Easter Bun Buns

Oh now, this is a little something I just knew I had to blog about, way back last July when I finally launched my blog. As it happens, never mind the recipe (although it is a great one) the whole genre is one I’m eager to share with you. Yeasted breads, both sweet and savoury, are something I do most often when baking, as there simply is no substitute for proper homemade bread. When it was brought to my attention that despite the regularity of bread appearing on my kitchen table, it did not appear on my blog, I knew the time had come. My I introduce you to a little seasonal sweet yeasted treat, called the Hot Cross Bun. Happy Easter to you all!

Make perfect sweet and spicy Hot Cross Buns this Easter!Click To Tweet

Two or three Easters ago, I was thoroughly disappointed by Nigella’s recipe for Hot Cross Buns (hereafter to be referred to as HXBs) from her book Feast. Bread making has been a gradual progression for me – I dabbled donkey’s years ago as a child with a McDougall’s packet mix but never really “got into it” until perhaps the last couple of years. It is a living and breathing thing which relies on a certain amount of instinct and “feel” for the dough beneath your hands, it’s almost an intimate experience.

How does one acquire this experience?! Just by doing it! And I do mean that – get out there, grab any recipe you like then just give it a go. Then again. And again. And again. Make a note or two on what you’d change next time, what went well, what went wrong and just bake – you’ll soon acquire the feel for this mysterious beast called yeast and be churning out hot, crusty loaves faster than Mr Warburton (except better).

Anyway, back to this Nigella recipe. It might have been my lack of practice but it might have been the recipe, and I have heard bad reports of it since, but it just didn’t rise. They didn’t puff on baking. The burnt before browning. All in all, I’d created indelible hockey pucks that my poor family ate one of each, out of sheer pity when they saw my crestfallen face. Today, I am sharing a recipe that was given to me that has revolutionised my Easters from an Australian foodie buddy Selena Jayne. I believe she’d discovered it in a magazine and modified it for her own tastes. I did the same and am here to save you from ushering forthwith burnt rocks like I did, on that fateful Easter a few years back! Here’s what I do.


I like to use more orange than the recipe stated as given to me – the HXBs of my childhood (bought not baked) had a distinct orange perfume I just can’t get enough of in sweet yeasted doughs. And I soak my sultanas in it before starting to bake, to get even last little bit of sweet citrus into my buns. My next deviation is to do my preferred method for making the dough – essentially dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. I never pre-soak my yeast (and I always used fast action dried) in whatever liquid the recipe calls for. I use it quick enough to know its active and honestly, it just means you’re waiting even longer for your buns! Just bung it in with the flour, it’ll be grand!


Once the ingredients are combined and kneaded for 5-10 minutes (and I always use my KitchenAid, never by hand with this liquid, sticky and batter-like doughs), here comes your first tea break as you leave it covered to “prove” (prove that the yeast is alive by seeing the dough rise), release carbon dioxide bubbles and make your dough soft, full of air and double in volume. Just leave it in a warm spot – today, it was so hot, by my big window was the place to be. Normally it’s on top of my washing machine.


Now it’s time to divide the dough – I make them small as this dough really does take off with its second rise and bake and the first time, they ended up the size of saucers! Not that is necessarily a bad thing…


Once you’re just about to bake, you pipe over a water and flour paste to give the traditional “cross” of a HXB then here comes my top, top tip for a super soft bake – chuck a fistful of ice cubes in a tray sitting in the bottom of your oven (I do not recommend throwing ice directly onto the floor of any oven!) then gently deposit your baking tin or tray and shut the door quick. Do not open until you can smell the buns from the other side of the room. This is as close to a steam oven as an impoverished student will come for quite some time! But check out the results it yields.DSC_0062

