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Hot cross buns

These traditional Good Friday treats are so good you’ll wish Easter was every day.

By Adelaide Lucas
  • Serves 16
Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns

We'd be slightly remiss if we didn't begin any discussion of these most familiar of religious sweet breads with the classic children's joke: what do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? Hot cross bunnies.

Thigh-slapper that it is, the gag belies the more brutal aspects of the hot cross bun's lineage. There is discussion under the bun's entry inThe Oxford Companion to Foodof the hot-cross' ancient origin as a substitute religious offering made in place of blood.

That, of course, was way back when; today, the association is more typically a secular one of oozing hot butter and rich spice, though Good Friday continues to be the day they're eaten most. The delightfully curmudgeonly Elizabeth David notes, in herEnglish Bread and Yeast Cookery, that some bakers superimpose strips of peel or little bands of ordinary pastry to emphasize the cross. "Both of these methods involve unnecessary fiddling work," she writes. "Neither, in my experience, is successful. There is no need to worry overmuch about the exactitude of the cross. You have made the symbolic gesture. That is what counts." Wise words for all bakers to live by, even if the tradition in this country sees the crosses reinforced with a little flour-and-water paste.

These traditional Good Friday sweet breads are so good you'll wish Easter was every day.

Ingredients

Buns
  • 750 gm plain flour, sifted (5 cups)
  • 55 gm caster sugar (¼ cup)
  • 2 tsp dried yeast (14 gm)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 250 gm sultanas (1½ cups)
  • 100 gm candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
  • 1 orange, finely grated rind only
  • 300 ml milk
  • 100 gm unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
  • 1 egg
Glaze
  • 55 gm caster sugar (¼ cup)
  • ¼ tsp mixed spice

Method

Main
  • 1
    Combine 700 gm flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, orange peel and rind and 1 tsp sea salt in a bowl. Gently warm milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid. Add egg to milk mixture and whisk. Make a well in the centre of flour mixture, add milk mixture and stir. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back dough and cut into 16 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a ball, place in a lightly greased 22cm-square cake pan, cover with a damp tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 220C. Combine remaining flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. (They're ready when they sound hollow when tapped).
  • 3
    For glaze, combine ingredients with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring
    to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Notes

Topped with a dark Callebaut chocolate cross and heady with spices and ginger, get these while you can. Shop 3/4, 149 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Vic., (03) 9534 3777.
Pick up port-soaked sultana-filled buns and diving chocolate eggs, too. 2/106 Mawson Pl, ACT, (02) 6286 6377.
Hand-ground spices are the secret to Brent Heresee's buns. 185 Katoomba St, Katoomba, NSW, (02) 4782 9816.
WHERE TO TRY IT
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  • Author: Adelaide Lucas