[VIDEO] Small Batch Orange Hot Cross Buns

This sweet spiced Hot Cross Buns are mostly popular during the Lenten season, but can also be made any day of the year. My variation is Orange Hot Cross Buns. Soft, with slight sweetness and nice subtle blend of spices and a nice citus Orange flavor. This bread is worth every minute of the wait and effort.

Easy Soft and Fluffy Small Batch Orange Hot Cross Buns By SweetNSpicyLivng

I cannot believe it that I haven’t shared this Hot Cross Buns in my blog, and I thought what could be the best timing than now when it is Lenten season. I’ve made quite a lot of homemade yeast bread,  from plain dinner rolls to pull-apart bread, braided bread, cinnamon roll and even the complex star bread, and although bread making requires more than that just grabbing the bread off the shelf, making bread at home is really rewarding. Hot Cross Buns is not as complex as it sounds, it more like a dinner rolls in appearance and shape, and more like cinnamon in the way that it taste because of the spices added to it.

Hot Cross Buns

What is Hot Cross Buns?

Hot Cross Buns is a bread, and hence the name ‘Buns’. It is a sweet yeast spiced bread, almost like a dinner roll but with mix of spices added in it, and decorated with a cross mark on top. The bread marks the end of Lent, and the cross on top represents the crucifixion of Jesus while the spices signifying the spices used to embalm him at his burial. Hot Cross is normally eaten during Good Friday (Lent Season) but now a days people make it any time of the year.

Small Batch Hot Cross Buns By SweetNSpicyLiving

If you are intimated just by scanning this post and seeing how long is it, don’t be. The post is long because I want to give as much information as possible so that You will end up a soft delicious Hot Cross Buns. We are going to do this together, and I will explain to you in more detail the things that you should know to make this bread. It’s a long read, but bear with me because the more information you know about this recipe, the better your success will be, and that is what I want you to have. I have a collage of photo here so that You can see what is expected in the different steps (From left to right)

  • The final dough ready for 1st rest period
  • The dough after the 1st rest period of 1 hour
  • The dough after shaping it to individual bun, ready for 2nd rest period
  • The dough after 2nd rest period of 30 minutes
  • The dough after marking the top with cross mark
  • The dough after baking
  • The baked bread, brushed with butter on top
Hot Cross Buns Collage

How To Make Hot Cross Buns?

  • Prepare the Dried Fruits: I used raisins for this recipe. Dried fruits can absorb too  much liquid, as such we need to soften the dried fruits by adding a liquid with it, in this case Orange juice. We are also adding brown sugar to make it sweeter and slightly moist and sticky.  I prefer smaller bits and pieces of dried fruits so I suggest chopping it to small pieces rather than using it as is. But if you prefer whole pieces, then leave it as is.
  • Activate the Yeast – Hot Cross Bun is a yeast bread, this means the process will start by activating the yeast. Do not run away, making a yeast bread is not as scary as it sounds. Once you’ve made one, you will see how easy it is to work with yeast. The important thing to remember when working with yeast bread is to 1.) make sure that the yeast is not expired. Expired yeast will not activate, meaning even if you mix it with warm liquid and sugar, it will not foam up. The forming of the foam after 5 – 10 minutes is a sign that the yeast is active. Another thing to remember 2.) the liquid should be luke warm for the yeast to activate (110 – 115F). If the liquid is too hot, it will instantly kill the yeast, on the other hand if it it cold, it will not activate the yeast. I use bread thermometer whenever I need to activate the yeast, this assures that I have the right temperature. If you do not have one, feel the liquid. If it feels hot to your touch, then it is not good. Do NOT continue if your yeast failed to activate, this guarantees failure.
  • Add Wet and Dry Ingredients:  Once the yeast is ready, all you need to do is add the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients, then let the mixer do the job of kneading the dough. This step is crucial, you have to aim for a soft, smooth and elastic dough that is slightly wet but not too wet that it sticks to your hands. I always say this, a clean bowl is a good sign of a correct bread dough texture. If the dough is too wet, add 1-2 tbsp of flour. Wait for the flour to fully mix before you decide to add  more. If the dough is too dry, add a bit of water, 1 tsp at a time. This small addition is sometimes cannot be avoided because the texture of the dough depends on the moisture of the flout you are using. Old or dry flour will likely need more liquid, and new flour would need just normal amount of liquid mentioned in the recipe. The dough should look something like this. You see how the side of the bowl is clean, and the  dough starts to clump together, it is not dry, and still slightly sticky. You can see how dough still sticks to the bottom of the bowl, which means it is not totally dry. Dry dough produces dense bread. Hot Cross Buns Dough
  •   First Rest Period: Th first rest period will have to be minimum of 1 hour to maximum of 2 hours if you have time to wait that long. Transfer the dough in a bowl greased with oil, then cover and leave in a warm place. I like to keep mine inside the oven which I pre-heated to 110F. The oven should be turned OFF once it reaches 110F. Do NOT forget to turn it off. You just want to warm the oven so that the dough will rise faster.
  • Make the Flour for the “cross” mark on top: This is just a combination of all-purpose flour and water. Simply mix it until smooth and thick. I used a ziplock sandwich bag to hold it for piping. No need for fancy piping bag and piping tip. Snip/cut the corner of the ziplock bag after putting the flour mixture. Hot Cross Buns Flour Mixture Collage
  • Roll and Shape: Once the first rest period is done, take the dough out of the bowl. Slightly knead the dough then roll and divide into 6 pieces. I like to use kitchen scale for even size, but if you do not have one just estimate the size. Roll the dough on the floured surface and form into a ball. Arrange the dough in a parchment paper lined 6 x4-inch baking dish (or something close to this measurement) or cookie sheet. I like using baking dish because the bread bakes close to each other so the side of the bread remains soft and moist. You can bake it in a cookie sheet, leaving at least 1-inch space in between or arrange the dough far from each other so the bread bakes individually.
  • 2nd Rest Period: Cover and leave in a warm place for another 30 minutes.  The bread dough will puff up and will close the gap in between the bread.
  • Brush top with Egg Wash or Butter: This step is optional, but it will give a nice glossy shinny top which looks very appealing. Leftover egg wash can be cooked as scrambled egg, do not throw it.
    • Alternatively, If You do not want to use egg wash to achieve the shiny top, simply brush the top of the bread with butter once it comes out of the oven. If serving it for later, brush the top with butter just before you serve it. Microwave the bread to warm it up, about 45 seconds then brush the top with butter. Butter adds nice taste to the bread, but it doesn’t stay shiny once the bread has cooled down. This is what I did for this recipe, brushed butter on top before serving it.
  • Make the Cross Mark on Top: Now you are ready to use the flour and water mixture to mark the cross on the top. Starting from the end (vertical), make a straight line to the other end. Then do the same horizontally, end to end.
  • Pre-heat the Oven: Pre-heat the oven to 350F and leave the bread on the counter while the oven is pre-heating. This will give about 15 – 20 minutes additional time for the bread to rise.
  • Bake: Finally, the finish line! Bake for 23 minutes. Serve warm, and do not forget to spread some butter on top too before serving.

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far just reading the steps. You are not ready to make this Hot Cross Buns, any day of the year.

Small Batch Hot Cross Buns

I wouldn’t say I grew up eating this bread, because I do not recall having this in the Philippines back when I still live there, or maybe I was not just aware of it. It was only when I came to Canada that I got introduced to this bread. There are several variations of Hot Cross Buns, my version has a subtle spice flavor because I personally do not like strong spiced bread. If you like it strong, simply add more spices. Instead of adding more spice in my version, I added zest of whole large Orange. That gave the bread a nice taste which carries the flavor of the bread, and it worked well with the little amount of spice that I added.

What I love About This Bread?

  • It is soft and fluffy
  • This uses a simple bread dough recipe, A cross between dinner rolls and cinnamon roll
  • fantastic subtle flavor and sweetness
Small Batch Orange Hot Cross Buns

