Hot Cross Buns

Easter wouldn’t be the same without hot cross buns. Their history can be traced back to the Hertfordshire countryside, where an old mill still bakes buns to an ancient recipe.

Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th-century monk, is widely credited as making the very first hot cross bun – and given the simplicity of his medieval recipe, he may well have disapproved of later embellishments to his original creation.

Although the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Saxons all baked a type of bun to mark the changing seasons, it was Brother Rocliffe who made the Alban Bun in 1361.

A sweet, fruity bake bearing a cross on top, the buns were given to the local poor on Good Friday. This Easter treat so pleased the recipients that word soon spread, and efforts were made across the country to imitate these cakes. By the 19th century, hot cross buns were commonly eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent. The cross on top of these fruit buns is a symbol of the crucifixion.

Take this Easter classic to the next level by trying our Hot Cross Buns in 4 ways. Bake your version with the classic recipe, as well as new flavours, and savoury versions for a twist on the tradition, using the recipes below.

Classic Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

250ml whole milk
50g unsalted butter
500g strong white bread flour, plus 140g for the crosses and extra for dusting
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
85g golden caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
2 eggs, beaten
vegetable or sunflower oil, for the bowl
100g mixed dried fruit
50g mixed citrus peel
2tbsp apricot jam


Warm the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat, add the butter and swirl the pan until the butter has melted and the milk has cooled slightly.

Mix the 500g flour, the cinnamon, sugar, yeast and 1 tsp salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the warm milk mixture and half the beaten egg, and combine with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to clump together. Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 mins - the dough should bounce back when pressed with a finger.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Dust your largest baking tray with flour. Tip the dough back out onto the work surface and knead in the dried fruit and mixed peel until evenly distributed. Roll the dough into a long sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces about its length.

Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball, then arrange on the floured tray, leaving a small gap between each ball. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size again - the buns should be just touching.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C / 160 degrees C fan / gas 4 and brush the buns with the remaining beaten egg. Mix the 140g flour with enough water to make a smooth, thick paste, then spoon this into a pipping bag fitted with a small round nozzle (or use a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off). Pipe crosses over the buns and bake for 25 minutes until deep golden brown and cooked through.

Mix the jam with 1-2 tsp hot water to loosen it a little, then brush this over the buns. Cool for 10 minutes on the tray, then serve warm or toast and spread with butter.

Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

Make the dough as previously directed using another 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (1 tsp total)

Knead in 1 grated apple after the first prove with the other dried fruits, adding a little more flour if the dough becomes too wet. Continue with the recipe as before.

Chilli Cheese Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

Make the dough as previously directed, omitting the cinnamon, dried fruit and mixed peel, and reducing the amount of sugar to 50g.

Knead 100g grated mature cheddar and 1 tsp chilli flakes into the dough after the first prove. Sprinkle over a little more cheddar before baking, and omit the apricot jam glaze.

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

Make the dough as directed previously, omitting the dried fruit and mixed peel.

Instead knead in 50g each of chopped white, milk and dark chocolate after the first prove, then continue with the recipe as stated.