It’s no wonder that hot cross buns are a favorite around Easter, they are absolutely delicious. Imagine tender, rich brioche dough that is so soft and fluffy, you’ll want to crawl inside the buns and take a nap. The plump raisins keep the dough nice and juicy, and the hint of spice nicely ties together the flavors of winter and spring. If you’re not already crazy about this classic Easter treat, I promise that you will be after trying this recipe.
In the US, it’s common to use icing to decorate the finished buns with their namesake crosses. I prefer to go with the traditional version, which uses a paste of water and flour that is piped onto the buns prior to baking them. The buns are sweet enough on their own, and if you forego the icing, they will not only keep longer and be easier to store, but you’ll also be able to pop them in the oven or toast them the next morning to give them new life. If you can’t resist the sugary call of a sweet icing (I won’t judge), simply leave out the steps for the crosses in the recipe below and pipe icing crosses onto the buns after they have cooled down completely.
When I want to bake any kind of brioche, I usually go for Chad Robertson’s recipe, which calls for a sourdough starter and an overnight poolish (and, by the way, makes THE most amazing burger buns). But when I stumbled upon this hot cross bun recipe on ambrosiabaking.com, I thought I’d finally give a same-day brioche dough a try.
And I am so glad I did! This brioche comes out more fluffy and delicate than I could have hoped for and is seductively buttery and delicious. Give it a try. I guarantee that you will be thoroughly impressed.
If you’re having trouble, check out the tips and videos below the recipe, or your questions in the comments section.
This recipe has been adapted from ambrosia. The original dough recipe hails from Thomas Keller’s book Bouchon Bakery.
The ingredients for the dough are given in grams and baker’s percentage, so you can easily scale the recipe up or down and convert it to different units of measurement. If you’re not familiar with the concept of baker’s percentage (or baker’s math), it’s the easiest and most convenient way to write a baking formula. Each ingredient is expressed as a percentage of the total flour weight, so you always know the ratio between an individual ingredient and the amount of flour used. The total flour weight is always 100%. So in the formula below, 375 g = 100%. For this recipe, we are using 7.5 g active dry yeast, which is 2% of our total flour weight (7.5 g / 375 g = 0.02 x 100 = 2%). That means, if you wanted to use 1000 g of flour, you would need 20 g dry active yeast.
Hot Cross Buns
For the brioche dough
- 375 g all-purpose flour
- 7.5 g active dry yeast | 2%
- 45 g sugar | 12%
- 9 g salt | 2.4%
- 187 g eggs | 50%
- 64 g whole milk | 17%
- 170 g butter (cool room temperature) | 45%
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 200 g raisins
- 2 tablespoons spiced rum (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten (to brush buns)
For the crosses
- 75 g flour
- 75 g water
- pinch of cinnamon (optional)
- Combine flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook. Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Mix on low until well combined, about 5 minutes.
- Continue kneading on low for 30 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl and pulling the dough from the hook to ensure it is kneaded evenly.
- Cut butter into cubes and slowly add it to the dough in small portions, waiting for each portion to be incorporated before adding the next. (Resist the urge to turn up the speed. If the dough gets too warm, the butter will melt out.) Once all the butter has been incorporated, continue kneading for an additional 10 minutes. The dough should have good gluten development and look shiny. It should feel soft, pillowy, and tacky, but not sticky.
- Place raisins in a bowl and toss them with rum and vanilla extract. Let the raisins absorb the flavors for about 5 minutes. Cover with boiling water and let raisins plump for 5-10 minutes. Drain and gently pat dry.
- Prepare a bowl by lightly spraying or coating it with vegetable oil.
- Transfer brioche dough to a lightly floured work surface (use as little flour as possible here, or the dough will become too dry). If the gluten is well developed, the dough will anchor on the work surface, but release when pulled away without leaving any bits of dough behind. If the dough sticks to the counter top, use a little bit more flour. Shape the dough into a rectangle and top with the raisins. Fold the edges of the dough over the raisins and knead until the fruit is evenly distributed.
- Shape the dough into a rectangle, fold the right edge over the middle, about two thirds of the way, then fold the left edge over the middle (as if you are folding a letter). Flip the dough over (the seam is now facing down). Repeat the letter folding with the top and bottom edge. (You can watch a video of the folding pattern below.) Transfer dough to the lightly oiled bowl (seam down). Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature, about 70°F for 45 minutes. Repeat the folding pattern and return the dough to the bowl for another 45 minutes.
- Weigh the dough and divide it into 12 equal portions (use a scale). Shape the buns and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and proof for 90 minutes.
- About 30-60 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush the buns with the beaten egg. Combine flour, water, and cinnamon, and mix until a thick paste forms. Pipe the cross pattern.
- Bake at 350°F until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
- Serve warm, fresh from the oven, or toasted with butter. If the buns will be eaten right away, you can also glaze them with apricot jam or honey while they are still hot.
Tip: If you’re not a big fan of raisins, you can use any other kind of dried fruit, simply soak it in hot water or juice so they don’t draw too much moisture from the dough. Depending on how dehydrated the particular type of fruit is, you may want to consider soaking it over night. If you like your hot cross buns with more spice, you can increase the amount of cinnamon and add other spices, like ground ginger, nutmeg, orange zest, lemon zest, etc.
Tip: If you want to serve hot cross buns for breakfast (or brunch), simply mix the dough in the late afternoon/evening and retard the final rise by letting the shaped buns proof in the fridge overnight. Just make sure to cover them tightly with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.
Here is the folding pattern:
And here’s how to shape round buns and create surface tension: