Monday, March 29, 2010

Hot Cross Buns and Bunny Buns

Hot Cross Buns

If like me, you are a citizen of a former colonial country, you may well acquainted with the tradition of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday. These simple, sweet buns (sans the cross) are sold throughout the year in bakeries all over the island. On Good Friday, they are dressed with a cross as a reminder of the Crucifixion.

Hot Cross Buns

As a child, these buns were always store bought. Often they were a bit dry. Indeed, you considered yourself blessed to find anything more than one or two raisins in a bun. Meh, I never thought that they were anything special. Perhaps this was because they were accompanied by a Catholic mom's sermon about the torture and subsequent murder of a perfectly nice guy who died for my sins. the next time you put toothpaste into your brother's underwear while he's asleep just remember, YOU killed Jesus!  Not surprisingly my mom wasn't at all put off by Mel Gibson's gory Passion of Christ. I am almost certain that the two of them met over a hot cross bun one Good Friday. From that secret meeting Mel came away with a screenplay for the graphic details of Christ's torture. Oh and in my defense, regarding my torture of my brother, I promise you he always started it.

Hot Cross Bun

So these are Easter buns done my way.  I like them heavy with raisins, fragrant with spices and sans the guilt trip. Although I do anticipate an anti, Easter bunny rant from the Rabid Catholic Woman when I roll up with my bunny buns. Whatever.

Bunny Buns Three

Let me assure you that whichever version you choose to make, you will find that the texture of these spiced pillows of goodness is close to perfect.  I understand. You are reluctant to trust me aren't you? After all, every other bun recipe out there is claiming that the texture of their bun is otherworldly soft. Do me a favour. Go read the ingredients of your favourite mass-produced soft, sliced bead. Chances are you will see an ingredient called gluten.

Do you see it? If you don't see it on the label of your white bread then for sure it will be in your whole wheat loaf. Ever wondered how come your homemade whole-wheat loaf is more brick like than the mass-produced store bought loaf? That my dear friends is the magic of gluten.

Bunny Bun

Gluten is also called vital wheat gluten. It makes the dough more elastic and bakers use it to get a more consistent rise and a lighter textured bread. Click here to head on over to Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Gluten where the science behind this ingredient is explained in more detail. For now just trust me on this, Gluten = lighter, fluffier bread. Now hurry. Go make some buns, only three days left!

Three Bunny Buns

Hot Cross Buns or
Bunny Buns


1 tbs(11g) dried yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
185ml (3/4 cup) warm lukewarm milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk at room temperature
50g (1/3 cup) butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
4 cups all purpose flour (maybe even 1/2 cup more depending on humidity)
5 tsp vital wheat gluten
90g (1/ 2 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp cardamom, freshly ground (about 8-10 pods)
1/4 tsp all spice, freshly ground
3/4 cup raisins
50g (1/4 cup ) mixed peel

Flour Paste Crosses
75g (1/2 cup) flour
80ml(1/3cup) water

Sugar Glaze
2 tbs granulated sugar
160 ml (2/3) cup water

Combine 3/4 cup lukewarm milk the one teaspoon of sugar and the yeast in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes or until frothy.

Whisk in the 1/2 cup room temperature milk, butter and egg.

In a large bowl Combine 4 cups flour, vital wheat gluten, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cardamon and all spice. Add the raisins and mixed peel and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the milk mixture and use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together. If too sticky add up to 1/2 cup flour one table spoon at a time kneading in between.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 200°C ( 375°F). Grease a 23cm square cake pan. or a flat baking sheet. Punch the dough down with your fist. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 16 even pieces and shape each portion into a ball. Arrange dough portions, side by side, in the prepared pan. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until dough has risen

Meanwhile, mix the remaining flour and water together in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. Place in a small plastic bag and snip off the end. Pipe a continuous line down the centre of each row of buns, lengthways and widthways, to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes 200°C . Turn heat down to 160° C (325°F) to bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through (buns are ready when they sound hollow when tapped ).

During the last 20 minutes of baking prepare the glaze. Put sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer until the glaze thickens. When buns are done, transfer buns to a wire rack. Brush tops with glaze. Set aside to cool slightly.

I don't like the taste of the flour crosses. So before serving I peel them off . I then mix some icing sugar with water. I pipe this onto the bun after removing the flour paste cross. 

These are great fresh out of the oven but they also freeze well and are no less enjoyable when warmed in the microwave.

Makes 16 buns or
3 Bunny Buns and 9 hot cross buns



  1. The inclusion of gluten here is a very nice touch and oh you put in cardamom too! love it! I wanted to put some cardamom into mine but given that I was testing the recipe, my tasters would have rejected it as I was going for a traditional flavour but you can bet the next I make some they are going to have in cardamom.

    I love the bunnies and the lighting on your pics make me happy just looking at it.

  2. Have a great Easter! I know you will with these lovely buns!

  3. Your buns look so soft and delicious (hahaha that sounds funny)! I love that you included extra raisins and yummy, comforting spices. I love the way you write. Your photos are beautiful, too. I've never had a hot cross bun, so I should make this soon!

