JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Tackling the hot cross bun

Prize winners ... Wailyn Mar's hot cross buns, from the Blue Ribbon Recipes cookbook.

Prize winners ... Wailyn Mar's hot cross buns, from the Blue Ribbon Recipes cookbook.

Hot cross buns before Good Friday. What a treat.

That was the rule in my house growing up and for some reason it’s a behaviour that has pretty much stuck, give or take a week. Not that I’m complaining. Given hot cross buns are pretty much available all year round these days, my waistline is thankful there’s something guiding restraint in the fruit bun department!

Hot cross buns straight out of the oven, however. Well, that’s too good an opportunity to pass up. Even if I had to make them myself.

My first foray into hot cross bun making was inspired by a recipe in the Blue Ribbon Recipes cookbook, a series of prize winning recipes from the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Wailyn Mar’s recipe looked simple enough (dried yeast, check) and its inclusion in a book of prize winners promised quality. Thankfully, I was right on both counts, although working with yeast for the first time was a little nerve wracking.

Mar herself has only been entering hot cross buns into the Royal for the past three years, but has been competing in other categories for ‘‘20 odd years’’. Shortbread and chocolate cake are just two of the categories she’s won first prize for. Last year she was awarded second place for her hot cross buns.

It’s been a matter of trial and error, she says.

‘‘The first time I had too fine a cross, they actually disappeared into the hot cross buns,’’ she says.

‘‘That got commented on ‘the crosses could be a bit bigger’, then the next year they were too big.’’

On the eve of this year’s competition (entries are due in on Thursday), she shared her recipe and tips with Tried & Tasted.

RECIPE: Wailyn Mar’s hot cross buns

Getting a raise
Hot cross buns can’t be churned out in an hour. The yeast must be given time to work its magic, so there’s a few points in the recipe where the dough has to be left to rest in a ‘warm place’ and rise. Mar’s suggestion - if you’ve been baking other things prior to tackling the hot cross buns, open the oven and make use of the warm door.

‘‘It gets the residual heat of what I’ve been cooking,’’ she says.

‘‘Or heat the oven up and turn it off. This will help it because around Easter time the weather is a bit cooler so you have to help it along.’’

Another tip - while the bowl is sitting on the oven door, cover it with a wet tea towel. The steam will help to lift it.

The need to knead
The hot cross bun dough is very sticky, especially at the start.  To aid the kneading process, Mar suggests sieving a thin layer of additional plain flour onto the board and over the top of the dough. Having slightly wet hands also helps.

‘‘You can feel the dough, if it’s ready,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s not sticking anymore and it springs back and is smooth. All the sultanas are sticking out and you have to poke them back in.’’

Although a note from my two road tests - my hot cross buns still rose from a sticky dough, it was just a pain to work with and I wasn’t able to get a lovely round shape like Mar’s (pictured at top).

hot cross buns
My first attempt - crosses were a disaster but they rose well.

Mar’s mixture contains 1/2 cup sultanas, plus mixed spice and cinnamon. But as she says, it is very much a matter of personal preference. I like mine a bit fruitier so for my second attempt increased the sultanas to 1 cup, plus added the grated zest of an orange and lemon. This really added to the flavour of the buns. Next time I’m going to try 1/2 cup sultanas and 1/2 cup currants, plus the zest.

Mar says an increase to one cup of fruit shouldn’t require any change to the rest of the recipe (and my road test would concur) but anything more than that and dough might not be able to support the weight of the fruit.

In the tray
Using a similar approach to scones, the buns should be located side-by-side in the lamington/slice tin. This is another newbie mistake Mar has seen Royal judges point out.

‘‘They should be just touching each other because they need to have each other to help rise,’’ she says.

If you don’t have a lamington tin Mar suggests using a square cake tin.

Presentation
The crosses are a simple mix of flour and water, applied before the buns are baked. Mar advises experimenting with different nozzle sizes to find the right one.  I used a large star nozzle first (disaster) then for my second attempt a smaller star nozzle. This produced a much better cross. I’m going to try an even smaller, round nozzle next time. In response to the feedback she received from the Royal judges Mar ended up making her own piping bag using baking paper and snipping off the end.  

hot cross buns
My second attempt - crosses much improved.

The crosses are best applied in rows, rather than doing each bun individually.

‘‘If you’re quick enough it won’t sink in between the buns,’’ she says.

