Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot Cross Buns for Easter - How to Make Them?

The Smell of Sweet Spices to Perfume your Spring Kitchen

picture photograph  copyright of sam breach recipe for how to make hot cross buns

As young girls my sister and I would often dash to open the front door whenever the door bell rang, slipping and sliding on the polished wooden hallway floor as we raced to be the one who would enquire about the business of the caller, before relaying the information to our mother. Usually an adult face would greet us from beyond the other side of the double glass doors that protected our small porch and we would have no qualms about politely grilling them to find out what they wanted.

Once a year, however, we would be caught out by the gruesome sight of a gangly group of nerdy little boys dressed in spiffy uniforms shuffling nervously, patiently waiting to deliver their important message. These were miniature Boy Scouts, collectively known as Cubs.

When met with a group of expectant faces nearer our own age and of the opposite sex no less, we would fast lose our usual nerve and bravado, shyly rudely turning away from the youngsters to holler "MUM!" in the most anxious and blood-curdling of tones, knowing full well she would rush from whatever she was doing to save her little darlings from the monsters who had apparently invaded our castle.

As she approached the door, we would each take position, behind a crack in the door or beyond the safety-net of a curtain, to watch as she made a deal. "I'll have a dozen" she'd say, as one of the boys scribbled some details on a notepad before scrabbling off our property as fast as their little high sock and short-adorned legs would carry them.

picture photograph  copyright of sam breach recipe for how to make hot cross buns
What my mother was doing was ordering Hot Cross Buns. In those days, you didn't buy a pack and then get one free at your local supermarket, oh no! On Good Friday morning (a public holiday in the UK), the Boy Scouts and Cubs would deliver freshly-baked Hot Cross Buns right to your front door.

I am ashamed to confess that because of my aversion to dried fruit I screwed up my little face until it was as wrinkled as the currants that dot the insides of a hot cross bun just at the mere thought of eating one. I watched jealously as my mother and sister toasted the halved yeasty morsels, before slathering them in salty butter and devouring them with sheer delight. The heady aroma of spices that marked the household was so alluring I would nevertheless sometimes secretly toast one for myself and try to pick out the currants.

Please explain: I really don't understand American Hot Cross Buns where the cross is piped from a sugar icing when the whole point of this once-a-year treat is to toast it until golden and indulge in the decadent consequences of doing so: Butter, aroma, then Heaven. I've never tried to put icing in the toaster and I am not going to start now.

But starting now, I have decided, just like that, to at once overcome my unjustifiable fear of the wee currants. Raisins - they are still on my hate list, where I hope they will stay, but this year I bravely insisted to myself that from now on, in moderation, currants are OK. It was the smell that drove me to taking this drastic move. I missed it. I needed it. It was imperative in 2007 that I should eat a hot cross bun.

I googled for a recipe and was presented with two stellar-sounding choices: Delia or the BBC, both of whom are usually stalwart sources when researching British recipes.

I read through them both a couple of times before deciding on the BBC version for a number of reasons:
1) The BBC uses fresh yeast, Delia uses dried. I prefer to work with fresh yeast which is 100s of times cheaper than the dried stuff. It also seems more real to me. It is alive.
2) Delia's version used milk. I never have milk in the house so it would have been a special purchase. Then I would have wasted the leftovers, no doubt. I didn't want to do that when instead the BBC version contained an egg. I always have an egg in the house, and good eggs at that.
3) Delia's version called for dried peel. Have you tried to get dried peel in California? No! Don't bother. The BBC recipe called for fresh lemon zest. How convenient, therefore, that I was recently given a bag full of Meyer lemon's from a colleague's tree.
4) Delia makes those perfectly formed crosses that look stuck on. I favour the BBC recipe where the cross is piped into place before being baked into the bun resulting in a much more natural, organic-looking product.
5) Delia goes to the palaver of making a sugar syrup glaze. Why bother when you can follow the BBC's suggestion and use the Golden Syrup you already have in your pantry?

BBC Hot Cross Bun Recipe Notes
- In Britain you can buy a jar of 'Mixed Spice' which is exactly what you would use in a Hot Cross Bun recipe. There is no such thing in the USA. I used a mix of ground ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and ginger cinnamon instead, with perfect results.

- I used bread flour - the US equivalent of 'strong white flour'.

- After brushing the baked buns with warmed golden syrup they are gloriously sticky. By the next day however, most of the syrup has soaked in to the dough. This is probably just as well since you are about to pop it in the toaster.

- OK - currants are OK, but I don't love them like they are my new best friend. In my opinion the currants inside hot cross buns should be few and far between. Hence I reduced the amount suggested to just a couple of ounces. Perfect.