  4. how cute is that?? your easter bunnies turned out pretty good. i'd feel bad eating them!

  5. Sooo cute!! I love it! My whole wheat pizza crust calls for additional gluten and it really does make the difference.

    PS -how do you freshly grind your cardamom? Do you use green or the very dried brown kind -because the green is dried also.

  6. My church has been raising funds for the past couple weeks by selling hot cross buns after Mass. By the end of the ceremony we can smell them baking - so there's no chance that parishoners can avoid supporting the cause! Your bunnies are very cute indeed!

  7. Mmmmmm, I can smell these already from your fab photos, will definitely give them a go,
    hahaha, think your brother got off lightly, what, no zouti or goat bush..only toothpaste?

  8. The hot cross buns (of course) remind me of my Anglican youth! But the bunnies just make me smile. GREG

  9. Can't go wrong adding cardamom and more raisins! I used to make these for a restaurant a few years back. Love yours, they look great! and the little bears are so so adorable!

  10. Zooms - curious and dying to know what is zouti and goat bush

    Tasteofbeirut-my bears were supposed to be rabbits lol,

    Dee-the dried green one. I shell it and use a small mortar and pestle

    Cynthia - I love the cardamom in it and 1/4 tsp is just enough not to over power the other spices. I am very careful with this spice. As much as I like it I find it can be cloying if there is too much.

  11. Those hot cross bunnies are too cute to devour!

  12. I love your food photography. Simply mouth-watering!

  13. This is the first time I am at your blog. It rocks. Beautiful photos.Thank you for visiting my site. Methi leaves are otherwise fenugreek leaves. You can find it in Asian markets.I hope that helps.

  14. Wizzy,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and making a comment. I came over here to see your blog and oh my goodness, I am salivating. These look so delicious! With Easter coming up I just may try them.


  15. I didn't know you could buy gluten and add it in...hah. Now I feel a little big ignorant :P These are so cute, and a plus since I've always (oddly enough) liked cross buns. I feel like I'd have to slather those bunnies in icing if I made them, though...I think the icing might be the only reason I liked the buns in the first place! :)

  16. I've never made hot cross buns before, but yours look so good I definitely want to try them this weekend. The bunnies are super adorable!

  17. pillows of perfection indeed! your commentary is always so enjoyable--thanks for the excellent read and for the images of those cute-as-can-be bunny buns. :)

  18. They looks lovely. Have a superb Easter.....and stay well!

  19. these look delicious...i wish i was into baking...and i thought about eating some this morning too.

  20. These little guys sound so tasty and I love cardamon in baked goods, plus those bunnies are just so cute. What a great idea to celebrate Easter.

  21. Well I am getting ready to make this this coming weekend (a bit late I know), but I cannot find mixed peel that is peanut and tree nut safe for my kiddos. So I will be trying to make my own mixed peel first -but I'm having trouble finding one that sounds "right" -any thoughts?

  22. Wizzy,

    They are very very cute!

    Happy Spring :)


  23. Wonderful Easter buns and a hot cross bunny! And you made them, wonderful.

  24. Wizzy,
    This is a bright place..just like the summer-springs we have in this part of the world. :)

    Yes I did make that Chocolate rose myself...glad u liked it.

    Stay in touch.

  25. You could also just use bread flour instead of all purpose flour plus gluten for the same/similar effect (since bread flour has more gluten than AP flour). I don't know if the following is accurate, but my understanding is that 1 tablespoon gluten for each cup of all purpose flour makes the equivalent of bread flour. Looking at your recipe, you don't add that much gluten, but obviously you feel it makes a big difference. I wonder what would happen if you used more gluten... I have done the 1 T gluten for each c. AP flour in pizza and some other recipes where I felt bread flour was essential and it turned out great. It can sometimes be cheaper than buying bread flour, too (depends). I started a new family tradition of making hot cross buns 3 years ago but have never used bread flour or added in gluten, so thanks to you, I will try that next year. On another note, where do you buy cardamom pods? I always see the powder, but not pods, and both I think are expensive. My mother on occasion uses them in Swedish breads (common ingredient in Swedish baked goods) and says she has difficulty finding them and thinks they're a pain to work with but much better than the pre-ground stuff.

  26. Katheleen - Thanks for the tip on the bread flour but it isn't available here in Trinidad. I agree and I do think it needs more gluten but this was the first time I tried the gluten in this recipe and I erred on the side of caution by going with the recommendation of the recipe on the gluten box. I think the addition of the egg helped compensate for the too little gluten. The pods and the powder are readily available in the supermarkets in my country. Sorry I can't help much with the cardamom except to say that if you can find a store that sells ethnic or Indian goods. It is also called elychi or elaichi. I prefer the pods because they last a bit longer than the powder.

  27. Wow, your photos are insanely gorgeous. Inspiring!

  28. Hey Wizzy, bread flour is called 'Baker's Flour' and is readily available in supermarkets here in T&T :)