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The Best Homemade Hot Cross Buns, EVER

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One-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot crossed buns!

What is with a hot crossed bun crossed before it is hot? When I was a child, there were no hot crossed buns in grocery stores or bakeries. The only hot crossed buns I knew were being turned out in fragrant humid kitchens all across the prairies on every Good Friday just before Easter. We would wait for them to be cool enough to touch and then slather them with fresh creamy butter. The top half was always the best. The glaze just brought the rich buttery egg-filled dough to another level. So did the melted butter. If you have never had a home made hot crossed bun, put it on your Bucket List. Now.

When I did first see them in the stores, I was, frankly, shocked: blasphemy in the bakery! The buns were square and lifeless and squished and the beautiful glistening cross was fake! It was made with some kind of white doughy stuff and baked with the bun. This was the consummate disappointment. I would never buy a hot crossed bun or eat one that was made commercially. This would be like comparing gooey processed white bleached Wonder bread to beautiful artisanal crusty bread. Commercialism really has poked its nose in far too many sacred little places. My mother’s traditional hot crossed buns include mashed potatoes: that is the secret ingredient. But, it is the cinnamon and nutmeg muddled with the intoxicatingly yeasty aroma of homemade bread that beckons.

And finally, not only the buns coming out of the oven give reason to rejoice for the onset of Spring and New Life, but the crocuses in the garden reared their heads on Good Friday, too.

Hello! You are more beautiful than you know! It has been such a dull, dark, dank, and dreary winter for all this winter of 2011.

Many of you know my mom, Helen, as I have captured her culinary prowess many times. My favourite is the post about her Homemade Angel Food Cake. It is a great story. Today, I am capturing her making these lovely traditional Easter buns. This is clearly a recipe that has become our own from our British countrymen. My mom and dad celebrated their 60th Anniversary last November and there is still no stopping her. Dad and my baby sister, Penny, are curled in their chair filled with homemade Hot Crossed Bun anticipation!

Not only was mom dressed to the nines (this is how she has always been), but she had everything measured and ready to go before I arrived. I love how she used the water the potatoes were boiled in for the water in the recipe.

Her Sunbeam Mixmaster is over 30 years old. It still looks like new and works like a charm. She will be rendered helpless without it. This is her second one. The first one survived for over 30 years, too, but was dropped. They no longer make them like this, so she has been searching for a replacement “just in case”, but nothing comes close, in her opinion. She keeps the speed on low throughout most of this process. Adding each item as listed in the recipe and as pictured above and below, then beating in slowly and thoroughly.

And when I thought the bowl was already too full, in goes 4 cups of flour: slow and steady. Lots of beating and patience.

Now, the bowl has incorporated everything but the next portion of flour (6 cups) and the currants. This is added to the bin with the dough.

Mom just stirs them in with a huge spoon until all of the flour has been incorporated into the dough. Then, one cup of flour covers the mat and the dough is plopped out onto it for kneading.

She has already cleaned the bin and buttered it ready for the dough to rest in after giving it a work out, here, in a minute. See what I mean? Hair is perfectly coiffed, earrings on, necklace on, make up on: you will never see her any other way unless you pull the fire alarm in the middle of the night. She has certainly been an amazing role model for my sister, myself, and our children.

It wasn’t long before I had to get my hands in the pillows of yeasty goodness. I worked the dough the French way, and it was a pleasure to work with. It is a wetter dough, similar to a brioche to the touch as it is full of eggs and butter. You can see, below, that I lost a few currants to the floor as I was incorporating air into the dough! Back into the bin it went, covered with butter, and into the sun in the window for a warm rest to proof.

After a lovely visit and about an hour and a half, the dough had risen and was ready to make into buns.

Parchment paper on five cookie sheets: each will hold a dozen buns, oven on to 350°F, and mom’s favourite glass out to cut the buns with. She used to have four, but now there is one. Oh, my! What will happen should this perfect sized glass break? I shouldn’t make fun of her. I am far too similar! Look at the mound of luscious soft promises.

It is flattened with her hands to a rectangle for cutting.The lip of the glass has been floured and needs to be floured every three cuts.

Wnen cutting with the glass (or any cutter), gather as much dough as possible into the shape so the bun will be abundant, then press to cut.

The dough continues to rise, quite quickly, as it is being cut, and needs frequent reflattening to ensure consistency of cutting size.

The left over strands of dough are regathered and formed into another rectangle for cutting. Once that is done, the glaze is made. It used to be made only with powdered sugar and water, but the addition of butter enhances the flavour and increases the stability of the glaze: it no longer breaks off the bun.

My little baby sister is tired of all the commotion and excitement and has decided to have a nap on her favourite blanket in the sun.

The five dozen buns (plus 2) are cut and ready to go. By the time the last tray is cut, the first tray is ready for the oven. Each takes 15 to 18 minutes to bake.

