Traditional English Hot Cross Buns

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Dough Yield:

    144

    buns at 2.7 oz each

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

These Hot Cross Buns are Rolls of Substance, lightly sweetened, but not to the extent that the sweetness overpowers the spice or the fruit. The crossing paste is piped on just before the bake, and becomes integrated to the bun itself, unlike the sweet white icing that is generally seen in North America, which is piped on after the buns have cooled. Once baked, the buns are quickly brushed, while good and hot, with simple syrup. This gives them a lustrous appearance, contributes slightly to the balanced sweetness, and helps extend the shelf life of the buns. In all, this is a fine product, and an excellent one in any baker’s Easter repertoire.

Ingredients

Overall Formula

U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
Bread Flour 10 lb 4.55 kg 13.3 oz 100%
Milk 5 lb 2.275 kg 6.7 oz 50%
Butter, Soft 1.5 lb .683 kg 2 oz 15%
Eggs 1 lb .455 kg 1.3 oz (1 small egg) 10%
Sugar 1.75 lb .796 kg 2.3 oz 17.5 %
Salt .08 lb .036 kg .1 oz .8%
Allspice, Ground* .08 lb .036 kg .1 oz .8%
Yeast .5 lb, fresh .228 kg, fresh .22 oz, instant dry (2 tsp) 5%
Dried Currants 3 lb 1.365 kg 4 oz 30%
Candied Lemon or Orange Peel (Finely Chopped) 1 lb .455 kg 1.3 oz (¼ cup, Packed) 10%
Total Yield 23.91 lb 10.879 kg 1 lb, 15.4 oz 239.1 %

Sponge

Bread Flour 1 lb .455 kg 1.3 oz (¼ cup) 100%
Milk 5 lb 2.275 kg 6.7 oz ( cup) 500%
Sugar .25 lb .114 kg .3 oz (½ T) 25%
Yeast .5 lb, fresh .228 kg, fresh .22 oz, instant dry (2 tsp) 50%
Total 6.75 lb 3.072 kg 8.6 oz

Final Dough

Bread Flour 9 lb 4.095 kg 12 oz ( cups)
Butter, Soft 1.5 lb .683 kg 2 oz (4 T)
Eggs 1 lb .455 kg 1.3 oz (1 small egg)
Sugar 1.5 lb .682 kg 2 oz (¼ cup)
Salt .08 lb .036 kg .1 oz (½ tsp)
Allspice, Ground* .08 lb .036 kg .1 oz (½ T)
Sponge 6.75 lb 3.072 kg 8.6 oz (all of above)
Dried Currants 3 lb 1.365 kg 4 oz (¾ cup)
Candied Lemon or Orange Peel, Finely Chopped 1 lb .455 kg 1.3 oz (¼ cup, Packed)
Total 23.91 lb 10.879 kg 1 lb, 15.4 oz

Crossing Paste

U.S. 12 Dozen Metric 12 Dozen Home 1 Dozen
Butter 10.6 oz 300 g 1 oz ( cup)
Sugar 10.6 oz 300 g 1 oz ( cup)
Milk 8 oz .228 g .8 oz ( T)
Vanilla .7 oz 20 g tsp
Lemon Peel, Grated 4 Lemons 4 Lemons to ½ Lemon
Egg Small, Beaten 2.4 oz 68 g . 2 oz ( tsp)
Flour, Sifted 1 lb, 5.4 oz 608 g 2 oz (Less Than ½ cup)

Simple Syrup

Sugar 1 lb .5 kg 4 oz (8 T)
Water 1 lb .5 kg 4 oz (½ cup)
Total 2 lb 1 kg 8 oz

* Depending on the freshness of the allspice, slightly more or less may be needed.

Method

  1. Sponge: Disperse the yeast in the milk, add the flour and sugar, and, using a whip or wire whisk if mixing by hand, mix just until smooth. The sponge will be very thin. Desired temperature: 80°F. Cover with plastic and let stand for 30 to 40 minutes, when the sponge will have risen to about 3 or 4 times its original height. It should be quite light, and in spite of the minimal amount of flour in it, there should be an unusual but quite evident structure to it. Give it a little jiggle to check.
  2. Mixing: Small quantities of up to 12 dozen buns can be mixed in a 20-quart planetary mixer or small spiral mixer. Stand mixers can mix up to 2 dozen buns. Place the final dough flour in the mixing bowl, add the soft butter, and mix just until the butter is dispersed. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, and allspice and mix them all together. Next, add the sponge. Mix on first speed for about 3 minutes until everything is thoroughly combined. Turn the mixer to second speed and mix for about 3 minutes. Strong gluten is not the goal of this mix, but enough dough development is necessary so that there is sufficient strength to lift the fruits and butter (combined, these are a considerable weight in the dough). When a moderate gluten development has been achieved, add the currants and diced peel. Mix until these are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Desired dough temperature: 78°F.
  3. Bulk Fermentation: 1 hour, with a light fold after 30 minutes.
  4. Dividing and Shaping: If using a 36-part dough divider, weigh off 4 presses weighing 6 pounds each. If dividing by hand, cut the dough into 2.7-ounce pieces. Round the pieces well, and place them on sheet pans in an even configuration. Cover the trays of buns with a sheet of plastic to prevent crusting on the surface.
  5. Final Fermentation: About 1 hour at 76°F.
  6. Crossing Paste: While the buns proof, make the crossing paste. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk, vanilla, grated lemon peel, and beaten egg. Whisk all these together, and then add the sifted flour (cake, pastry, or all-purpose flour all work fine). Using a round tip with a ¼- to ⅜-inch diameter, fill a piping bag with the paste. When the buns are finally proofed (approximately 1 hour), pipe lines in one direction on each of them, transecting the top of each bun. When all the lines have been piped in one direction, rotate the baking sheet 90 degrees and pipe lines again, so that the lines form an even cross (the cross, by the way, is an ancient Celtic representation of the four seasons).
  7. Simple Syrup: Prepare the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pot. Bring to a full boil, stirring once or twice so the sugar won’t burn on the bottom of the pot. The syrup can be brushed while still hot onto the buns, or it can be made days ahead and kept refrigerated.
  8. Baking: Bake the buns at 440°F for 14 to 16 minutes. They will show some browning on the surface, but still have some softness and give when squeezed. As soon as they are removed from the oven, brush them with the simple syrup. The buns are best when eaten fresh, but day-old buns can be reheated successfully, covered in aluminum foil, and heated for about 6 minutes at 350°F.