be interested in an old recipe – this one contains saffron. It is from Cassell”s “Dictionary of Cookery”, published in the 1870″s.

    Hot Cross Buns.
    Mix two pounds of flour with a small teas-spoonful of powdered spice and half a tea-spoonful of salt. Rub in half a pound of good butter. Make a hollow in the flour and pour in a wine-glassful of yeast and half a pint of warmed milk lightly coloured with saffron. Mix the surrounding flour with the milk and yeast to a thin batter; throw a little dry flour over, and set the pan before the fire to rise. When risen, work in a little sugar, one egg, half a pound of currants, and milk to make a soft dough. Cover as before, and let it stand half an hour.Then make the dough into buns, and mark them with the back of a knife. Time fifteen to twenty minutes to bake. Probable cost 1d. each. Sufficient for twenty-four buns.

    There is another recipe in the book under the heading of Good Friday Buns – it is similar but has no saffron, and the tops are glazed with melted butter and slashed with a knife. It would have made a very long post, but I’ll happily email that recipe to anyone who wants it.
    It looks like the paste crosses are a relatively new idea.

  • Those look wonderful

  • J. Bo

    I know this is off-topic re: the buns, but I had to share this KitchenAid picture:

  • Estelle

    It’s better to do a thick flour/water paste you’re piping on top of your buns, instead of a dough. The result won’t be dry in this case and you’ll stay in the “true” (if this concept exists in cookery, which I personnally doubt) British tradition.

    I always wanted to try a “creme patissiere” for the crosses on the hot cross buns, the kind you find on the “couronne des rois” in the South of France…

    On another subject, I tried the “Carbonnades Flamandes” last week-end (you see, in UK, the weather is still cold enough for this kind of dish). There was a lot of mmmh-ing around the table. Thank you for this good culinary moment!

    And congratulations for this mouthwatering blog.


  • Now I know what I’m doing with my day!

  • I have been told that the cross is to help the bun rise and has been made on baked goods for years.
    I cut a cross in my risen hot cross buns and then dribble in a fairly thin flour, water and sugar paste to form the contrasting pale cross – toastable which as said above is vital! The details are here .

  • We make Easter Buns, leaving a hole in the center, to form a donut looking-like bun…actually a nest, and in the center we added a hard boiled egg.
    You could always making crosses and forego round…You asked for ideas!

  • Steph

    OK – another Brit weighing in behind Sam here! You really need to go with the flour and water crosses so you can TOAST them!!!! As Sam suugested smaller/thinner here – it’s not a flavour enhancer but a decorative thing going on here.
    Toasting really, really, really is the point :-)

    Oh, and a nice cup of tea, with that, of course…

  • daniel

    Hey I made hot x buns too. Mine were more scone-ish and very, very ramshackle. The crosses were more like runny splodges! Your Xs are beaut and uniform. I shall stick to spooning the X mixture over though (yours are a tad too uniform for me). I love Nigella’s idea of infusing a clove and a couple cardamom pods with the milk and melted butter while you get on with measuring and combining the dry ingerdients

  • Sophie

    Away from the hot Hot Cross Buns debate, I just wanted to say that you made my day by mentioning the ‘roïgabrageldi’. I just dribble at the sound of this word !
    It rains here today in Nottingham, UK. I would love to go for a long walk on the Sentier des Roches near the Hohneck and finish my day with a gigantic ‘repas marcaire’. Have a nice day!

  • I would be interested to see how they came out with the toasting method mentioned by Steph. They look delightful, though.

  • Sarah

    Hi the hot cross buns are kool nice and taste

  • Yum! I love hot cross buns. Did you know the cross is actually of a pagan origin, and doesn’t actually represent Christ?

  • Spent Easter in France this year so missed out on my hot cross buns! But had all sorts of other wonderful buns and cakes! Only just found this blog – excellent reading,

  • For a Scandinavian twist – probably the least effortless choice too – fill the cross with a mixture of white sugar and a few small lumps of butter. These will slightly melt in the oven and is one of the most delicious simple treats you can imagine.

  • fiona

    Just made the hot x buns. Delicious.

    Did slightly change the recipe. Forgot the egg, added currents instead of raisins, and orange zest, and citronnat. For the cross I did as my Mum taught me, just a cut with a sharp knife before the second rising. Finally, glazed with sugar syrup when just out of the oven.

    Thanks ! I love your blog.

    Joyeuses Pâques. Fiona

  • Carl

    Hi Clotilde
    Thought this link might interest you if you are making Hot Cross Buns this year.

    I am hoping to try it myself.

    On a side note have you read this.

    I have divided my starter to hopefully follow this method fully. I like the idea of freezing the starter instead of constantly having to care for it.

  • Carl – Thanks for the links — very interesting indeed!

  • Caroline Darrah-Morgan

    I tried putting sugar in the crosses once, but it made them darker and they didn’t show up nearly as well. I usually just use the flour and water paste and then peel it off before eating the buns to leave a nice white cross in the crust. I make rather more buns and put them buns in rows touching one another, and make the paste soft enough to pipe on, first straight across a row vertically and then horizontally – quick and easy!

  • Gill

    I made a dozen hot cross buns this morning which I divided between two friends. Ours are now in the oven. I have been making them for the past 39 years and have always made the crosses with thin strips of shortcrust pastry. A tip I got from either The Good Housekeeping magazine (the bun recipe I use) or the Cordon Bleu Cookery course that was published on a weekly basis starting in the late ’60s

  • jojoboop

    Merci pour cette recette. La traduction en français m’arrangerait bien et peut-être d’autrezs pêrsonnes aussi…merci bien
    Joyeuse fêtes de Pâques!

  • These look perfect!

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