Hot Cross Buns

Easter 2012 was the first married holiday that Judson and I celebrated. It was barely a month into our marriage, and less than two weeks since we had returned from our honeymoon, and we were excited. I had never really heard of hot cross buns before that spring, except for as the first song I learned to play on both the recorder and the clarinet, and I definitely didn't know they were an Easter treat until the portion of our honeymoon that we spent in the UK. I guess it was close enough to Easter that all the cafes and coffeeshops we passed on the street seemed to be advertising them, and I was fascinated, as I tend to be by anything that's covered in frosting.

So when we returned to the US and were invited to an Easter brunch, I knew exactly what we would make. Hot cross buns! We'd be so domestic! We'd be the envy of the party! People would finally stop teasing Judson about having an empty fridge throughout his bachelorhood! We'd be so adorable when we arrived with a cloth-covered basket full of steaming rolls, people would fall all over themselves just to be friends with us. I'd dole out advice like Martha Stewart on complicated topics like proofing yeast and the best type of dried fruit to use when making Easter desserts, and it would be the official beginning of our grown-up lives together!

So Easter weekend came, and we stayed in on Saturday night to make the buns. I found an authentic recipe on a British website, we made the dough on Saturday evening and set it aside to rise all night. Sunday morning I sneaked out of bed early to punch down the dough and set it up for a second rise, then preheated the oven and jumped in the shower. Judson awoke sometime while I was in the shower, and attempted to put the buns in the preheated oven... but when he opened the oven, it was ice cold.

He came to tell me the news, and I panicked. Dripping wet out of the shower, we stood in the middle of the kitchen panicking. In general, I pride myself on keeping calm when cooking disasters happen-- I mean, unless you've lit something on fire that wasn't supposed to be on fire, the worst that can happen is that you order takeout and have a good story to tell later. But this was our first married holiday, and we were going to spend it with new friends and their friends, who we had never met, and everyone there was married and had kids except for us, and we wanted so badly to not have everything screwed up, but, there we were.

It turned out our oven, which we had not yet used (I moved into the house the week before we got married, Judson moved in after our honeymoon, and we had only been home for a week), was non-functional. I hesitate to say “broken” because I'm not sure it actually ever worked. We had a terrible landlord who didn't really care much about the condition of the house, and I was irate that we now had no oven, and when we called to tell him about it, he said he'd get us a new one in “a week or two.”

But it ended up being the first (albeit minor) catastrophe we had to navigate as husband and wife: Judson dealt with our landlord (this was already not the first major issue we had with the place) while I mixed up frosting, formed the dough into buns, and texted our hostess to see if she could spare some space in the oven. (Huge faux pas, I know, but what were we gonna do? We lived in Atlanta, it's not like there were grocery stores where we could go buy store-brand hot cross buns on Easter morning).

This is the only piece of Eleanor's Pyrex Collection that still exists, and I wish I had more of it. At least if only one piece survived, it was the biggest mixing bowl ever.

This is the only piece of Eleanor's Pyrex Collection that still exists, and I wish I had more of it. At least if only one piece survived, it was the biggest mixing bowl ever.

So, slightly worse for wear but still alive and kicking, we showed up at our first married function with a tray full of raw dough and a bowl of glaze, which I cooked side-by-side with the Easter ham, thanks to the flexibility of our adorable hosts, who never made me feel bad about it. Keeping track of the oven when you're cooking two things at once is tricky at best, though, and the buns turned out a little browner than they should have been, and a little too chewy from being transported across town, but all in all they were still mostly edible. But I've had my eye on hot cross buns ever since-- I've got unfinished business with them and always knew I'd have to cross that bridge again, this time with a fully functional kitchen.

Oh, and that oven? The landlord replaced it with one he bought from a junkyard, which didn't bother us because it was in good shape and appeared to be new. We tested it to make sure it worked before our landlord left the building after he installed it, and everything seemed to be in order... until the first time we tried to use it to cook a frozen pizza, preheated it as normal, opened it to put in the pizza, and realised that it had no racks. A seemingly small detail, but without it you can't use an oven. So we were back to square one. The landlord raced over with, I kid you not, a cooling rack and two bricks wrapped in aluminum foil and tried to convince us to use that contraption instead of forcing him to buy yet another oven. And I fell in love with Judson just a little bit more when he put his foot down and refused, forcing the landlord to purchase us a new oven (from a real store, no less!), so that, by the time we had been married 6 weeks, we had already gone through three ovens-- more, I think, than my Eleanor and Wilbur probably went through in their entire marriage.

So without further ado, here is the recipe for hot cross buns that I found in Eleanor's recipe box. You should make these this weekend. People will be impressed, and if you're in doubt, just look at it this way: it's impossible for you to have a worse time making these than I did three Easters ago.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. These buns are pretty easy: it's a one-bowl recipe with only one rise necessary, and since you make the buns in a muffin tin, there's not even any of that pesky shaping of the dough that always ends up with me covered in stickiness. Make these for Easter Sunday and have them with your coffee. Even if you leave out the raisins, you won't regret it.

The recipe:

Hot Cross Buns

The Ingredients:

2 ¼ tsp yeast
¼ c water, lukewarm
2 1/3 c flour, divided
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp soda
1 c sour cream
1 egg
¼ c raisins
½ c candied citrus peel, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla


Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the hot water.
Add 1 1/3 c flour, sugar, salt, soda, sour cream, and egg and mix 30 seconds on low speed, then 2 minutes on high speed, or “300 strokes by hand,” scraping down sides frequently.
Add remaining 1 c flour, raisins, peel, and cinnamon and mix thoroughly.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups and set in a warm place to rise.
Batter will rise slightly but not double.
Preheat oven to 176C/350F and bake 20 minutes until golden brown.
While buns are cooling, mix together confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla into a quick glaze.
Once buns are completely cooled, frost a cross on the top of each with glaze.
Allow to set and serve with breakfast, brunch, or Easter lunch.

Yields 12 muffin-sized buns.

This post also featured as part of The #WeeklyVenture Linkup over here.