- I found scissors much easier than a knife for snipping the cross shape on the top of the bun.

- I served the Hot Cross Buns, toasted with freshly churned Spring Hill salted Jersey butter. 'Awesome' is what I think one of my colleagues emailed me after he'd partaken of the Hot Cross Bun ritual as instructed.

Are YOU going to make Hot Cross Buns this year?

PS I am really glad I went with the BBC version after just reading about this less successful Delia attempt over at Cooking for Engineers.

Other Resources & Further Reading
This post was produced as a dedication to my family for Waiter, there's something in my ... Easter basket! hosted by Johanna at The Passionate Cook.

+ For lots more Easter recipes from food bloggers check out this amazing list here.

2005 | Bristol Farmer's Market, England (can you spot the hot cross buns?)

© 2007 Sam Breach at "Becks & Posh", This RSS Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, or at the aforementioned url, the site you are looking at might be guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact[AT]gmail[DOT]com to report any suspected violations. Thank you.
Hot Cross Buns for Easter - How to Make Them?


  • At 29/3/07 00:55, Blogger Beccy said…

    Sam, I love your description of the cubs coming round selling the buns. Now I know where those missing buns went!!!

    I'm really tempted to try and make them but am not sure where to buy fresh yeast, can you use dried instead?

  • At 29/3/07 01:54, Blogger Beccy said…

    Funnily enough passionatecook I used to work in Sainsburys in the bakery, in those days we did sell it. Unfotunately no Sainsburys here and although I'll try Tecso they seem to mostly bake frozen bread from France so I'm not too hopeful.

  • At 29/3/07 03:32, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I actually plan on making them with little jewish stars :-) before passover begins so I can indulge. I first tried these in france and they were glorious. but i the ones i saw in france had currents AND the sugary icing cross. and while normally i loathe sugar icing, this actually (perhaps bc it was so sparingly applied) was delicious. so what's a passover-observant girl to do around easter time? make these beforehand :)

  • At 29/3/07 04:16, Blogger louise said…

    Yes! I have tried to get candied peel in California (to make mincemeat for mince pies and for Christmas cake) and it was a nightmare! I eventually found it at a shocking price at Oakville Grocery.
    Well, I wasn't planning on hot cross buns, but after that post, I'll have to do it. It'll be the perfect baking project to inaugaurate my new kitchen.

  • At 29/3/07 05:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm always up for a baking challenge and "toast it until golden and indulge in the decadent consequences of doing so: Butter, aroma, then Heaven" sounds like my kind of bun. These look denser than the kind I usually see in the bakeries in the US--more like a brioche. I have two questions: is the golden syrup Lyle's and (like Beccy), do you think you could sub dried for fresh yeast?

  • At 29/3/07 05:57, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    Sam, what gorgeous photos. I have to confess, I've never really known what "hot cross buns" were until I saw this post.

  • At 29/3/07 06:29, Blogger Unknown said…

    In your "notes on" section you describe the spice mix and list ginger twice. Ground ginger at the beginning, and then just ginger at the end. Do you use two forms of ginger, or was that just an oops?

  • At 29/3/07 06:48, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam- I will need to try these. I've tried three years in a row to recreate the ones my grandmother made, to very poor results. These look light and airy, as hers were. My daughter likes to make them, of course, because of the nursery rhyme.

  • At 29/3/07 08:09, Blogger Gemma said…

    I love hot cross buns but have never tried to make them - maybe it's time. I was baffled when I first heard about people putting icing on for the cross as you say they must go in the toaster and come out to be slathered in butter!

  • At 29/3/07 09:50, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I fished out the BBC recipe on a whim the other night too. It is really quite good. Worked well with 'white flour' from local farm here in Yorkshire which turend out to be slightly wholemeal .Gives them a slightly nutty edge without making them heavy. And some apple was definitely a good addition!

  • At 29/3/07 10:20, Blogger ChrisB said…

    Oh Sam this is so descriptive it had me laughing as the memories came tumbling back. I could never understand your aversion to dried fruit and the buns are not exactly packed with fruit. Your buns look wonderful how I would love one (sigh).

  • At 29/3/07 11:47, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for the giggling little girls answering the door imagery, that was great. As for the mixed spice, in the U.S. the equivalent is pumpkin pie spice, though in Britain mixed spice can sometimes include coriander, I think everything else is just about the same, though the ratio of spices can vary from one brand to another.

  • At 29/3/07 11:59, Blogger Anita (Married... with dinner) said…

    Mary beat me to posting the pumpkin-pie spice suggestion. There's also apple-pie spice, which it seen less often.