Oh…. look who’s getting impatient and coming over to check out the wares in the kitchen!

Another short visit while they bake and then the tops are buttered immediately upon coming out of the oven: look at that! Can you just smell them?

We were not very patient. We each had one immediately after they were iced. About fifteen minutes of cooling, while still a little warm to the touch is the time to ice the cross on the bun. The heat will thin the glaze and encourage it to slide just the right amount.

What can I say?

I went to the market first thing in the morning, then to mom and dad’s and we were finished five dozen of these before noon. It was absolutely worth it. They are so good.

Bravo, mom! Standing ovation! (see the two missing above?) And, in her very distinct and gorgeous writing: the recipe for

The Best Homemade Hot Cross Buns, EVER!

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

We would sing this little ditty while waiting for them to come out of the oven, while eating them and after eating them, as children. According to the Church of England they are historically eaten on Good Friday, and the symbolism is evident: the bread represents the communion, the spices represent the spices mixed into the cloth wrapped around Jesus in the tomb, and the cross represents his death. Though all of this is evident, and my childhood Easters were punctuated with Easter Sunday Dresses, cute little white gloves (stained with red Easter egg dye), Sunday School, Dinners, Easter egg baskets, Easter egg decorating and Easter egg hunts, it is the family tradition of making and sharing these buns that resurrects my spirit, my childhood and reconnects me to my family every Easter.

There is nothing like traditional family foods and the stories that are worked into them through the years and over time. Nothing.

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About Valerie Lugonja

Educator, Writer, Gardener and Traveler who believes in buying and eating locally, and most importantly cooking at home!

Join The Conversation!

  1. What a production! To think that your mom, looking amazing, is directing this kind of operation and producing all these dozens! Wow! I was getting tired looking at all this work! But the result is so worth it!!!! You should have been head of a baking empire!

  2. I love hot cross buns and I love your Mom! She look amazing and really nice, lovely recipe, xx gloria

  3. and your little baby sister is sooooo cute! gloria

  4. Thanks for making memories for me Val. These are Denver’s very favorite. I am so happy that his Auntie knows how to make these too!! Everything looks absolutely beautiful and soooo yummy. oxoxox

  5. Hot cross buns look delightful. I am not sure if I have ever enjoyed one (sigh).
    I need to change that soon.

    btw, your Wordless Wednesday posts tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. EST. Please come check out your photo. Thanks for participating.

    Take care.
    Velva

  6. wow so many red cross buns! That’s enough to feed a football team. :-)) They look so delightful and yes, I could almost smell the cinnamon from here!!

  7. I mean HOT! LOL

  8. What a beautiful family tradition and I have to say I’ve not seen a hot crossed bun recipe as good as this one sounds Valerie. You mom really is a beautiful role model isn’t she, congratulations ladies…., wish I was there to polish off a few of those beautiful buns, but I do believe I’m saving this recipe to try myself next Easter. Thanks for sharing ladies :)

  9. I really don’t think I have ever seen such a wonderful post. You spoke to my heart. I used to make hot cross buns, but it has been a long time. I remember my mother making these so long ago; Your mother is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful tradition that I left behind. You gave me inspiration!
    Rita

  10. The buns look truly wonderful, Valerie! Your mom is quite the amazing chef and I’m happy you’re sharing her knowledge so we can all learn from her!

  11. Such a wonderful post! I can see where you get your cooking talent :) I’ve never had nor tasted a hot cross bun but after reading this post and seeing all of those delicious photos, I just may try them next year!

  12. I’m glad it’s not just me! I don’t remember hot crossed buns in stores from my childhood either!

  13. What a lovely post! Thank you for allowing us in your mother’s kitchen, and for sharing these beautiful hot cross buns with us!

  14. What a labour of love Valerie! These buns look worth each minute your mom spent making these.It is recipes like this which always keep alive the spiring of home kitchens and family feasts.I also grew up in a similar atmosphere where my mom & granny dished out the greatest dishes ever all made from scratch.I wish I could have one of these with a dollop of butter & without having to move my butt :) I hope you had a wonderful Easter.
    I am so thankful for your kind words yesterday on my post.I understand that life gets busy and this virtual world of blogging friends takes a back seat then.But that is the case with each one of us at some point or the other.You take care and have fun being away.Take care!
    Hugs!

  15. These are the best hot cross buns ever! ps- are they called hot cross OR hot crossed? i am so confused. I made these twice this year and they received rave reviews. I could eat them all year round. They make me happy because the smell reminds me of home! Why do grandma’s look WAY better than mine?

