Cuisine Fiend

wholemeal hot cross buns

Updated: Mon, 8 March, 2021

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!

glazed hot cross buns

Seasonal means occasional

Would you fancy mince pies in the middle of summer? I’m not at all sure. There’s this man living somewhere in England who apparently has Christmas every day. You must be truly obsessed to roast a turkey every day. Perhaps only every other day? Who knows?

However much I love some foods, I wouldn't want to eat them every day. That's why seasonal foods are so nice - simply because of what they are, seasonal, occasional.

It's something to look forward to, something to eagerly anticipate and relate to a cheerful time of spring, summer, holidays. Christmas is coming, we'd better make some mince pies! And then we have none for ten or eleven long months which makes the hearts and taste buds fonder for when they next come round.

wholemeal hot cross buns

Hot cross buns for Easter

Hot cross buns shout out ‘spring! Easter!’ Fluffy sweet buns that you might well have during the year in the guise of tea cakes or cinnamon buns, but not quite so spiced, not quite so shiny with glaze, nor adorned with those white crosses that have long lost their religious connotations but do look so pretty.

I start baking my first batches in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on. I probably bake up to 50 in a season since I have many eager, greedy hot cross bun enthusiasts among family and friends.

Because there’s nothing, but nothing better to have for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun, homemade, lightly toasted with a pile of butter on its sliced half.

homemade hot cross buns

How to make wholemeal hot cross buns

This is my best recipe for hot cross buns, tested about a thousand times. It comes from Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters.

I’ve adjusted the mix of flours compared to the original which instructs to use only wholemeal flour. But a little wholemeal flour goes a long way and hot cross buns should not be too heavy.

The amount of raisins is scarily large but in my house the ideal raisin to dough ratio would be 1:1. If you're not so big on raisins, cut the amounts by a third - it will still be a lot.

It is an easy, forgiving dough, it just needs a morning or afternoon devoted to mixing, kneading and shaping at sensible intervals. I like making them because it is such structured work: ferment, dough, shaping, crosses and glaze.

The ferment gets the yeast going - and it matters not whether you use fresh or instant yeast. The main dough is best mixed with a Kitchen Aid or another standing mixer, otherwise it is going to take a lot of elbow grease.

The crossing mix is a joy: I don't believe in just painting the crosses on the buns with white icing as some bakers do. Piping the sticky mix carefully onto risen buns is the best part.

best hot cross buns

Can you use currants?

Any dried fruit you prefer can be happily used. I don't normally put in citrus peel but it might be a nice option.

Do they keep?

They don't - they usually get eaten within a couple of days! Joking aside, they stay surprisingly fresh for two days, thanks to the glaze. I usually freeze half the amount, mainly to save some for later, but you can also keep them all in a tub or a bread bin because they are blissfully good toasted.

You need to take care not to ruin your toaster though because of the glaze. The best method is to slice the bun in half and place it, cut side down, on top of the toaster. Alternatively turn on your oven grill and place the buns on a piece of parchment set on the oven rack, cut side up.

And then spread some butter, unsalted according to my personal preference, over the golden crunchy surface and enjoy it. Happy Easter!

wholemeal hot cross buns

Servings: 16 bunsTime: 3 hours


  • For the ferment:
  • 20g (1½ tbsp.) sugar
  • 10g fresh or 1½ tsp fast action yeast
  • 280g (1¼ cup) warm milk
  • 140g (1 cup) wholemeal flour
  • For the dough:
  • 310g (2½ cup) strong white flour
  • 7g (2 tsp) mixed spice
  • 3g (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 50g (3½ tbsp.) butter, softened
  • 35g (2 tbsp.) caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg (50g)
  • 5g (¾ tsp) salt
  • 180g (6 oz.) sultanas
  • 80g (3 oz.) raisins
  • 40g (3 tbsp.) white rum (or fruit juice, or water)
  • For the crossing mix:
  • 50g (4 tbsp.) plain flour
  • 1g (½ tsp) baking powder
  • 5g (1 tsp) vegetable oil
  • 50g (¼ cup) water
  • For the glaze:
  • 50g (¼ cup) honey
  • 25g (3 tbsp.) double cream



1. Prepare the raisins well in advance, best to leave them to soak for a few hours or even overnight. Put the raisins and sultanas in a ziplock bag, warm the rum or juice (on the hob or in a microwave) until almost boiling and pour over the fruit. Squash it around in the bag so that the fruit is well covered in the liquid, zip up the bag and leave for the moisture to be absorbed.

2. Prepare the ferment mixture by dissolving the yeast in the warm milk and mixing it well with the flour and sugar. Leave to rise and bubble up for about an hour.

ferment for hot cross buns dough

3. Add the dough ingredients to the ferment and knead or mix in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment until the dough is smooth, elastic and bounces of the sides of the bowl or stops sticking to your hands. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

4. Drain the fruit – there will be next to none liquid left - and then knead it in very gently, taking care not to break up the raisins. If using the standing mixer, mix the fruit in on the lowest speed and finish off by kneading it in with your hands. The huge amount of fruit makes for delicious buns but it’s difficult to distribute it evenly so invariably you’ll end up with some buns more fruited than others.

5. Leave the dough to prove in a warm place until doubled in size, at least an hour.

main dough

6. Turn it out onto lightly floured surface, trying not to de-gas it too much. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces (they will weigh about 75g each if you want to be that precise), shape the pieces into tight balls and place on baking trays lined with parchment, spaced about 5cm apart.

shaping hot cross buns

7. Place the trays in large plastic bags, inflate each by blowing into it and quickly tying the ends, and leave to rise for about an hour, until the buns are almost touching each other.

8. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Make the crossing mix – beat all the ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. Transfer it into a piping bag (if you haven’t got one, spoon the mix into a plastic bag and cut off a corner) and pipe crosses on the buns, using your finger to stop the flow of the mix after each line.

9. Immediately put the trays in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until well browned, except for the crosses of course. Transfer to a wire rack together with the parchment – it will make glazing them easier if they are still slightly stuck to the parchment and not dancing around while you brush the glaze on.

baked hot cross buns

10. Heat up the honey until almost starting to boil and beat in the double cream. Brush the glaze on the buns – still warm or slightly cooled down, it doesn’t matter – and leave to cool completely or be snatched to tuck into while still warm.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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