    This sounds like a perfect candidate for "first baking project". And my mom's coming for easter week, so this would give us something to make together.

  • At 29/3/07 12:03, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have several of Delia's cookbooks (for Christmas,Winter and How to Cook) and several of her recipes have become absolute staples with me , so I was a bit saddened to see that her recipe didn't fare too well. I will try the BBC one this weekend.Here in eastern Canada there's no problem getting dried peel, must be the Scottish background in the province ! I had to chuckle , though, that in California you can get Golden Syrup, but not dried peel....? In my local experience a store that stocks the one will stock the other.
    Cultural differences across a country are fascinating....
    I have only recently discovered the world of foody bloggers and am enjoying it immensely.

  • At 29/3/07 12:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, I guess our cubs round our way were too busy stealing cars, or whatever they do in birmingham. Oh well! I did manage to snag a hot cross bun when I went home a couple of weeks ago though. Mmmm.

  • At 29/3/07 16:01, Blogger Chef Jeena said…

    Hi there, nice blog - I love hot cross buns but never thought about making them until I saw those pictures :)

    visit jeena's kitchen healthy recipe blog

  • At 29/3/07 16:26, Blogger Janice said…

    I just got back from Manchester so I've been hoarding hot cross buns lately, but only the lowly Sainsbury ones. I'll have to try out this recipe.

    I had to use allspice for a Lebanese eggplant moussaka this weekend and bought mixed spice instead. Are they the same thing?

  • At 29/3/07 18:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Allspice is its own spice, not a mixture of different things. It is actually a berry found in the Caribbean and classified in Latin as a pepper, pimenta dioica, because that's what Columbus was looking for when he went West in search of pepper. The Europeans thought it tasted like a mix of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper, so the name allspice has stuck, though it is also sometimes called Jamaican pepper. Sorry if I'm sounding pedantic. I think that using allspice for hot cross buns might be rather interesting, as there's something of a kick to the stuff, so the "hot" name might take on a new meaning.

  • At 29/3/07 19:32, Blogger Hayden said…

    I AM making them this year, and I can hardly wait! I adore hot cross buns, so will make a double batch and freeze one before the final rise so I can eat them even tho the holiday is passed.

    I like cream cheese icing, but haven't tried icing and baking it in - sounds like something worth doing.

  • At 29/3/07 22:02, Blogger Tea said…

    Buns look lovely, Sam, but that's not what stopped me in my tracks. Did you really say you never have milk in the house? What do you put in your tea then?

    And Mary--thanks for the lesson on Allspice. That was fascinating.

  • At 29/3/07 22:11, Blogger Barbara said…

    I'm impressed you made hot cross buns. I may rise to the challenge if I feel up to it next week. I hated currants but like raisins. I've recently made a couple of savoury salads with a little currant in them and they weren't to bad.

  • At 30/3/07 10:31, Blogger Clare said…

    We used to sing a song called "Hot Cross Buns" in school...something like "hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns." I never knew what we were singing about until I got older, and I've never seen more delicious looking ones than the buns on your blog today!

  • At 30/3/07 15:10, Blogger Madam Chow said…

    Yes, I'm going to make them, and it will be my first time ever!

  • At 30/3/07 16:14, Blogger Janice said…

    Thanks, Mary! That is very helpful information.

  • At 31/3/07 20:07, Blogger Deborah Dowd said…

    I have never made these myself, but it is something I have wanted to try. Hot cross buns are a big thing for Catholics and my husband feels we have to have them on Easter, even though many of mt children, like you, are not big on candied fruit.

  • At 1/4/07 00:06, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I used the Delia recipe last year and ended up with dwarf bread.

    I'll try the BBC one this year. I don't have fresh yeast, but will substitute it with dried.

    Strangely I had success a couple of years ago with a weight watchers recipe! I must dig it out and try it again.

  • At 1/4/07 10:43, Blogger Sam said…

    Thanks for all the great info and comments everyone - I am so excited to have inspired a few people to perhaps try making hot cross buns.

    About the yeast - yes try a bakery, Beccy. I buy a large block for 50 cents or so and then cut it into half an ounce pieces and wrap in cling film and freeze. I make bread all the time and the block lasts about 6 months that way. Definitely cut before you freeze though.

    thanks also for the double ginger correction - I meant cinnamon and adjusted the post accordingly.

    I can't wait to see some hot cross buns on other peoples' blogs and remember - if you do it and write about it in time you can enter it in to my Fish and Quips event.

    I usually love Delia - so I am sorry to hear her Hot+ bun recipe doesn't work out for everyone.

