What Are Hot Cross Buns?
This little roll or bun marks the end of Lent and different parts of the hot cross bun have different meanings. The cross on top of the bun can be piped with frosting or etched into the dough. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signify the spices used to embalm him at his burial.
We love to make these sweet rolls around Easter with our children, and we love teaching them about the symbolism behind them. Our kids love them, so now we make them every year along with our super viral Empty Tomb Rolls. Have you tried them? They’re so good and so fun for teaching the kiddos more about Easter! Try them or our apple version!
Is the nursery rhyme song stuck in your head by now like it is mine? 🎵 “Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns, One a penny, Two a penny, Hot cross buns.” 🎵 If I had a dollar for every time I played that song during piano and flute lessons growing up, I would be in the money! It’s a good thing that eating THE SOFTEST HOT CROSS BUNS is way more fun than hearing hot cross buns!
These hot cross buns are so soft with a slight sweetness from the raisins and syrup glaze. We love to eat them warm! Don’t hate me if the song is stuck in your head the rest of the day! The only cure is to head to the kitchen and get baking!
Happiest of Easters to all you and your sweet families! We appreciate your support more than words can say!
What’s Needed to Make Hot Cross Buns?
These Easter hot cross buns have three components: the buns themselves, the sugar syrup that’s brushed on top after baking, and the cream cheese icing that’s piped on last.
Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade hot cross buns:
- Whole milk
- Granulated sugar
- Instant yeast
- All-purpose flour
- Nutmeg and cinnamon
- Unsalted butter
- Baking soda
- Powdered sugar
- Cream cheese
- Vanilla extract
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
The dough for these little pillows of joy starts with scalding milk. I’ve heard some people get intimidated by scalding milk, but there is no need for intimidation. You’ve got this!
Here are the steps for making homemade hot cross buns:
- Place your measured milk into a pot on the stove.
- Turn the heat on medium-low.
- Stir frequently until you starts to see steam coming off the milk and little bubbles forming around the sides of the milk along the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat.
- Let the milk cool to about 105°F (41°C). I like to stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to get the cooling started, but don’t forget about it! We don’t want cold milk!
- Meanwhile, boil the raisins with a little baking soda to plump them up. Then, lightly rinse the raisins.
- Combine the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture rest on your counter until it looks foamy.
- Once the yeast mixture is foamy, make the dough. (You can knead it by hand or use the dough hook on a mixer).
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl and set it aside to rise for roughly 2 hours.
- Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and shape it into 12 balls.
- Place the dough balls into a greased 9×13-inch pan and set aside to rise once more.
- Bake the hot cross buns until golden, then brush with sugar syrup and pipe crosses on top once cooled.
Do I Have to Scald the Milk?
In short, yes. Why do we scald milk? Scalded milk helps make breads, cakes, and other baked goods light and fluffy. Scalding kills off the protein that’s in milk, which helps the gluten to remain unbroken. It also aids the dissolving process of sugar and yeast, which results in fluffier breads and sweets.
What’s the Best Yeast to Use for Baking?
I have several friends who avoid recipes that use yeast. What?! The world would be a dark place without yeast and all the deliciously perfect carbohydrate wonders it does! But I get it, there are so many options to choose from. Do you buy active dry yeast or instant? What brand to buy? And then there is also rapid rise…is your head spinning?
There is no need to be scared of yeast! Jump to my post on all things yeast for all the details, but long story short, I almost always use instant yeast and we prefer Red Star brand. You add the yeast to the lukewarm scalded milk with a little sugar, and your yeast will activate (proof) in a few minutes and be ready to roll or ready to bun in this case! See what I did there?! I’m so funny!
Can I Prep Hot Cross Buns in Advance?
Yes! If desired, you can prep this recipe through the step that asks you to shape the dough into 12 balls and place them into a greased baking pan. From there, you can put the uncooked dough balls into the fridge overnight.
Then, when you’re ready to bake the hot cross buns the next day simply let them come to room temperature (it’ll take 30 to 45 minutes) before baking as usual.
Tips for Making Easter Hot Cross Buns
Any time you make bread and it calls for milk (such as this recipe), please scald it. It completely softens the bread recipe beyond any other thing you do. It’s an absolute must!
Note that the dough for this recipe is extremely sticky, which is why we recommend using a bench scraper to transfer it into an oiled bowl.
Lastly, these homemade hot cross buns are best enjoyed warm. However, leftovers are delicious the next day too!
More EASTER RECIPES:
Looking for a few different Easter recipes? Here are a few that our family loves:
- Best Deviled Eggs
- Garlic Honey Mustard Ham
- Empty Tomb Rolls
- Easy Ham Dipping Sauces
- Best Potato Rolls
- World’s Best Brown Sugar Ham
- Apple Empty Tomb Rolls
- Texas Roadhouse Loaded Sweet Potato
- Cheesy Potato Casserole
- ALL OF OUR EASTER RECIPES!
Our new book is now available!
This unique cookbook guides the way through every step, including meal lists and easy-to-follow recipes, and features dollops of heartwarming family stories.
The Softest Hot Cross Buns
- 1 1/2 Cups Milk Whole
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast
- 4 1/4 Cups Flour All-Purpose
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 2 Large Eggs
- 4 Tablespoons Butter Unsalted, softened
- 1 cup Raisins
- 1 1/2 Cups Water
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
Cream Cheese Icing
- 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 2 ounces Cream Cheese plus 2 Tablespoons, softened
- 1 Tablespoon Butter Unsalted, softened
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 Tablespoon Water
Make the Dough:
- In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the milk to scald it. This is done by gently warming the milk until it becomes frothy around the edges. You may notice a thin layer appear on the top of the milk, just remove from the heat and stir a little to remove it.
- Pour the milk into a bowl or glass measuring cup.
- Allow the milk to cool to warm. I like to put ours in the fridge for a few minutes to help it along, but you cannot use cold milk so don't forget it!
- Meanwhile, heat the water, baking soda and raisins in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Allow to boil gently for 2 minutes, the raisins should be big and plump, and drain in the sink, leaving the raisins in the strainer to cool. Give them a gentle rinse very quickly under water to help speed up the process but do not thoroughly rinse them.
- In a small bowl combine the lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir gently and let it rest until the yeast activates and it begins to look foamy.
- In the bowl of your mixer add 4 cups of flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix until combined.
- Add the eggs and butter to the yeast mixture and stir until the butter is melted.
- Pour the yeast mixture over the flour mixture, and using the dough hook attachment, mix for about 5 minutes at medium speed. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if you notice time is almost up but the mixture is still clinging to the sides.
- Add raisins and continue mixing for another minute. They will add a little moisture, but it should still start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Let the Dough Rise:
- In a large bowl add a bit of oil, now place the dough in the bowl, rolling it around so that it gets oil all over. The dough is extremely sticky, so using a bench scraper is really helpful.
- Cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rise for a couple hours until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Shape and Bake the Buns:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper, then spray with nonstick spray.
- Punch down the dough, and cut it into 12 equal pieces and roll each one in your hands quickly to make a dough ball. Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean towel and let them rest for another 30 minutes until doubled in size.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- While baking, make the sugar syrup by heating the sugar with the water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil the syrup for about another minute or until syrup thickens very slightly. Set aside.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Brush the tops with the sugar syrup and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Using the icing, pipe down the center of each row and then across each row to create a cross on each bun. Serve warm!
For the Icing:
- Whisk all the ingredients together and spoon into a piping bag with a round tip and refrigerate until ready to use. You want the icing to be a little thick so it holds shape on the rolls.
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