With Easter coming up it’s become hot cross bun season in my kitchen and this week I’ve been baking them nonstop! For those who have never had one, a hot cross bun is a sweet bread roll with dried fruit and raisins in it, and an icing cross on top. Traditionally they’re eaten on Good Friday and Easter, though they’ve been known to make an appearance in bakeries and markets all throughout Lent. I’ve seen hundreds of recipes for them online but my favorite is still from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook I “inherited” (aka borrowed and never gave back) from my mom’s kitchen ages ago. They take forever to make but are so worth it!
Here’s the recipe:
For the dough:
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup butter
- 2 eggs (large)
- 8-9 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 packages active dry yeast
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup raisins (divided into two half cup portions)
- 2/3 cup candied citrus peel (divided into two 1/3 cup portions)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons water
For the icing:
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 large bowl
- electric mixer with paddle and hook attachments
- instant read thermometer
- 1 9×13 inch baking pan (or four 6 inch disposable pans)
- small bowl (for icing)
- pastry bag and small flat petal tip (optional)
1. Mix 2 cups of flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.
2. On the stove, heat the milk and butter until very warm – between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit.* Test with an instant read or candy thermometer. The butter may not melt completely but that’s ok.
3. Add the milk and butter mixture to the flour mixture slowly, and beat on low until mixed thoroughly. Increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes, then scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and two more cups of flour and beat for two more minutes.
5. Add more flour a little at a time (the book said about 4 1/4 cups but that seemed like too much to me), mixing by hand with a spoon until a soft dough forms. It will be a little sticky.
6. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball.
7. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray or grease with a little oil, then place the dough ball inside and turn it to coat.
8. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for an hour until doubled in size. After the hour is up, punch the dough down and divide it in half. Let it rest for 15 minutes. While the dough is resting, grease your 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.
9. Knead the raisins and candied peel into each half of the dough ball and divide each one into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them in the greased pan.
10. Cover again and let rise for another hour until the buns have doubled in size.
11. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the egg yolk and teaspoon of water, then brush the mixture onto the tops of the buns. Bake for 25-30 minutes until buns are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before icing or else the icing will melt off.
To make the icing:
1. Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar to make it stiffer, or more water to thin it out.
2. Using a spoon to drizzle or a pastry bag with a medium round tip, ice each bun with a cross shape. Icing will harden slightly when it dries.
Store the buns at room temperature in a covered container.