Hot cross buns are now traditionally served during the Christian Easter season, on Fridays during Lent and on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. However, their roots are rumored to have come from pagan spring festivals. Easter and the spring equinox all represent the season of renewal of nature in different traditions. What we now consider a cross symbol on top of hot cross buns was also originally a cross in honor of the moon for Egyptians and Greeks, a representation of a full moon and its four quarters to Romans.
Yield: 12 buns
- 2 ounces fresh yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm milk
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 3 eggs
- 4 1/2 cups high-gluten flour
- Spice mix, recipe follows
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dark raisins
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
Glaze, recipe follows
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup milk, plus more as needed
Crumble the yeast into a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup of the warm milk (the milk should feel just warm to the touch but not hot). Using the dough hook attachment, gently mix together.
- Add the honey, butter, 2 eggs, flour, spice mix, salt, and raisins. Start the mixer and gently pour in the remaining 1 cup of milk while mixing. The dough should come together as a soft ball after a few minutes of mixing. If it is too sticky add a few sprinkles of additional flour; if it is too hard add a few more drops of cold milk.
- Turn this soft dough out directly onto a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise until about doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- When it has double in size, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough in half and each half in half, etc. until you have a dozen pieces. Shape these pieces into rounds with your hands. Place these rounds equally spaced apart on a floured piece of parchment on a sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until almost doubled in size. (If you press gently with your finger on a bun it should bounce back but your fingerprint should remain a bit.)
- Beat the remaining egg with a fork in a small bowl. Very gently brush this mixture on each of the buns. Using a sharp knife cut a cross shape in the top of each bun. Besides being decorative this allows the bread to rise nicely as it bakes.
- Bake in for about 15 minutes or until browned. Let cool.
- When cool, ice each bun with the glaze in a cross shape, following your cuts and using your spatula to drizzle icing on.
- Spice Mix:
Mix together all the ingredients.
Put the sugar in a large bowl with the milk. Work the sugar and milk together until combined, adding additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until you have a nice smooth thick glaze.