  • At 2/4/07 04:18, Blogger . sammi . said…

    Absolutely gorgeous! Mouthwatering I will be making some hot cross buns later today, will post on my blog..I have added you to my blog links :)


  • At 2/4/07 10:23, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i tried out a really well reviewed recipe off epicurious yesterday. the buns taste great, but they're hardly buns at all -- more like pancakes. the dough rose beautifully and somehow the result was flat and dense!

    i want to try the BBC recipe but went to several bakeries and had no luck (why i went to epicurious) and i don't have a very exact kitchen scale. i've gone through and adjusted as best i can the weights to volume, and live yeast to dry active. if anyone out there is good with conversions could you take a look and let me know if this is right? i really want to try these buns!


    For the ferment starter:
    1 large egg, beaten
    215 mL warm water
    2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    3/8 cup strong white flour

    For the dough:
    3 cups strong white flour
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp ground mixed spice
    3/8 cup butter cut into cubes
    105 mL cups sugar
    1 lemon, grated, zest only
    1 cup mixed dried fruit
    2 tbsp plain flour
    oil, for greasing
    1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing

  • At 4/4/07 12:43, Blogger ss said…

    I too remember singing "Hot Cross Buns" in school and reading about them in various British children's books and having no idea what they were, only knowing they sounded delicious. Can't wait to try making them. One question, where in San Francisco can I find Golden Syrup?

  • At 4/4/07 13:10, Blogger Sam said…

    wholefoods in SOMA is where i got mine
    call and check first to make sure it is in stock

    there is a british store in potrero that sells it too, i can't remember the address cos i justknow how to get there but i can look it up if needs be

  • At 5/4/07 16:34, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam- I think I know the British grocery you're talking about-15th and Potrero or something like that. Thanks!

  • At 7/4/07 16:59, Blogger sallywrites said…

    Well at least all those cookery courses at Tante Marie weren't wasted Sam! There is a distinct difference between my very homemade looking hot cross buns and your lovely looking professionally made ones. Thank you so much for making such a lovely commnet about mine though!!!

    Good tip about the golden syrup glaze too, I shall do that next year. They look brilliant as a reult and taste nice too I expect! AHppy Bank holidayless Easter!! Do you have any bank holidays, or is there no such thing?

  • At 13/4/07 10:37, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?"

    "Hot, cross bunnies."

    There you go, Sam, don't say I never gave you anything!

    : D

    (I've had that silly joke for about thirty years.)

  • At 20/3/08 08:37, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Here's my Aussie version - currents are optional - the flavor of these are super impressive, the texture is superior. it took me 6 recipes and as many batches of cricket ball like buns to get something that not just imitations, but cold be mistaken for what you can get at the bakery - or probably from the local cubs :-) Enjoy
    Aussie Hot crossed buns

    Granulated Sugar, 1Tbsp
    Gelatine, 1 packet ~1 teaspoon
    Boiling Water, 1Tbsp

    Place Buns ingredients in bread machine in the order listed, Kneed for 6 minutes only adding currants at the 4 minute mark. Allow to prove for 45mins to an hour till doubled in size.
    weigh dough and divide into 12ths. gently kneed into rolls and place on baking tray. Allow to prove for another hour till rolls have doubled in size.
    mix paste ingredients together so no lumps exist, pipe crosses on rolls. A plastic bag with the corner snipped off makes a great makeshift piping bag.
    Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes till rolls are 190 degrees in center.
    Mix gelatin sugar and water and heat in microwave or on stove for 1-2 minutes till sugar is dissolved and glaze reaches about 200 degrees. Use pastry brush to brush glaze over tops of hot rolls. Serve while still warm or allow to cool and server toasted with butter.

  • At 21/3/08 11:00, Blogger Farrah said…

    I've kneaded the dough and am waiting for it to rise... *fingers crossed here* Thanks so much for your blog!

    I'm living in NYC and yes; it's SO strange that dried mixed fruit doesn't seem to exist here.

    I'm Singaporean and only just moved to the US. I could find almost any form of ingredient in Singapore; but I've found simple things like fresh cream and back bacon simply do not exist.. or they do at an extreme cost

  • At 3/4/09 15:46, Blogger Vulgar Baker said…

    I am a baker in Canada, and my hot cross bun recipe is modified from a Greek Easter bread with Mastica resin in it, and the dried apricot/currant combo. I am checking out this site to grab a dough for the cross. I say NO way to icing on the top! And YES to toasting!

  • At 21/1/10 19:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I"ve been looking for a recipe that does not include the ridiculous icing cross. Thank you!


Post a Comment

<< Home