My Perfect Easter – Hot Cross Buns

The Easter holidays are always a special one. The first real holidays after Christmas, wrapped around a weekend, makes them something to really look forward to as a time with family and friends. Food plays a big part in these social events and I thought it would be interesting to share a little of what goes on at the table in our house over this long weekend. Maybe our traditional British treat is something you would enjoy as well?

Easter would not be Easter without hot cross buns. History about where they started is unclear, but many people believe it was in St Albans in the UK. A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the British Isles. The buns mark the end of Lent and different parts have different religious meanings. For many, they simple represent a gorgeous sweet treat that is toasted and served hot with butter. I like mine with a “twist using cherries with sumac, rather than currants. Sumac has a lovely, nearly purple colour, and a tart flavour that is like vinegar or lemon. It is an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and provides the “sharp and sweet” these buns need.



  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup unsalted melted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plain flour (can be wholemeal)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup currants (or if you are feeling naughty, chopped glace cherries with a sprinkle of sumac)
  • 1 egg beaten, for brushing on the top

For the icing:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


The way to do it – the recipe

Combine the water and milk in a medium sized saucepan and warm over low heat until about 38 degrees centigrade. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface of the liquid. Set aside without stirring (this is important), until foamy and rising up the sides of the pan, which takes about 30 minutes.

Then whisk the butter, egg yolk and vanilla into the yeast mixture you have prepared.

Then whisk the flour, the remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl. Make a dip or whole in the centre of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon to make a thick, slightly sticky dough. Then stir in currants (or instead my special ingredient). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, which takes about 6 -8 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

Then you need patience. Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put the dough in a bowl, turning to coat lightly with butter and then cover with a cloth or a plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size, normally about 1 hour 30 minutes. Get other family members to mark it on the bowl and watch it grow, but keep it covered!

Nearly there now, so butter a large baking tray. Turn the dough out of the bowl and shape the big lump into a rectangle about 40 cm by 20 cm. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, with a cutter or slice. Tuck the edges of the dough under to make round rolls and place them seam-side down on the prepared tray, leaving a little space in between each roll. They are going to grow! Cover the tray with buttered plastic wrap and put to one side. Again a nice warm place is good to watch them rise, for about 45 mins.

Get the baking oven ready at 190°C. Now comes the fun part. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops of the buns with the beaten egg. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, around 20-25 minutes.

For the sweet glaze, stir together the sugar, milk, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth. Transfer the paste to an icing bag and ice buns in a thick cross shape over the top of the warm buns.

I always allow mine to cool, the glaze to set, and then I toast them with some special, unsalted butter. It is a wonderful family event in our house at Easter.


Photo by Shutterstock

Photo by Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

About Jonathan Doughty

Jonathan DoughtyJonathan Doughty became known in 1993 as founder and Global Managing Director of Coverpoint Foodservice Consultants based in the UK. One of Jonathan Doughty's outstanding abilities is to design new dining areas and food courts for new and existing shopping centers. He and his team will analyze the potential of ECE's around 150 portfolio centers for new and refurbishment food projects and implement them.

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