I made a couple batches of these sweet rolls that are a cross between yeast-y dinner rolls and sweet breakfast buns. When I shared a picture with my mom, she asked what they were. I didn’t grow up eating hot cross buns, but when I told my mom the name, she was transported to her childhood—not for the buns themselves, but because of a nursery rhyme. “Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! … If you have no daughters, give them to your sons” is now playing on repeat in my head.
But even more fun than the Hot Cross Buns! song is making these warm, barely sweet delightful rolls. I saw these popping up on Instagram last year around Easter, so I started do my research on them. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent. They aren’t super sweet, but they aren’t savory either. They’re a wonderful blend of barely sweet and barely savory. Plus, a paste of equal parts flour and water is piped on them after they’ve risen, but before they’re baked, to give them their iconic look featuring a cross. After baking them, I brushed some honey butter on top to give them a nice glaze.
This recipe cheats a little and uses both yeast and baking powder. I did make a batch of these using just yeast, but yeast + baking powder works just fine too. In fact, I found the rolls with baking powder to have a slightly better texture. I hope you feel inspired to make these for Easter. I think this will be a new tradition for me!
Hot Cross Buns
1 and ¼ cup (10 ounces) whole milk, at room temp.
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 package)
4 ½ cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
2 (10 grams) teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons (~5 grams) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temp.
zest from one small orange
1 cup raisins
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
For the Paste
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (85 ml) water
For the Honey Butter Glaze
3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey
1. Line a 9 x 13” pan with parchment paper or a silplat. Add the room temperature milk to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk in the yeast to dissolve. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, softened butter, 2 eggs + yolk, and zest from one orange. Stir to combine.
2. Using the dough hook, knead for 7 minutes on medium-low speed (level 3 for KitchenAid). Add the raisins and diced apple and knead and additional two minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic and the raisins and apple are evenly dispersed.
3. Lightly butter a large glass bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with either a dish cloth or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about an hour. It will become puffy, but it’s ok if it doesn’t double in size.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 12 parts. Using floured hands, form each part into a ball. Due to the raisins and apple, the ball won’t be completely smooth, but that’s ok. Add each ball to the lined baking sheet, spacing all 12 evenly apart. Cover the baking (plastic wrap ok) and allow to rise a second time until they’re touching and look bloated and puffy.
5. Preheat oven to 375F. Make the flour paste by whisking together equal parts flour and water. Whisk well so the batter is not lumpy. Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain, small to medium tip. (If the batter is too runny, you can just mix in a little flour.) Pipe a cross on each bun. Transfer the buns to the oven.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden-brown. While baking, prepare the honey butter by stirring the melted butter with honey in a small bowl. Once the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the honey butter.
7. Carefully lift up the parchment paper or silplat and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool. Allow to cool completely (or enjoy warm, if you’re like me and you can’t wait!)
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