In the past, for me, hot cross buns always fell into the same sad category as fruit cake, marmalade and the dreaded ‘mince pies’ – collectively rejected due to one little overpowering ingredient which, in my opinion, once removed, belongs nowhere but on the compost heap. Fruit peel. For this reason, I have generally said a polite ‘no thanks’ to hot cross buns. But one of the greatest things about cooking is it gives you power. In that more often than not it allows you to swap out the ingredients you don‘t like / can’t tolerate with more favourable ingredients so you don’t have to miss out sharing the Easter spirit.
Wikipedia mentions some traditions around hot cross buns. Buns baked on Good Friday will not spoil or mould during the year ahead. A piece of hot cross bun given to someone who is ill will help them recover, and if taken on a sea voyage, they are said to protect against a shipwreck. Sharing a hot cross bun with another is said to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, especially if you chant at the time: “Half for you, half for me, between us two shall goodwill be”. Because there is a cross on them, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. And if hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads baked turn out perfectly.
This recipe was adapted from one of my favourite chef’s – Teresa Cutter (The Healthy Chef).
Makes 6-9 buns (depending on how big you want them)
- 1.5 cups wholemeal flour (GF is also fine)
- 2/3 cup of rolled oats (or quinoa flakes if you’re GF)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- pinch sea salt
- 1 cup of any milk (I used almond, but dairy, rice, soy, are all fine)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1/4 cup olive oil or macadamia nut oil
- 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
- 80g dried cranberries*
- 50g dark chocolate*, chopped into small chunks (raw, dairy-free, any chocolate will work)
- 1 free-range egg yolk mixed with 2 Tbsp water for glaze
- 3 Tbsp plain flour (GF works fine)
- 35mL milk or cold water
*you can substitute cranberries / chocolate for nuts, sour cherries, sultanas, dates, figs, apricots, or any dried fruit
- Preheat oven to 160° C.
- Mix flour, oats/flakes, cinnamon, yeast and a pinch of sea salt in a mixing bowl.
- Warm the milk, vanilla and honey until just warm then pour into mixing bowl with the beaten egg and oil.
- Mix with wooden spoon for a good few minutes until all combined. It will be sticky so you need to get some elbow grease behind it (this is necessary to create elasticity and therefore allow the dough to rise in baking). If you have a mixer with a dough hook then I imagine 5-10 minutes using this would probably be ideal.
- Add in the cranberries & chocolate and stir to combine into a big rough ball shape. Use a spatula to scrap down the sides so all the mixture is together in a dome shape.
- Cover bowl with glad wrap and leave in a warm place to let the yeast do its thing for 2-3 hours until it has increased in size by half.
- Knock the dough down with little punch (feels good), then using floured hands, divide the mixture into 9 buns (give each ball a little kneed and squeeze to help get any other air bubbles out) and place dough balls in a 3 x 3 square lightly baking tin / casserole dish.
- Cover again with glad wrap and leave for another hour – they will rise again and start to join together a little.
- For the crosses, combine the flour and milk/water to make the paste for the crosses and pipe over buns to resemble crosses (I make my own home made piping bags using grease-proof paper via the method described here).
- Brush the tops with the egg yolk glaze, then bake in oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 5 mins, then break up buns, split in half and serve with good quality organic butter (or almond butter if dairy free).
These will store wrapped in foil in a tin for a week. Or wrap the loaf up into a nice white linen napkin, tie with kitchen string and give as an Easter gift.