    • Lauren!
      You are your mother’s and your grandmother’s pride and joy! I am so delighted that you make these. We will do them together one day. I am going to look at yours now – but look at grandma’s step by step if hers look better than yours. Hers never started out this beautiful, either!
      XOXOXO

      • Lauren Andersen says:

        i am re-reading this as i am just about to go to the store to get the ingredients. easter is NOT the same without grandma’s hot crossed buns. i believe aaron does like them, but he doesn’t like raisins and asked me last night if i could make them without currants. nope i told him. too bad! ha!! i cannot wait to dig into one. these look amazing! xo

  16. Delicious! I have never made hot-crossed buns before but they sound scrumptious.

    I understand about being busy. I’m sure I will see you around when things slow down :)

  17. Wow, I loved this post. Your mom is just beautiful and obviously a master in the kitchen! These look amazing and love the photos, especially the one with melting butter, oh my!

  18. I tried my hand at making hot cross buns for Easter this year. Yours seem lighter than the ones I tried, but it wouldn’t be Easter without them.

  19. Valerie, I love this post! Your mom is a gem and the hot cross buns look amazingly good.

  20. You are so lucky to have a mom who would whip up these amazing hot cross buns! I can tell by the picture that they have a lovely soft crumb. Often hot cross buns can be a bit dry. But I know they also have the added ingredient of love :), so I know these must be stupendous.
    *kisses* HH

  21. That is quite the batch of buns. Thanks also for sharing the recipe. They look amazing (and so does your Mom!)

  22. Hi Valerie

    I agree, these look fantastic! I’ve never made hot crossed buns, but i’ve made panettone with currants. I wanted to ask though – the handwritten recipe – that yields the 5 dozen you made? Is it a special type of frosting you use?

    Thank you
    Katrina

    • Valerie says:

      Katrina,
      Yes – the hand written recipe with 11 cups of flour, not 12, yields the 5 dozen we made. And the icing recipe? Hmmm… I tried to get mom to figure it out, but as I watched, she used a cup of butter and about 4 cups of icing sugar with enough water to make it the consistency you see in the photos.
      Hope that helps!!! :)
      valerie

  23. Hi Valerie,

    Will be by tomorrow again to comment properly. Eyes are so darn heavy right now. Stalk ya tomorrow.

  24. These looks fantastic and who better to teach us then your gorgeous mum! Love the photos series Valerie! Hot cross buns are not very familiar in these parts although I have seen them many times ofcourse on all the blogs. Believe me if I say that I have never actually eaten on (yet) !

  25. Look at that bun as it comes out of the oven! Nothing you buy in a bakery or *gasp* a store (!) will ever come close to the love are care that goes into making these homemade buns. Your mom looks so classy, and I like how she had all the ingredients measure out before you even got there :) It’s clear to see where you get your kitchen prowess! I, too, would be coming over for a peek to see how close I would be to sinking my teeth into one of those buns. There really is nothing like family tradition to add additional spice to a wonderful baked good.

    Happy Sunday, Valerie! :)

  26. Wonderful cake.

  27. what a great post, Valerie! i thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of it. love it when mother and daughter cook together! when i first saw that picture of your Mom’s ingredients all measured out and ready to go, it reminded me of one of those cooking shows. your Mom should have her own cooking show…haha. seriously though, i love how she is so organized, on top of everything, and yet not a strand of hair is out of place and still has the energy to smile that great big beautiful smile of her’s after baking 5 dozen (plus 2) hot crossed buns. definitely a standing ovation. bravo to you Ms. Helen, bravo!!!!!! if you’re reading this, Valerie is my inspiration, but you are my hero! you are truly an amazing woman. thank you to the both of you for sharing this wonderful recipe with us all. those hot crossed buns look absolutely divine and mouth watering. that first shot with the melting butter had me drooling. nothing better than fresh baked dough slathered with butter. another great post, Valerie. hope you and your lovely family had a very happy Easter.

  28. your mom is goregous!! I can see where you get your love of food from, sinfully sweet buns!!

    sweetlife

  29. Oh my goodness – this is a legacy Val! What a production – it belongs in some grand kitchen feeding an army! Fantastic and look how PERFECT they are! Your Mum is just too adorable :)

    Val, I launched my new project, check it out :)))

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  30. MARION PILGER says:

    Hi,

    Those hot cross buns look so good…..I thought myself as I quickly scanned through the photos – your mom must be a world class bread maker if she can make bread wearing a black outfit – no apron! Wow – she must be incredibly careful when she measure the flour! I need a couple lessons from her to master that one! Have a happy day.

  31. What a great day you must have had baking with your mom. They turned out so nice. For mine I did my own glaze. Your mom dressed so well. She looks really good.

  32. Hi Valerie, as everyone has stated these look AMAZING!! But I was just wondering, for a beginner baker like me, is there a cheat’s thermomix version of this recipe that you could share??

    • Valerie Lugonja says:

      Lara
      I will let you know this Easter! We have always done it “mom’s” traditional way – but this is an excellent post I must do this year. Develop the recipe for the Thermomix. I will work on that!
      Thrilled to hear you have one, too. Where are you from? LOVE MY THERMOMIX!!! :)
      Valerie

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