Tips for a Successful Soft Homemade Bread

  • Liquid Temperature – Yeast grows in temperature between 110 – 115F, so its important to have the water that you are using to “proof” it in this range. If you go lower or higher, the yeast might not proof properly. That means the bread will not rise as much, resulting to a flat and tough bread. 
  • Check Yeast Expiry a Date – You might be wondering how come the bread did not rise when you followed exactly the recipe. Well, first thing first, make sure the yeast is not yet expired. Expired yeast is the common reason for flat and dense bread. If your bread did not expand or rise during the rest period, it is most likely that the yeast is not fresh or the water temperature is too hot or cold. Monitor the activation of the yeast. You should see a foam forms after 10 minutes of activating the yeast. If no foaming appear, do NOT proceed.
  • Amount of Yeast – Just because you want a tall bread doesn’t mean you have to put as much yeast in the mixture. Sometimes adding too much yeast can cause the bread to collapse during the rest period. Just imagine putting more air than what is needed in a balloon, the balloon will explode. The same case with bread. 
  • Right Type of Yeast – Make sure to use the right one for your recipe, and make necessary adjustments if you want to swap one from another. This recipe uses active dry yeast and needs to be activated before using. Instant yeast do not require activating and can be mix directly with the flour and other dry ingredients. Just make sure it is not close to the salt. Yeast and salt are not best friends. The amount of active dry yeast is usually 1/4 teaspoon more then instant yeast, just in case you want to swap it for instant yeast.
  • Rest Period – Yeast bread needs time to rise. There are bread that uses less yeast but requires more rest time, the likes of No Knead Bread or Artisan Bread which usually require 8- 16 hours rest period to get the volume and to develop the flavor. The point is, give it time to rest, don’t touch it just leave it in a warm place. The first rest period will normally tell you if your dough is good or not. If it rise and almost double in size, then your on the right track. This goes the same for 2nd rest period. You want the rolls to puff-up and be fluffy. Fluffy is a sign of soft bread because there is more air trapped inside to give it volume and soft texure.
  • Expiration and Quality of the Flour – The quality of the flour greatly affect the texture of the bread. Bread flour could differ from country to country although they are all called as bread flour. Sometimes it depends on the brand too. The closer the flour to expiration date or if it is already expired, the flour could tend to be drier, which means it would require more liquid than mentioned in the recipe. This is a common issue of way sometimes the dough tend to be tough and dry. This is why sometimes you have to add few more tablespoon from the suggested flour measurement to get the right texture. The dough should be soft, smooth and elastic. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour until it is no longer to sticky to handle. If it is too dry, a small amount of liquid helps provide moisture to the dough. A clean side of the bowl, with the dough slightly sticking at the bottom, a soft, smooth and elastic dough is what You are aiming for.

How Do I Know if I Made the Bread Dough Correctly?

This is not written on the stone, but so far this is how I check if I am on the right track when it comes to the dough.

  • Activating the Yeast –  This is the first thing that you should get right, otherwise do NOT proceed. After 5 – 10 minutes you should see a foam forms on top of the water, this is an indication that the yeast is alive. If you do not get this, either the yeast is old or the liquid temperature is too hot or cold. The temperature should be about 110F, lukewarm but not hot.
  • Clean Bowl After Kneading – The sides of the bowl should be clean, while the bottom is slightly sticking to the dough. This means that amount of liquid to the flour is correct. Enough to make a clean bowl and still make a slightly wet dough.
  • Soft Dough – Soft dough means the amount of flour to liquid is enough. Too much flour could make the bread dense and heavy, and too much liquid could make it too wet. Both will affect how the bread rise in the rest period. Try to push your fingers in the dough, it should leave a “dimple” on the dough and should gradually disappear.
  • Smooth Dough Surface – Again, this is a sign of correct flour to liquid ratio. A “bumpy” surface could mean that the dough is dry and tough.
  • Elastic Dough – A soft dough is usually elastic. If your dough is dry and tough, it wouldn’t be as elastic when you pull it apart.
  • First Rest Period – The dough should almost double in size. This is a sign that the activation of the yeast work which is crucial to making a soft and fluffy bread. This also means the yeast is alive (not yet expired) and the liquid temperature is correct. I always use baking thermometer to check the temperature of the liquid.
  • Second Rest Period – The bread dough should be really puff up and should fill in the gaps between each bread. This is crucial and the final state of the bread before baking. If you are able to make it puff-up, that is a good sign that there are air trapped inside which will make the bread fluffy.

Why is My Bread Too Wet or Too Dry?

