Toasted, slathered with butter or plain out of the packet: hot cross buns will forever be the perfect bank holiday treat. Make your own this weekend with delicious recipes from Dominique Ansel, Tom Aikens and the bakers at Bread Ahead.
There’s no wrong time of year to savour the delights of squidgy, spiced, fruit-studded bread. But as much as we’re here for non-seasonal stalwarts such as muffins and teacakes, there’s always something thrilling about the arrival of hot cross buns in the shops.
Ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend, you could try and grab a pack of hot cross buns from your local supermarket – and if you can find some, more power to you. But since no one really wants to go food shopping at the moment, there’s no better time to make your own and enjoy the smell of warm dough and spiced fruit wafting from your oven.
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Below, three of London’s top bakeries and restaurants share their hot cross bun recipes in time for Easter. Fancy a classic bake? Chef Tom Aikens’ foolproof overnight method will satisfy your tastebuds. For an extra-fruity flavour, try the recipe by the star bakers at Bread Ahead, which includes diced apple in the dough and a lemony glaze. And if warm spices are your thing, pastry innovators Dominique Ansel have created a bun glazed with star anise and cinnamon for a more complex, aromatic flavour.
Whether you eat yours lightly toasted, plain or with unexpected toppings (bacon and peanut butter, anyone?), these buns won’t stay around for long…
Tom Aikens’ hot cross buns recipe
Tom Aikens is the chef-founder at Muse by Tom Aikens in Belgravia, which is closed for the duration of the lockdown following government advice. The youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars, Aikens is now bringing his techniques into homes with cook-along videos on Instagram – demonstrating how to make everything from sourdough bread to store cupboard dinners.
Makes 8 hot cross buns
For the buns
- 540g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 15g milk powder
- 60g caster sugar
- 2 large pinch fine sea salt
- 10g dried yeast
- 220ml water
- 4 whole eggs
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- 60g raisins
- 30g mixed citrus peel
For the cross mixture
- 100ml water
- 40ml vegetable oil
- pinch of salt
- 200g strong white bread flour
For the glaze
- 70g caster sugar
- 25ml whole milk
- 25ml water
To make the dough, in a mixing bowl, mix together all the bun ingredients, except the raisins and mixed peel. Work the dough until it comes loose from the sides and becomes smooth and elastic. Transfer to an airtight container and prove in the fridge overnight.
The next day pour the dough back into a big mixer bowl and work in the raisins and mixed peel.
Roll into small balls and store in the fridge until ready to use, you can also freeze the mixture.
To make the cross mixture, whisk together all the ingredients. Use straight away or store in the fridge, it will keep for two days.
To bake, take out of the fridge or if frozen defrost in the fridge overnight. Spray/dampen with a little water, cover with a lid and prove on top of the oven until double in the original size. Space the buns on a lined tray, brush with egg wash and pipe the cross mixture on top. Bake at 170°C for 16 minutes and turn halfway through baking.
Once baked, brush with the glaze as soon as they come out of the oven.
Eat warm, cold or toasted. Delicious served with homemade jam and butter.
Bread Ahead’s hot cross buns recipe
To support staff working on the frontline of the NHS, staff at Borough Market-based bakery Bread Ahead are delivering freshly baked goods to key workers at NHS hospitals. They’ve also launched a new delivery service for cakes, bread and baking essentials, and are running daily online baking workshops on their Instagram feed.
All 18 recipes featured on Bread Ahead’s Instagram live schedule, including doughnuts, focaccia and Easter brioche, can be found in their new e-book, Bread Ahead: Online Baking Recipe Book (£5, available now).
Makes 12 buns
For the buns
- 250g strong white bread flour
- 3g salt
- 40g caster sugar
- 6g mixed spice
- 3g nutmeg
- 30g unsalted butter
- 40g sultanas
- 25g mixed peel
- 30g peeled, cored and diced apple
- 8g fresh yeast (4 dried yeast)
- 140g full fat milk
For the cross
- 100g strong white flour
- a pinch of caster sugar
- a pinch of fine sea salt
For the glaze
- 100g caster sugar
- 50ml lemon juice
- 100g water
Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Rub in the butter to form a sandy consistency.
Mix together the yeast and milk, add to the dry ingredients and fold until combined.
Turn out your dough on to the work surface and knead. Hold onto your dough with one hand and with the other hand stretch and fold it for around five minutes until the dough is nice and smooth.
Stretch out your dough into a pizza shape and add your fruit combination in the centre, fold over your dough into a Cornish pasty shape covering your fruit.
Gently start to roll and fold your dough till the fruits are evenly distributed. Once distributed, place the dough in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for one hour or until doubled in size.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the mixture on a lightly floured surface and cut into 65g pieces. Roll each one into a smooth ball and place on the baking tray, leaving plenty of room as they will spread out. Cover with clingfilm and leave to double in size.
While the buns are proving make the cross mixture and the glaze. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and 100g water until you have a smooth paste, pour into a piping bag with a 4mm plain nozzle.
Place the sugar, lemon juice and 100g water in a small pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the temperature reaches 105°C, or about five minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4.
Once the buns have proved, pipe a cross on the top of each one and bake for 14-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. After 2 minutes, brush with the bun glaze.
Serve warm with plenty of butter.
Dominique Ansel’s hot cross buns recipe
In the wake of the nationwide lockdown, Dominique Ansel Bakery London has begun donating free meals to hospitals, the NHS, the homeless, those living in sheltered accommodation, key workers and children in London. Following school closures, it’s also providing complimentary breakfasts and meals to children currently eligible for free school meals – and is offering 50% off all takeaway products and complimentary tea or coffee to all key workers from the NHS, the police and emergency services.
The bakery has also launched a central London-wide delivery service, meaning that its signature Cronuts®, fresh bread and pasta, and full Easter collection can now be ordered online. You can also view a series of follow-along videos and recipes on the Dominique Ansel London Instagram feed.
Makes approximately 10 buns
For the dough
- 180g whole milk
- 300g bread flour
- 6g salt
- 10g dried instant yeast
- 1 egg
- 6g ground cinnamon
- 20g granulated sugar
- 40g raisins*
- 40g sultanas*
*Soak the raisins and sultanas in a bowl of water for two hours first, then strain and squeeze the water out.
For the spiced sugar syrup
- 200g granulated sugar
- 120g water
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 pieces of star anise
Combine all spiced sugar syrup ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Strain out the spices, and set aside until ready to use.
In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine milk, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, and egg. Mix on low speed until ingredients are combined, then add the butter.
Turn the mixer to medium speed and mix until a smooth ball of dough has formed (about five minutes).
Add in raisins and sultanas and mix on slow speed until evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Transfer the dough to a greased mixing bowl. Cover with cling film and let sit in a warm area until the dough has doubled in size (about one and a half hours).
Punch down the dough, divide into 60g portions and shape each into a tight ball. Place the buns evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment, loosely covering with cling film. Once the buns have doubled in size (about two hours), pipe a cross on each one with the glaze.
Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Bake until the buns are golden coloured (about 15 minutes).
Remove from the oven, and immediately brush the surfaces of each bun with the spiced sugar syrup using a pastry brush. Serve toasted with butter.
Photography: Felicity Spector
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.