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Bakery-style easter hot cross buns at home

3 Apr 2020 | Natalie Paull

Easter is almost upon us! That means chocolate and the wafting smell of toasted hot cross buns. If you've ever wanted to make hot cross buns yourself, now is the time. We're providing you with the recipe from our best-selling bakebook Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull. These are the perfect weekend project and subsequently the perfect little sweet treat for whenever you want them. 

Easter hot cross buns

beatrix bakes easter hot cross bunsAs the final few hot cross bun batches pass the oven threshold at Beatrix each Easter, I start a little stash of them the freezer. These are the buns that get me through the subsequent weeks … a comedown from the headiness of eating two, four, okay, five buns a day (don’t judge!). This dough is a tinkered version of my original ninth-grade home economics recipe, with the addition of raw puréed orange – an homage to local bakery Babka’s shoo-fly buns. These buns are soft, sticky and redolent with interesting spices.

Photo provided by @BeatrixBakes

Makes 12 buns.

Takes From dough to bun – about  3 hours minimum with lots of hands-free proving time.

Keeps Best eaten the day they are made. Toast if eating the next day. They freeze and defrost beautifully.


The dough
2 large oranges
100 g (3½ oz) mixed currants and sultanas
520 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
60 g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
25 g (1 oz) full-cream milk powder
12 g (½ oz/3 heapedteaspoons) mixed spice (or Beatrix secret spice mix – see Adaptrix, below)
10 g (1/4 oz/11/4 teaspoons) fine sea salt
150 g/ml (5½ oz) water, room temperature
20 g (¾ oz/2 heaped and firmly packed teaspoons) fresh yeast
75 g (2¾ oz) unsalted butter, soft and squidgy
cooking oil spray

The glaze
100 g/ml (3½ oz) water
100 g (3½ oz) caster(superfine) sugar
½ vanilla bean, split
finely grated zest of 1 orange (reserved from 1 orange, above)

The cross
60 g (2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
5 g (1/8 oz/1 teaspoon) icing (confectioners’) sugar
2 g (1/16 oz/1/4 teaspoon) fine sea salt
10 g/ml (1/4 oz/2 teaspoons) vegetable oil
50 g/ml (1¾ oz) water, room temperature

To make the dough, start by finely grating the zest and then juicing  one of the oranges. Reserve the zest for the glaze. Soak the currants and sultanas with 20 g/ml (3/4 oz) of the juice. Trim the bottom off the second orange and chop into chunks, removing any seeds as you go. Put the orange chunks in a food processor and whiz it up – raw and whole – to a pulpy paste. Weigh it: you need 250 g (9 oz), so make up any shortfall with the remaining orange juice. Set aside.

Put the flour, sugar, milk powder, spice and salt in a bowl and swizzle with your fingers to combine. Put the water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, then add the yeast and stir well to dissolve. Tip the dry ingredients on top, then add the puréed orange and soft butter.

Using the dough hook, knead on speed 2 (above low) for 10 minutes. The dough will go from shaggy to a fully cohesive and very moist dough. With the mixer still on low speed, add the soaked fruit and knead for 5 minutes. The finished dough should look slack and sticky.

I delay the addition of the dried fruit, so they don’t knead too long and tear apart, losing their juicy innards.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, spray the top of the dough with cooking oil spray and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double in size – about 1 hour at warm room temperature. This is the first prove.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Put the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature, then add the reserved orange zest (so the zesty essence isn’t lost in the heat).

I like a sticky glaze, but not so sticky that the buns burn in the toaster (during the post-bake days). If you prefer an uber-sticky glaze, simmer the syrup for longer.

Lightly spray a 30 cm × 40 cm (12 in × 16 in) heavy baking tray with cooking oil spray and line with baking paper. Choose a smaller tray if you want snuggly buns that bake close together.

When the dough has proved to super soft and fluffy, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly press to deflate the gas out. Cut the dough into twelve 95 g (3¼ oz) pieces, then form each piece into a ball (see page 176) and place on the tray in a 4 × 3 formation. Lightly spray the tops of the dough balls and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to prove for 30–50 minutes.* So the oven is ready when the buns are, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

While the buns are having this final prove, make the cross paste. Combine the flour, icing sugar, salt, oil and water in a bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until it is a gloopy consistency. If the paste is too thin it will melt; if it’s too thick the cross won’t adhere properly. Adjust with a little extra flour or water, as needed. Scrape the paste into a disposable piping bag with a small nozzle (#3). If you don’t have a nozzle, snip the merest tip off the end of the piping bag.

Check the buns are ready to bake by lightly pressing a greased fingertip into the dough to make an indentation. If the dent doesn’t bounce back, they are ready. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. To do this, keep the tip of the bag close to the buns and squeeze a line down the centre of the row of buns. Allow the paste to follow the hills and dales of the buns. Repeat to make all the buns crossed.

Bake for 15–20 minutes, keeping an eye on them after 10 minutes to ensure they aren’t cooking too fast.** Get the glaze and a pastry brush ready for the cooked buns. If the glaze doesn’t seem syrupy enough to brush, thin it slightly by whisking in a little warm water.

Remove the buns from the oven, place the tray on a wire rack, then immediately swipe a brushful of glaze all over each bun. The sizzle of the syrup hitting the hot buns is a wonderful sound! Allow to cool to warm before splitting and spreading with lots of butter.


Beatrix secret spice mix

At Beatrix, I grind my own mixed spice, adding a little ground pepper and coriander, as these spices enhance bakes containing dried fruit. A ready-made mixed spice is still delicious, or pep it up with other spices. My recipe is ground from whole spices (except the ground ginger): 10 g (¼ oz) cinnamon, 2 g (1/16 oz) coriander seeds, 2 g (1/16 oz) nutmeg, 5 g (1/8 oz) ground ginger,  2 g (1/16 oz) black peppercorns, 2 g (1/16 oz) allspice (pimento). Store in  an airtight container.

Dried fruit

Mess around with the dried fruit – use diced prunes or figs, all currants, sultanas (golden raisins) or raisins. Add some candied citrus peel if you sit on that side of the fruit fence.


My favourite. Substitute it for the orange in the dough and syrup.

* Underproved or flat overproved buns will have a hefty, but edible, texture. Just eat them as quickly as possible.
**If you burn them, trim and discard the charred crusts and make hot cross bun bread and butter pudding.

Beatrix Bakes Book Cover
This recipe is extracted from Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull
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