The intriguing origins of hot cross buns – and how to make them

An easy as pie hot cross bun recipe to bake at home

Of the many traditions associated with Easter in Ireland, the baking (or consumption) of hot cross buns must be the most intriguing. Although we may have forgotten most of the complex symbolism that comes with them, this does not stop us enjoying them.

Hot cross buns contain spices and dried fruit that originate far from Ireland. But we forget how much the spice trade has impacted our food history. While these ingredients would once have signified wealth and prestige, they now remind us of how open our country has been to international food trends through the centuries.

How to make hot cross buns

Place 300ml of milk with a tablespoon of oil, 50g of butter, the zest of one orange and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a pot and warm it to melt the butter. Cool the mixture to hand temperature and crumble in 5g of fresh yeast or 10g of dried. Whisk in one egg and allow to stand.

In a bowl, place 500g of flour with 100g of sultanas, 75g of brown sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Gradually pour in the milk mixture to form a dough. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Return to the bowl and cover and allow to prove for an hour or until double in volume. Shape the dough in 12 balls. Cover and prove again until doubled in volume.


Mix a little flour with water to make a paste. Place in a piping bag and pipe a cross on top of each bun. Bake in a 180 degree oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Gently warm 50ml of golden syrup and brush over the warm buns to glaze them.