Proper Traditional Hot Cross Buns
Servings: 12
: 169 kcal
Author: Just Jo
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • Zest and juice of an orange
  • 2 cups strong bread flour approx 250g
  • 30 g frozen then grated butter
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7 g dried yeast
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
For the cross
  • 1/4 cup self raising flour
For the glaze
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Pop the sultanas, zest and juice in the bowl of your stand mixer and leave whilst you prep everything else.
  2. Warm the milk until just warm to the touch.
  3. Whisk all the dry ingredients together then stir in the butter.
  4. Stir the flour mix into the sultanas in the stand mixer bowl.
  5. Beat the egg into the warm milk then pour in combining to a soft sticky dough with a flexible spatula – add a little more milk if needed or a spoon of flour if too sticky. I can’t stress enough how you need it to be soft and sticky – get it right here and your buns will be a success.
  6. Knead for 10 minutes until the sticky batter has become smooth and cleans the sides of the bowl.
  7. Gather into a ball, grease the bowl and cover with cling until it has risen at least to double the size.
  8. Gently tip out into a floured surface and knead until the air is released then form into a long sausage shape about 2 inches in diameter.
  9. Cut into equal sized portions – I like to cut in half, then half again and again and so on until have a collection dough balls which are all of even size (this dough grows a lot when proved and baked – make them small or you’ll end up with supersized HXBs!).
  10. Form into balls with floured hands and pop into a floured baking tin at least 20 x 30 cm in size Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove again until doubled in size – they should be just touching after this rise (they will join up on baking).
  11. Mix the self raising flour with 2 tbsp of cold water until a thick but flowable paste is achieved – pop in a small piping bag or a food bag – cut the corner off whichever you use to have about a 3mm diameter opening to squeeze your dough paste out of.
  12. Pipe lines at right angles to form the “crosses” on your buns – its easiest to do in one long line is you’ve lined your buns up in your tin rather than putting them in haphazardly
  13. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes until browned, well risen and joined up at the sides. I like to put some ice cubes in a tray at the bottom of the oven as I put the buns in to create steam and help with the rise.
  14. If glazing (I must admit I prefer an unglazed HXB) mix the caster sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water then brush over the hot buns. Cool to room temp in the tin and then split in half and slather with good, cold salted butter. Heavenly eating.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from my friend Selena-Jayne's own recipe

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  1. Nicola Thompson 3rd April 2012 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    They look perfect Jo! I couldn’t get Nigella’s recipe to work either. I tried it five times to make sure it wasn’t me doing something wrong! I ended up having more success with a recipe from Good Food magazine which I can’t actually find now! So I might just have to try this recipe instead 🙂

    • jobakes 3rd April 2012 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      It’s so disappointing when a recipe doesn’t work, especially when it’s a once yearly sort of treat like HXBs are Nic. I don’t think this recipe can fail! I like it spicy so add a bit more spice but I reckon most folk only want a teaspoon of each 🙂

  2. bettybobkin 3rd April 2012 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    Nigella’s recipe didn’t work for me either, but then neither was SJ’s a huge success ! I’m going to try the one from my bread machine book this year and will report back…

    • jobakes 3rd April 2012 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      You do that Liz – the ingredients are more or less identical but my method differs to Selena’s if you did fancy giving it a go at some point 🙂

  3. eat, little bird 5th April 2012 at 7:37 am - Reply

    Ooh gorgeous buns! 😉 I adore hot cross buns and am really hoping I will get around to making a batch this Easter … I’m running out of time, though!

    I have to say that Nigella’s recipe in Feast was also a disappointment for me, mostly because of the lack of sugar so the buns lacked sweetness and generally had no flavour at all. They were also on the tough side but that part could be my fault!

    I have a recipe which I have borrowed from various sources, put it all together and sort of call it my own 😉 You’ve really inspired me again!

    • jobakes 5th April 2012 at 8:27 am - Reply

      I don’t think so Thanh, my Nigella oneswere tough too and the feedback I’m getting is saying this is the common theme. As for calling your recipe your own – if we don’t take from a selection of sources, tweak and adapt to our tastes, then how do new recipes form?! I saw an article the other day saying “do we really own our recipes” and I think they had a point. Get baking, lady of leisure! 😉 x

  4. Pat McGowan 5th April 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    I want these ! lol

    • jobakes 5th April 2012 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      Well you can have them Pat! 😀

  5. At Anna's Kitchen table 5th April 2012 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Oooooh, they look soooo good Jo!
    Love your top tip too. 😀

    • jobakes 5th April 2012 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      There will be more top tips to come Anna! The bread theme will be worked out like a Marine by the time I finish eith it 😀

  6. Tea & Sympathy 8th April 2012 at 10:39 am - Reply

    This is a fab post, these HCBs look amazing!. We have been getting exited about easter too! For a bit of a traditional English take on things you might like our roast lamb recipe http://teaandsympathynewyork.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/easter-roast-lamb-dinner/

    • jobakes 8th April 2012 at 11:33 am - Reply

      Aw thank you Tea&Sympathy! I’m intrigued by your blog and tea shop now – I’ve never been to the Big Apple but would dearly love to. That lamb does sound fantastic – sadly I’m working all weekend so no time to cook anything. I really must try a leg of lamb as I’ve never cooked it myself before… 🙂

      • Tea & Sympathy 8th April 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

        Yes, it’s well worth a go. Well have a great weekend, stay in touch and pop by next time you’re in NYC!

  7. Kath 25th March 2016 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Another inch on the waistline, thanks Jo!

    These buns are gorgeous, well done Jodie you did it again!
    Hubby reckons they are the best I ever made.

    • Just Jo 26th March 2016 at 6:27 am - Reply

      That’s truly wonderful to hear Kath, so pleased you enjoyed them.

  8. Kath 26th March 2016 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Just to add, I don’t have a stand mixer so used the dough hooks on my hand mixer.
    (Oh, & I forgot the ice…..)

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