Hot Cross Buns are spiced, yeasted buns and are traditionally eaten in Ireland on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday.
This tradition gained popularity in Ireland throughout the 20th century, when hot cross buns appeared in bakeries for Ash Wednesday and Easter. Hot cross buns originated in England, but this Easter treat is enjoyed in Ireland too, and is part of our shared culinary inheritance.
In the 19th century and before, most poor Irish people did not have the means to buy the ingredients to make hot cross buns.
However, the middle classes in Irish towns and cities enjoyed these festive Easter buns.
Bread Machine Yeast Buns
I previously shared my recipe for traditional hot cross buns with pastry crosses. They’re made from scratch. The dough is left to prove and rise in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a dish cloth.
Today I have an easier and simpler recipe to share for this Easter bake. This recipe is made using a bread machine.
In the previous method I shared, I used a stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough. But trust me, using a bread machine takes care of this kneading step and simplifies the process significantly.
This fruity yeast dough is started in the bread machine. So there’s only a small amount of manual kneading required. Once the dough is kneaded by the machine, the rolls are shaped by hand and baked in a greased casserole dish.
To make this recipe even easier again, I didn’t use traditional pastry crosses, but opted for crosses made with a simple vanilla icing.
If you have limited time, then this easy-to-prepare recipe is perfect if you like soft, delicious, fruity rolls with a hint of spice.
But before I share my recipe, let’s learn a little more about the history of hot cross buns.
Why are they called hot cross buns?
Hot cross buns get their name because they are marked with a cross on top, which represents the crucifixion of Jesus. This cross can be made using shortcrust pastry, or piped on top of the bun using icing made with powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.
Hot cross buns are made with raisins or currants and sometimes mixed candied peel. A variety of dried fruits can be used, depending on your likes. Raisins are plumper than currants, so I prefer to choose raisins for my buns.
The distinctive flavor of hot cross buns is due to the blend of spices used. Known as mixed spice throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom, this spice blend contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, ginger, allspice, coriander and mace.
It is used for many festive recipes and baking. This spice blend can be made at home using a combination of these warm, sweet toned spices. The dough for hot cross buns is flavored with these warm spices. They are said to represent the spices used for the body of Jesus after he died.
These buns taste best when they are served warm. Hot out of the oven, they’re simply delicious. And of course, being Irish, I love to slather my hot cross buns with creamy Irish butter.
In recent years many different flavors and types of hot cross buns have been introduced and are often lovingly called “not cross buns.” Somehow I just haven’t been able to deviate from the more traditional fruited and spiced variety. There’s something about butterscotch, chocolate or caramel in a hot cross bun, that I just can’t get my head around.
Where do hot cross buns originate from?
The Easter tradition of baking hot cross buns is English in origin.
The earliest mention of this type of bun dates back to the 14th century. A monk in Saint Alban’s Abbey in England baked buns that he called Alban buns. He shared them with the poor on Good Friday. This tradition spread throughout England and they became a symbol of Easter.
There were many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. In parts of England they were baked on Good Friday and one bun was hung by the door for the year, to ward off evil.
These superstitions were not appreciated by Queen Elizabeth 1, who wished to discourage the continuation of superstitions and relics associated with the Catholic Church.
In 1582, the London clerk of markets issued a ban on the sale of the buns by bakers. However, Elizabeth I of England relented a little and passed a law permitting them only to be sold at Easter and Christmas and for burials.
Since the buns could not be bought from a baker, many English people worked around the law by baking them at home.
In Ireland hot cross buns were associated with friendship and blessings. It was thought to be lucky to share a hot cross bun with a friend on Good Friday.
The following lines were said to bless and guarantee the friendship for the coming year:
"Half for you and half for me,
between us two, good luck shall be.”
Anyway, let’s get to it and make some bread machine hot cross buns.
Ingredients for Hot Cross Buns
Here’s a list of what you’ll need for this hot cross bun recipe.
You’ll find exact amounts in US and metric versions in the attached recipe card at the bottom of this post.
For the dough:
- water, warm for the yeast
- unsalted butter
- instant powdered milk
- eggs, at room temperature and with one divided
- cinnamon or mixed spice
- all-purpose flour
- active dry yeast
- dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or currants.
- water, for the egg wash
For the icing:
- powdered sugar
- vanilla extract
I use homemade mixed spice for my hot cross buns, but you can substitute cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice if you wish.
My version, as seen in this photo shoot, features some raisins and cranberries, but feel free to use some golden raisins, currants or candied peel instead.
This recipe also uses water and dried milk powder instead of warm milk to activate the yeast.
Directions for Bread Machine Hot Cross Buns
These buns are mixed, kneaded and left to rise in a bread machine. They’re then formed into buns, proven again in a casserole dish, and baked in the oven. Here’s how to make them.
Prepare a 9x13 casserole dish by spraying it with nonstick cooking spray.
Check your bread machine and stick to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember each bread machine has slightly differing recommendations.
Place the ingredients for the dough into the bread machine in the following order: water, butter, powdered milk, sugar, 1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, spice, flour, and yeast.
Set the program on the dough cycle. Add the dried fruit when prompted to add ingredients or alternatively do so when the cycle is completed. Each bread machine works slightly differently, and allows adding of dried fruit either during or at the end of the cycle.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using floured palms, pat the dough flat. Sprinkle the dough with raisins and knead them into the dough to combine fully.
Cover the dough ball on the work surface with a dish cloth and allow it to rest for ten minutes.
Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. Roll each piece into a bun shape, then place the buns side by side in the prepared casserole dish.
Cover with a dish cloth and allow to rise in a draft free place for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Switch the oven on to pre-heat at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius. Whisk together the remaining egg yolk and water for the egg wash. Brush evenly over the rolls.
Place the dish in the oven and cook the buns for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
When the buns are cooled you can mark them with a cross made with vanilla icing. Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Transfer into a piping bag with a nozzle or alternatively you can use a zip top freezer bag with the corner snipped.
Squeeze the icing in lines over each row of buns. Start with parallel lines and then make perpendicular lines over each row of bread rolls to create crosses.
Here’s the printable recipe.
Bread Machine Hot Cross Buns
For the Dough
- ¾ cup water warm at 110° F
- 3 tablespoons butter unsalted
- 1 tablespoon powdered milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs divided, and at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- ¾ cup raisins cranberries or currants can be used
- 2 tablespoons water for egg wash
For the Icing
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons milk
- Place these ingredients into the bread machine in the following order: water, butter, powdered milk, sugar, 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, cinnamon or mixed spice, flour, and yeast. Program using the dough cycle. Add the dried fruit when prompted to add ingredients OR when the cycle is completed.
- Prepare a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat flat. Sprinkle with raisins and knead to combine. Cover and allow to rest for ten minutes. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and place into the prepared casserole dish. Cover and allow to rise in a draft free place for about one hour or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Whisk together the remaining egg yolk and water for the egg wash. Brush evenly over the rolls. Place the bread in the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack.
- Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Transfer into a piping bag or zip top freezer bag with the corner snipped. Squeeze icing parallel and perpendicular over each row of rolls to create crosses.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
If you're looking for some other sweet treats for Easter, here are some fun ideas.
Happy Easter baking.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.