According to tradition, Hot Cross Buns originated on Good Friday in 1361 at St Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire, north of London, where the monks gave them to the poor people who came there on that holy day. Each bun is marked with the shape of a cross to symbolize Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. Some say that the dried fruit in the bun represents the nails of the crucifixion.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs, room temperature (I sent one of the kids out to the chicken coop!)
- 3/4 cup currants (I used raisins – can also substitute some currants for candied peel)
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
For the glaze:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the frosting (optional):
- 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Whisk the dry ingredients: In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, vigorously whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving additional flour for later step), the salt, spices, and 1/4 cup of sugar.
Make the dough: Create a well in the flour and add the foamy yeast and milk mixture, softened butter, eggs, and the remaining milk. Using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients until well incorporated. The mixture should be quite sticky. Add in the currants, optional candied peel, and orange zest.
Knead the dough, adding more flour as needed: If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and start to knead on low speed. (If not using a mixer, use your hands to knead.) Slowly sprinkle in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition, until the flour is still slightly tacky, but is no longer completely sticking to your fingers when you work with it. Total kneading time should be about 7 minutes in a mixer or 10 minutes by hand.
Let sit 30-40 min (second rise): Let the dough mounds sit at room temperature (or warm place) to rise again, until the mounds have doubled in volume, about 30-40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush with egg wash: Prepare egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk. If you want, you can score the top of the buns with a knife in a cross pattern. You will want to make fairly deep cuts, for the pattern to be noticeable after they’re done. Using a pasty brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough mounds. The egg wash will give them a shiny appearance when cooked.
Make and pipe frosting in cross pattern on buns: To paint a cross on the top of the buns, wait until the buns have cooled (or the frosting will run). Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar until you get a thick consistency. Place in a plastic sandwich bag. Snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag and use the bag to pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross.
You can make the cross on the top of the buns in the following five ways as mentioned by Jennifer Gregory Miller in a comment on Hot Cross Buns – A History over at Catholic Cuisine:
2. With scissors, snip cross pattern on top of shaped buns before rising.
3. Apply flour-and-water paste cross after rising but before baking.
4. Make cross by using uncooked dough, and place on risen bun.
5. Make a cross on risen dough out of candied peel.