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Whole Grain Hot Cross Buns

April 28, 2011

I’m always thrilled to try a new recipe. In fact, it’s one of my greatest joys. Cracking the spine of a new cookbook, frantically placing anything heavy– flour canisters, mixing bowls, elbows– on the covers to keep them open. Gathering ingredients, mixing them in a new way, and making a complete disaster of my kitchen all in the pursuit of something delicious. I rarely make the same thing twice, and I very rarely make a recipe exactly as it’s written, always adding my own touch. When this month’s Fresh From the Oven challenge was posted, I was to see it was something I’d never made before, something I’d never even eaten! Hot Cross Buns.

Sarah from Simply Cooked asked us to make up a batch of these traditional Easter-time rolls and provided a recipe from a cute old copy of Festive Breads of Easter. Never having tasted a Hot Cross Bun, I had very few expectations. Looking over the recipe, I knew I wanted to add some whole wheat flour and I knew I had to get rid of that dreaded citron. Dried candied fruits are the reason I loathe such festive bread items as stollen and panetonne. So it was nixed. And replaced with fresh, fragrant orange and lemon zest.

The resulting buns were soft, dense, and fragrant, the stripes of icing providing a bright zing of sweetness. My roommate really enjoyed them since they’re a treat, but still provide plenty of substance. Great as an on-the-go breakfast or snack that won’t nail you with a sugar hangover half an hour later. So pile them in a basket and set them out on your Easter brunch table. They’ll be gobbled up in no time!

Whole Grain Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 2 dozen


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
  • 1/2 cup water, warm
  • 3/4 cup milk, warm
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp each grated orange and lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup dried currants
  • 2 Tbsp rum


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp milk


  1. In a small bowl combine the currants, 2 Tbsp rum and enough water just to cover. Let sit while you prepare the dough.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, the warm water and milk, yeast and 1 Tbsp sugar. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and spices. Add the eggs one at a time. Add another 1 cup all-purpose flour and beat on medium speed 5 minutes (use the paddle attachment).
  4. Drain the currants and pat dry with a paper towel. Add them to the bowl along with 2 cups of whole-wheat flour and the orange and lemon zests. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is just tacky to the touch.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour until doubled in size.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide into 24 equal pieces (if you want to be precise, weigh the entire batch of dough, divide that by 24 and then weigh each piece). Round each piece into a tight ball and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, leaving a few inches between each roll. Cover the trays with a towel and let rise in a warm area for another hour.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Beat an egg in a small bowl for an egg wash. When the rolls are risen, use a very sharp knife or razor to score a cross on the top of each bun. Brush with the egg wash.
  8. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely.
  9. Prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, lemon zest and milk until smooth. When the buns are cool, carefully drizzle the glaze over the scored crosses. Let drip on a wire rack until the glaze is set. Enjoy!

These buns are best eaten the day of, since the glaze tends to sweat over time. If you want to bake them the day before, just wait to glaze them until at least half an hour before you plan to serve them. Also, this makes a pretty large batch, so if you don’t have a big crowd coming over it would be great to freeze some of the buns unglazed, then defrost and glaze when you want them! Yum!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2011 11:07 am

    I thought about making hot cross buns for the first time a few months ago, but I lacked the patience to wait for them to rise and made muffins instead. But after your delicious description, you’ve convinced me to give them a try!

    P.S. Happy belated birthday to your blog! I really enjoy reading all of your interesting recipes and your beautiful photographs. :]

    • April 28, 2011 4:28 pm

      Thanks for the blog birthday wishes! I’m so glad you enjoy my recipes 🙂

  2. April 28, 2011 4:12 pm

    Fantastic! I love the whole grain flour change–and I did the same. I just can’t eat white flour items anymore. They give me too many energy spikes. And soaking the currants in a little rum is an inspired idea. Thanks for taking part in the challenge! Beautiful pictures.

  3. May 2, 2011 4:16 am

    Rum soaked currants – now that’s a very different idea for hot cross buns. I didn’t fancy the icing as I’ve grown up with pastry crosses but your look really pretty and not too thick giving just a slick of sweetness. Yum.

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