Culinary Institute of America Recipe
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Hot Cross Buns

Hot for Spring

Never mind bunnies and eggs…the surest sign of Easter season may be the hot cross bun. These yeast-raised treats were first made as spiced fruit buns and were popular during the Tudor period (c. 1485–1603) in England. They were later decorated with a cross on top and sold “hot out of the oven”—hence, their name. In a 1592 decree, Queen Elizabeth I ruled that bakers could only offer them for sale for special occasions, one being Good Friday.

This recipe utilizes a sponge, which is a quick type of pre-ferment. Pre-ferments are used to improve the flavor and texture of the finished bread by allowing the yeast to feed prior to final mixing.

Watch our video online: CIA Chefs Bill Briwa and Melissa Walnock fill a pastry bag and pipe the perfect cross on hot cross buns >

Hot Cross Buns recipe by The Culinary Institute of America




Makes twelve 2-ounce rolls

  • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm (90°F) milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon malt syrup or honey
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant dry yeast

Final Dough

  • Sponge (see above)
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied lemon peel
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 2 tablespoons cold milk or water), as needed

Hot Cross Topping

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons eggs (beat egg with a fork before measuring)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Coffee Cake Glaze (recipe follows)

Coffee Cake Glaze

Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 3/4 cup apple or apricot jelly
  • 1/2 cup water


Hot Cross Buns

  1. Mix the sponge ingredients by hand until homogenous. Allow to ferment (rise) for 30 minutes. While the sponge is fermenting, mix the topping.
  2. Prepare the hot cross topping: Put the butter in a bowl for an electric mixer. Add the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and zest. Place the bowl on a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the flour and continue to mix until homogenous, scraping down the bowl as needed. After mixing, the topping is ready to be piped on top of the buns. Place the topping in a pastry bag fitted with a small straight tip and set aside.
  3. Once the sponge has fermented, mix it with all Final Dough ingredients except the currants and lemon peel by hand until the dough begins to pull from the sides of the bowl. Then, add the currants and lemon peel and mix until incorporated. Allow to sit in the bowl at room temperature, covered, for 40 minutes, until the dough has almost doubled in size.
  4. Divide the dough into 2-ounce pieces and gently round them. Allow to rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Round the rolls tighter and place onto sheet pan close together, so they will bake together. Egg wash, cover, and allow to ferment for 1 hour.
  6. Egg wash once more and, using a pastry bag, pipe a cross with the topping on each bun. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 18 minutes, or until the buns have become a deep golden brown. The cross will gain slight color around the edges.
  7. Once the buns are out of the oven, brush them with glaze immediately. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Coffee Cake Glaze

  1. Combine the jelly and water in a small pot over medium-high heat and mix until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat. Thin with water if needed to make a brushable consistency. Lightly brush the hot glaze onto the product while it is hot (to seal in moisture and prevent having too much glaze).
  2. Leftover glaze can be cooled, placed in an airtight container, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
 Per bun: 491 CALORIES, 9.5 g PROTEIN, 80 g CARBOHYDRATES, 2 g FIBER, 15 g TOTAL FAT (10 g saturated fat), 517 mg SODIUM, 61 mg CHOLESTEROL

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