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Hot Cross Buns

James Morton's take on the traditional hot cross bun recipe for Easter. Made with wholemeal flour, these sticky, sweet bakes are finished with an icing drizzle.

From the book

James Morton


This recipe may divide some people; basically, I love hot cross buns, but I don’t like the cross. Not that I disagree with it in a religious way, but I don’t like that the cross is usually made with a bland and floury paste. People who do this are piping nastiness onto an otherwise beautiful dough. Horrible.

The solution is to make the crosses out of icing. It’s like giving our lovely buns a striking garment to wear, rather than a cancerous growth. I use a little wholemeal flour, sieved to remove the bittiness, just for a savoury and earthy touch to balance with the sweet stickiness of the bun.

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350g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour (sieved weight)
2 x 7g sachets fast-action yeast
10g salt
100g Italian mixed peel
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ nutmeg, finely grated
100g white sourdough starter
2 medium eggs
170g full-fat milk
40g honey
30g apple brandy
50g butter, softened
200g raisins
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
50g water
½ tsp cinnamon
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
few squeezes of lemon juice


1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, salt and spices. Rub the salt and spices into the dry mix on one side of the bowl, then the yeast on the other. Add the starter, eggs, milk, honey, brandy and butter and combine to form a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes, if you can.

2. Knead your dough for about 5 minutes, then add your raisins and continue to knead until the dough is holding together and passing the windowpane test, about another 5 minutes. Cover and leave to prove for 1–2 hours, or until at least doubled in size. Alternatively, leave to rest in the fridge for 10–14 hours.

3. Turn your dough out on to a lightly floured surface and separate into 12 roughly equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, place on your baking tray and leave to prove for a final 90 minutes or so at room temperature. At least half an hour before you’re going to bake, preheat your oven to 240°C/gas 9.

4. Once proved, turn your oven down to 210ºC/gas 6½ and bake for 20–25 minutes, until a dark golden brown all over.

5. As soon as they are in the oven, prepare the glaze by boiling all the ingredients together briefly, then leaving to cool slightly until the buns are done. Then, prepare the icing by mixing just enough lemon juice with the icing sugar so that the mixture drizzles freely.

6. As soon as the buns are out the oven, smear them in warm glaze, until they are all sticky and shiny. Then, whilst still hot, use the edge of a teaspoon to draw the iced crosses on top.

Time spent in the kitchen: 15–20 minutes
Time taken altogether: 4–18 hours


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