A lightly spiced, fruit-free version of the classic hot crossed buns. This version produces super soft buns that are perfect served warm after the chocolate has disappeared on Easter Sunday. With step-by-step photos in this post, let me show you how easy they are to make!
Hot crossed buns are one of my favourite food traditions. I love the smell of the spiced buns that seems to fill the room, and I am that person who eagerly buys a packet from the supermarket just after Christmas when the supermarkets dare to put them out and spur a lively debate.
But as much as I will buy a packet from the supermarket, there is absolutely no comparison to making them from scratch at home.
There is something super therapeutic about needing dough, watching it rise and baking it into soft, delicious buns. I love the process and if you find yourself at home again this Easter looking for a new tradition, might I suggest baking a batch of hot crossed buns.
Due to the pandemic, last year we also spent Easter at home, and when making these buns this year I couldn’t help but think back to last year and making my chocolate hot crossed buns with flour I had to drive to Costco for because all the local supermarkets were sold out.
Brisbane has thankfully just lifted it’s snap three day lockdown in time for Easter, but it was a surreal reminder that despite the vaccine starting to roll out, a year on we are still having our lives and our plans controlled by this unpredictable virus. It’s a story we thought we left in 2020, but it’s certainly not over yet.
So, if your Easter plans have been impacted again this year, please make the most of your time at home and do something wholesome like bake these festive treats for your family. It’s such a wonderful tradition and something that I am now looking forward to continuing every year. So I guess I have the pandemic to thank for that.
Ingredients for chai spiced hot crossed buns
Like many yeast based recipes, baking hot crossed buns at home can be intimidating. But let me guide you through the process. Make sure to read through everything carefully before beginning to make sure you know what to expect before beginning.
This recipe is all about the dough. It is what’s called a rich dough which is characterised by the amount of fat which in this case is eggs, milk and butter and produces a soft and fluffy texture. Rich dough is more common when making sweet breads, while a lean dough which is what is used for sandwich bread or focaccia and tends to be not as soft and has a crusty exterior (which is perfect for those more savoury breads).
For this recipe, like most on my site, I have used dairy-free substitutes for milk and butter to make this recipe completely dairy-free. If that’s you as well, simply make this recipe as is. If not, you can use the real deal instead with no changes to the quantities.
To make these buns, you’ll need:
- Yeast – dry yeast will make your dough light and fluffy, give it rise and give it that bready taste and texture
- Sugar – feeds the yeast which makes it be able to do the hard work
- Milk – I use almond milk in this recipe, but any will do. It’s main purpose is to active the yeast and bind everything together
- Flour – regular plain flour works here
- Spices – for this variation I’m using a homemade chai spice mix
- Butter – adds richness and flavour. I use a dairy-free alternative
- Eggs – for even more richness and softness to your end result
And for those of you who don’t like fruit in your hot crossed buns, then this is the recipe for you. But for those of you who love the classic (like me) I’m promising now that recipe might be on the cards for next year!
How to make hot crossed buns
There are a few steps involved here, but just make sure you read through them all before starting to make sure you know what to expect next.
- Start by ‘blooming’ the yeast by whisking it together with the sugar and warm milk. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
- Make the dough by mixing all the ingredients into the yeast mixture using a dough hook attachment on a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, then you are going to need a wooden spoon and some strong arms, motivation and persistence.
- Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl it is ready for it’s first rise. The dough will be quite soft and sticky. Use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl and turn onto a floured surface to shape into a ball carefully with floured hands.
- Place back into the bowl, cover and sit aside in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough, and turn onto a floured surface, continue to lightly knead and shape into a ball. Divide the dough into 12 pieces.
- Shape each piece onto a ball and place into a baking pan. Cover and set aside again for 20 minutes for the second rise.
- Make the paste for the crosses, and pipe over the uncooked buns. Bake for 30 minutes.
- While baking, make the glaze and then brush over the baked buns.
Tips for making hot crossed buns
- The milk needs to be warm but not hot otherwise this will kill the yeast. If you can hold your finger in the liquid without it feeling uncomfortable, then that’s about perfect
- The dough will be quite sticky but you want to avoid adding in too much extra flour as this will alter the texture of the buns. Gently shape the dough using floured hands on a floured surface and sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour when handling it gets a bit too sticky.
- The dough needs to rise in a warm, dry spot in order to rise correctly. During the warmer months here in Brisbane, I usually just put my bowl outside under the verandah in the shade as the air temp is warm enough (or just on the counter if my air con is not on). In winter when this isn’t an option I like to preheat the oven to 100°C and then when ready for the rise turn it off and sit the bowl on the bottom shelf with the door open.
- You know the buns are done when you tap the top of them and they sound hollow. This trick works for all bread recipes.
If you’re not yet convinced that you should be making these hot crossed buns this Easter, then let me take a minute to tell you just how incredible they smell baking in the oven. It’s that mouth watering home baked bread smell, combined with the delicate aroma of the chai spices that fills every corner of your home. It’s better than any candle you might light, plus you get the reward of eating them after.
As these hot crossed buns are homemade, they don’t contain any preservatives so are best enjoyed in the first 2 days of baking, after which they will go a little stale. If they reach this point, you can toast them and serve with a little butter, or try some hot crossed bun french toast or bread pudding. Both sound amazing, but I’ve still not tried myself – maybe next year I’ll finally have a recipe for stale hot crossed buns for you!
More Easter Recipes:
Chai Spiced Hot Crossed Buns (Fruit-Free)
- 1 x 7 gram packet of yeast
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 ½ cups dairy-free milk warmed
- 4 ¼ cups plain flour
- 1 tablespoon chai spice mix see notes
- ¼ cup 60 grams dairy-free butter
- 1 egg room temperature
For the crosses:
- 4 tablespoons plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon chai spice mix see notes
- 4 tablespoons water
For the glaze:
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the yeast, sugar and warmed milk. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let sit for 10 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
- Add in 2 cups of the flour and begin to mix on low using the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer. Add another cup of flour, the chai spices, dairy-free butter and the egg and mix on medium speed until the dough starts to form. Add in the final cup + ¼ cup of flour and mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Use a rubber spatula to remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and using floured hands, shape the dough into a ball. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel and set aside in a warm area for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough to release the air and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape the dough into a ball.
- Line a 9 x 13 inch (20cm x 30cm) tray with baking paper and set aside. Cut the dough ball into 4 even pieces, and then cut each piece into 3 so that you have 12 pieces in total. Roll each piece into a ball and place evenly into the pan. Cover again with the kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- Before the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix together the additional flour, chai spice and water to make a thick paste. Place the paste into a zip lock bag and snip off the end. Once the buns have finished rising, pipe crosses onto each and place the buns in the oven for 30 minutes, or until browned on top and they make a hollow sound when you tap the top.
- About 5 minutes before the baking time is up, make the glaze by boiling together the sugar and water in a small pot on the stove until the sugar is completely dissolved. Brush the glaze over the cooked buns. Pull apart and serve warm with some butter.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.