I was surprised to learn that gelatine is sometimes added to the glaze of hot cross buns. This gives a lovely glossy appearance and has that ‘stick on the lip’ quality. It’s not suitable for vegetarians though so I experimented with a couple of other options. A glaze of sugar syrup with some spices added was lovely and fragrant but not very glossy. Apricot jam brought to a simmer did have a lovely gloss, so is a good alternative. Neither had that sticky quality though.

Labour of love
Was it worth the effort? Absolutely. Pulling those hot cross buns out of the oven brought a smile to the faces of my family and what a treat it was eating them warm, straight from the oven and smothered in butter.
The first attempt was a bit stressful though and took about three hours as I let the dough rest for longer than specified to see if it would rise to the levels described by Mar in her recipe. They didn’t on either occasion (especially the ones in the tray), but they were heading in the upwards direction. Both times they rose beautifully in the oven, so I’m a lot more relaxed about that now.

Will I be entering my hot cross buns in the Royal any time soon? No way. As the photos show I’ve still got a lot to learn about making the perfect hot cross bun. But with Easter just around the corner, there’s a few family members who have promised to score me a 10 out of 10 if I make another batch.

Do you make your own hot cross buns at Easter? Do you prefer only sultanas or currants and mixed peel too? Any other glaze suggestions would be most welcome.

38 comments so far

  • The second lot look great. I've always wanted to know how to make them (or at least hope that the ladies in my life get to know how to make them, like my mum!). This way I can eat them for more than just the 1-2 weeks when they're on sale at the shops. Slainte!

    Commenter
    Andrew of Mornington
    Date and time
    March 30, 2012, 2:13PM
    • 1-2 weeks ?? Try 4-5 months!

      Commenter
      Kel
      Date and time
      April 01, 2012, 9:14AM
  • We prefer more fruit in our buns. 300g to 500g flour.
    Also if the cross mixture is slightly thicker it will not slide off the buns.

    Commenter
    achookwoman
    Location
    Victoria
    Date and time
    March 30, 2012, 2:26PM
    • I agree lots more fruit needed, I have made HCB heaps of times, and use for similar flour 2 cups fruit, and 2-3 tsp cinnamon and 2 tsp mixed spice, have put more details in separate comment later, but this is about right for 4-5 cups flour. Taste great!

      Commenter
      easter baker
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      April 02, 2012, 9:38AM
  • Home made hot cross buns area fixture in my family every Good Friday. Mum (and now me) uses 1 cup of fruit (3/4 cup sultanas 1/4 cup currants, DEFINATELY no mixed peel). We use a gelatine/sugar/water glaze applied generously to the hot buns. The crosses are made using a freezer bag with the corner cut off.

    Commenter
    Anon
    Date and time
    March 30, 2012, 2:27PM
    • Yum! I'll have to pass this on to Mr Mags in the hope that he cooks up a batch.

      And FWIW I like your thick crosses better, Mar's are much too thin.

      Commenter
      Mags
      Date and time
      March 30, 2012, 3:06PM
      • Haven't tried to make Hot Cross Buns yet, but my first attempt with dry yeast was cinnamon rolls. Getting the dough to rise so it comes out of the oven soft and fluffy is such a trial, but the tastebuds love the results!

        Commenter
        SteveM
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        March 30, 2012, 4:05PM
        • This really is an inspiring article. With a reliable base recipe like Wailyn's certainly sounds, and discussion around some of the finer details by Sarah, I think this is the year I'm going to try making customised hot cross buns for my family and neighbourhood. Thanks so much. Have a happy and holy Easter everyone.

          Commenter
          Grace
          Location
          Amazing recipe!
          Date and time
          March 30, 2012, 4:19PM
          • I've been wanting to try my hand at hot cross buns for a few years. Affter reading this article I think I may finally have the courage to try it!

            Commenter
            Kochanski
            Date and time
            March 30, 2012, 4:32PM
            • Hi Kochanski and Grace - I really encourage you to give it a go. There are some stress points but on the whole it's not as difficult as you think it will be. Certainly I found the second batch a lot easier than the first! The end result is well worth it.

              Make sure you check back and leave us a comment if you do try. I'd love to hear how you found it.

              Cheers

              Sarah

              Commenter
              Sarah Mc
              Date and time
              March 30, 2012, 4:51PM

          More comments

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

          Featured advertisers

          Horoscopes

          Capricorn horoscope

          Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

          ...find out more here