Hot Cross Buns, which are made with lightly sweetened dough mixed with currants, ground cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, are traditionally baked and served warm on Good Friday. They are given their signature cross in one of two ways: either by slashing a cross in the dough with a sharp knife before baking (the more traditional method), or by piping two lines of frosting over the top once the buns have cooled. I prefer the former option, myself, which makes it easy to slice the buns in half for the toaster oven, making them excellent gifts to give friends and family up until Easter Sunday. Hot Cross buns are best eaten warm, after all.
Here is the recipe I like to use for Hot Cross Buns published in the New York Times:
TOTAL TIME: 3 hours (including rising)
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 1 cup warm milk
• 5 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 1/2 cups, approximately, all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup dried currants
• 3 tablespoons milk mixed with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon cold milk (optional)
• 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
1. Mix the yeast with 4 tablespoons of the warm milk in a small bowl and set aside about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cream 4 tablespoons of the butter and brown sugar and beat in the eggs. When yeast mixture becomes frothy, stir it in, along with the spices, salt and remaining warm milk. Beat in the flour a cup at a time until a soft ball of dough can be gathered together. Dough can be mixed by machine if desired.
3. Place dough on a floured work surface and lightly knead in the currants, adding more flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Kneading should take no more than a few minutes.
4. Using some of the remaining butter, grease a bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to butter all sides. Cover and set aside to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Butter two baking sheets with the remaining butter.
6. Punch the dough down, divide it in half, then divide each piece in half again. Divide each portion of dough into six equal pieces and shape each into a ball.
7. Place balls of dough on baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. Set aside, covered lightly with waxed paper, to rise until they have doubled in size, 45 minutes to an hour.
8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
9. Carefully slash a cross into the top of each bun, using a very sharp razor blade and cutting through the skin of the dough at least one-quarter inch deep. Or snip a small cross in the top with sharp scissors. Try not to compress the bun as you cut.
10. Bake buns about 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Just before they come out of the oven, bring milk and sugar mixture to a boil. As soon as buns are done, brush them with milk and sugar glaze.
11. Allow the buns to cool for 30 minutes, then serve while still warm.
12. If desired, or if you have not cut the cross into the tops of the buns, the cross can be applied with icing. The buns must be completely cooled before the icing is applied. Mix the confectioners’ sugar with the cold milk and lemon juice and, using the handle of a spoon or a chopstick, spread the icing to form a cross on top or to fill the cross-shaped cut.
YIELD: 2 dozen
Originally published with Hot-Cross Buns: Giving Tradition A Fresh Accent
By FLORENCE FABRICANT, March 20, 1991
To package my buns, I first cut out bun-sized (about 3-inches in diameter) circles of cardboard paper to use as a base or ‘plate’ for my bun. Then I cut out equal sized circles of wax paper to line the cardboard circle cut-outs. I placed the wax paper circles over the cardboard circles, and then placed a bun on top of the waxed paper. From here, I wrapped cellophane paper around the bun and cardboard, secured it with a yellow ribbon, and attached lilac colored tags in the style Luxe.
For more information on the history of Hot Cross Buns, and the fun superstitions surrounding them, check out this article from the New York Times, “Hot-Cross Buns: Giving Tradition a Fresh Accent.”
More homemade gift ideas from Lindsay Jewell:
English Muffins Heart Marshmallows Caramelized Onion Dip Baked Doughnuts