Hot Cross Buns

History of Hot Cross Buns

Ancient Egyptians used to put a cross over their bread rolls to celebrate their gods. The cross would break the bun into four quadrants representing the moon phases or seasons.

The Romans and Greeks used sweetened buns to celebrate Eos (goddess of morning) and Eostre (goddess of light). The cross on those buns represented the horns of the sacrificial ox.

In the Middle Ages, bakers marked crosses on their buns to keep away the evil spirits that might prevent the buns from rising, but this practice faded over time.

In the 12th century, an English monk decorated his freshly baked buns on Good Friday with a cross to represent Jesus’s sacrifice. Over the years spices and fruits were added to the buns.

When England broke with the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century (remember good old King Henry VIII?), the buns were outlawed. But by 1592, Queen Elizabeth relented and allowed the buns to be sold commercially only on Easter and Christmas. They could also be made commercially for funerals. Otherwise, they could be baked at home in private.


Hot Cross Buns Recipe

(From Natasha’s Kitchen website)

1/2 cup raisins, currants, or craisins + 1 cup boiling hot water
3/4 cup very warm milk, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup (I used whole milk, 2% is fine)
1/2 cup white sugar + 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened 15 seconds in microwave
1/2 tsp salt
1 envelope active dry yeast (about 3/4 Tbsp or 2 1/4 tsp) – I used Red Star Yeast
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp (a large pinch) ground nutmeg

For the Egg Wash:

1 egg, well beaten with 1 tsp water

For the Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2 1/2 tsp milk


  1. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup raisins/craisins with 1 cup boiling hot water. Let sit 10 min then drain well and set aside.


  1. In a large measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup warm milk with 1/2 tsp sugar and sprinkle 3/4 Tbsp yeast over the top. Stir and let sit at room temp until bubbly and doubled in volume (10 min).


  1. In a large mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer), combine 1/2 cup very warm milk with 1/2 cup sugar, 4 Tbsp softened butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir until butter is melted. Add 2 well beaten eggs and proofed yeast mixture. Stir in 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and pinch of ground nutmeg.


  1. Using the dough hook attachment mix in 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup at a time until soft dough forms. Knead 8-12 min on speed 2 or until smooth and elastic. Dough will still stick a little to the bowl but not to your fingers.


  1. Add drained raisins/craisins (pat them dry with paper towels if they still seem too wet) and transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, turning it to bring the buttered side-up. Cover with a tea towel or sprayed cling wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free room 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume (you can also proof in a warm 100˚F oven).


  1. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half then continue cutting dough until you have 12 equal sized pieces. Roll dough into balls and transfer to a buttered 9×13″ baking pan. Cover with a tea towel and let them sit in a warm, draft-free room 30 min until puffed.


  1. Now you should preheat your oven to 375˚F. Generously brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.


  1. Once buns are just warm (not hot), stir together the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and about 2 1/2 tsp milk. You can add more powdered sugar to thicken it up if needed. Transfer glaze to a ziploc bag, cut off the tip of the bag and pipe a cross shape over each of the buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.