Hot Cross Buns



From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book Of Breads, by Bernard Clayton, Jr.

I grew up in Connecticut and we ate these every good Friday. I don’t find them in the south much and few people I know who grew up in the south are even familiar with them. Despite its Christian overtone, the bun is supposed to have originated in pagan England. Even today, a hot cross bun baked and served on Good Friday is believed to have special curative powers.

NOTE: The dough is refrigerated overnight, so prepare it on Maundy Thursday if you wish to serve it on Good Friday. Bake enough for Easter breakfast, too.


1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted, plus extra for brushing
2 eggs, separated
1 cup hot milk (120°F to 130°F (50°C to 55°C))
3-1/2 to 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup currants or raisins (I used golden raisins and currents, omitting the candied fruit)
1/4 cup chopped candied fruit
1 egg yolk, beaten, mixed with:
2 tablespoons water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with:
1 tablespoon milk and
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Baking Sheet:

1 baking sheet, greased or Teflon


By Hand or Mixer: (30 mins.)

In a large bowl mix the sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, and hot milk. Stir to blend and set aside for a moment.

Into a mixing or mixer bowl measure 2-1/2 cups flour, the yeast, salt, and spices; blend. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or for 2 minutes with a mixer flat beater. Add the currants or raisins and candied fruit. Blend.

Beat the egg whites until frothy but not quite stiff, and work into the batter. Add additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time, with the spoon or dough hook, until it is a rough mass. Knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Don’t make it a stiff dough but leave it soft and elastic.

First Rising: (1-1/2 hours)

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature while it rises to double in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. (If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast and at the recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising times by approximately half.)

Refrigeration: (Overnight)

Punch down the dough. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. On the following day, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and allow to stand for about 1 hour at room temperature.

Kneading: (10 mins./45 secs.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Shaping: (15 mins.)

Divide the dough into equal parts in successive steps – 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32 – and shape into balls. Place the balls about 1″ apart on the baking sheet.

Second Rising: (1 hour)

Brush the balls with melted butter, cover with wax or parchment paper, and put aside to rise until double in volume, 1 hour.


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) 20 minutes before baking.

Baking: (25 mins.)

Remove the paper covering the balls. With a razor or scissors, cut a cross on the top of each bun. Brush with the egg-water wash.

Place in the oven until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. If oven space is limited, several batches may be baked.

(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50°F (30°C)).

Final Step:

Remove the buns from the oven. Place on wire racks. When cool, form a cross in the cuts on each bun with fairly firm confectioners’ icing.

Yield: About 3 dozen buns


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