The Best Hot Cross Bun Recipe

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I’ve compared hot cross bun recipes from Nigella, Dan Lepard, Delia, the BBC and a few others. Thanks to those of you who put forward your favourites – you can find most of the recipes here.

Beautiful hot cross buns shining in the spring light

I’ve shown real commitment to consuming a large number of hot cross buns over the last couple of days. We’ve also sold about 40 buns to children and adults at a local Easter party this afternoon.

From left clockwise Hamelman (17 including giant bun), Nigella (9 buns), Lepard (24 buns), Delia (11 buns), 2 pumpkin seed buns in the middle

The best hot cross bun recipe

The Lepard and Hamelman buns were superb, the Delia bun straightforward to make and tasty, the pumpkin seed buns idiosyncratic. The Nigella and BBC Food recipes probably have mistakes. Review the comments below to pick the bun that suits you best.


Nigella: hot cross bun with orange and cardamon

In Nigella’s defence the recipe does say “if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water”. But the recipe as stated produced a very dry mix (less than 50% hydration) which was difficult to knead and shape. I didn’t rest the dough overnight in the fridge, but doubt that would have made a big difference. The bun was also a bit dry which detracted from the flavour of the spices and orange. For my taste the spices did not make up for the complete absence of salt. For me this would probably be a great recipe with 250ml of milk and a teaspoon of salt. The egg wash was a nice touch. This bun was too dry for the adults and kids at the Easter Party.

Dan Lepard (spiced stout bun)

Dan Lepard: spiced stout bun

The bun felt nice with a good texture and it tore apart well. The flavour balance was good with the stout giving a subtle undertone to the richly spiced bun. Rounded flavour and nicely moist. I let the dried fruit and the sponge rest for a couple of hours rather than overnight. The dough mix was not too wet as the dried fruit reduced the hydration below the 66-70% suggested by the recipe. A bit of technique was required to knead the dough but Dan’s suggested approach worked well. This was a popular bun with adults and kids at the Easter party.


Delia: hot cross bun

Delia suggests that you can cut the top of the bun to give the characteristic cross. I think a pasty cross does look smarter, and on Delia’s website the buns are pictured with a pastry cross. Interestingly her instructions are to roll out and cut the pastry – I found using a piping bag to do the cross on other buns straightforward. The buns were a little dense and dry in comparison to some other recipes, but perfectly edible. The dough was very easy to handle if perhaps slightly on the dry side (about 50% hydration including the egg). The buns could have been spicier. The use of a large amount of dried yeast gave the bun a distinct yeasty flavour. For some this is the taste of childhood but I think the buns made with fast action yeast tasted nicer. This was a fairly popular bun at the Easter party.

BBC Food (by Simon Rimmer)

I didn’t make this recipe although it was suggested to me. The proportions of ingredients look very plausible (55% hydration and plenty of sugar and spice), but I think the recipe means fast action yeast (not dried) and I had my doubts about letting the dough rise of 12 hours. So I didn’t make this recipe.

Jeffrey Hamelman

Hamelman: hot cross bun

Jeffrey Hamelman is a renowned baking educator based in the US. This recipe is taken from his book “Bread”. If you are going to use his book it is vital to get a copy of the Hamelman Bread errata – there are mistakes in the bun recipe. This was a light and dainty little hot cross bun. The spicing is delicate but very well balanced with the other flavours. The main downside is the odd mouthful without mixed peel or currants. The dough was sticky and required some technique to handle (hydration 60%) but mixing the dough and then adding the currants and mixed peel helped produce a very light  and moist bun. Not a suitable recipe for a beginning home baker. This was a very popular bun at the Easter Party.

(Jeffrey’s recipe using baker’s percentages  is 100% bread flour; 50% milk; 15% soft butter; 10% eggs; 17.5% sugar; .8% salt; .8% ground allspice; 5% fresh yeast; 30% currants; 10% mixed peel. I used fast action yeast.)

Pumpkin seeded bun

Hot cross bun with pumpkin seeds

I made this bun from some left over dough and a rather arbitrary amount of pumpkin seeds. The seeds gave this bun a subtle crunch and slightly different flavour from your standard bun. An experiment worth trying if you want to add a bit of variety to one of the more traditional hot cross bun recipes.

Other interesting recipes

I didn’t try the sourdough hot cross buns. I was tempted for a moment but the  idea of a slightly sour hot cross bun meant I didn’t make the starter up when I had the chance. The recipe I have from Mary Berry is similar to Delia’s but more strongly spiced. Dan Lepard has published a cider hot cross bun recipe today (24th March 2012) but this comes too late for the bakeoff. Richard Bertinet’s recipe looks promising lying somewhere between the richly spiced and fruited Lepard recipe and the rather more lean Hamelman approach. The size of your eggs will have a big impact on dough hydration given the high proportion of egg in the recipe. Elizabeth David offers much wisdom on the topic of hot cross buns but the recipe is for a “little less milk” than a spice bun which is fun but vague. Eliza Acton has no quantities for any recipe. Escoffier doesn’t list any bun recipes.

What next?

Let me know what you think. Are you going to make one of these recipes? Are you going to take inspiration from them and develop your own? We’d love you to join the conversation on twitter or facebook.