Don’t get frustrated if your dough did not turn out immediately as what you see in the photo or video. Most likely It is not because you did not follow the recipe. When it comes to bread making, the amount of flour and liquid is not always 100% precise. This is way often times you will encounter recipes that says, if your dough is dry, add a bit more liquid. If your dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. This instructions are not meant to confuse you, they are meant to guide you on how to adjust as you work through your dough. The reason for this is that although the measurement of water and flour are specified in the recipe, it still could slightly vary depending on many factors. For instance, all-purpose flour or bread flour could very from country to country, or even from brand to brand. Don’t be surprise if you find that some brand tends to require a bit more liquid as the others. On top of this, the amount of liquid is also affected by the state of your flour. How old is the flour that you are using? Older flour nearing expiry tends to be drier and this requires more liquid. Bread making requires patience, and practice. Once you learn how to feel the right texture of the dough, everything will be quick and easy. You can instantly tell if you need to add more water or flour o get the dough in right state.

Bread Dough Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Milk – any percentage (warmed up to 110F)
  • 1 1/4  teaspoon Active Dry Yeast (I used Fleischmann’s)
  • 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated Sugar (Divided: 1 tsp for yeast and 2 tbsp for the dry ingredients mixture)
  • 1 tablespoon Orange Juice
  • 1/4 cup Raisins – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted Butter (melted)
  • Zest of 2 Large Orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon Powder
  • 1 cup +1 tablespoon Bread Flour or All-purpose Flour
  • 1 large Egg – room temperature (take the egg out of refrigerator 1 hour before use or submerge in warm water for 10 minutes)
  • Egg wash (optional) – 1 beaten egg + 1 tsp water
  • Jam or Butter For brushing top of bread before serving

Recipe Note: You can increase the spices if you prefer strong flavor. You can also add All Spice which is normally present in Cross Buns

Flour Mixture Ingredients:

  • 5 teaspoon All-purpose Flour
  • 6 teaspoon Water


  1. Activate the Yeast (Milk Mixture):  Pour the milk into a mug and microwave it for about 25 seconds until it is lukewarm, NOT HOT (about 105 degrees F.). Stir in active yeast and sugar and allow to sit for 5 – 10 minutes or until the top of the mixture looks foamy.
    • Make sure that your yeast is not expired, otherwise it will not activate. If this happens, discard and do not continue. Get a new yeast before proceeding. If you continue using it, the bread will not rise and it will be dense and heavy.
  2. Soak the Raisins: Chop the raisins into smaller pieces. Transfer in a small bowl then add orange juice and brown sugar. Mix and microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. Wet Ingredients: In a medium bowl of stand mixer, whisk together milk mixture (with the yeast), melted butter and egg.
    • Alternatively, You can also mix this in a large bowl and mix the dough manually.
  4. Dry Ingredients: In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange zest. Remove the excess liquid from where the raisins were soaked (if any) then add the raisins to the dry ingredients.
  5. Wet Ingredients + Dry Ingredients: Add the dry ingredients mixture to the wet ingredients mixture. Mix for at least 10 minutes until thick, sticky dough forms and all the flour is incorporated. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 tbsp of flour but do not add too much as it could make the bread dense and heavy. What you are aiming for is a smooth, soft and elastic bread dough that do not stick too much your palm. The side of the bowl is clean, while the dough still slightly stick to the bottom of the bowl. On the other hand if the dough is too dry add 1 tbsp water.
    • Alternatively, You can also make this without a mixer. Manually knead the bread dough in floured counter.
  6. First Rise: Place dough into a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size.
    • I always put the dough inside the oven. I would pre-heat the oven to 110F then I will stop it before putting the dough inside. The warm oven will help the dough rise faster. do NOT forget to turn OFF the oven.
  7. Make the Flour for the Cross on top of the bread:  In a small bowl, whisk together flour and water until smooth. Transfer in a ziplock sandwich bag and set aside.
  8. Shape and Fill: Generously sprinkle flour on the counter where you are going to work on your dough. Sprinkle some flour on your hands too for easy handling of dough. Take the dough out from the bowl and lightly push the dough down with the heel of the palm of your hands. Divide the bread dough into 6 portion. You can use a kitchen scale for even size, but if you do not have one, you can just estimate the size. Roll each pieces in the counter to form a ball. Do this for the rest of the dough and arrange side by side in a rectangular pan lined with parchment paper.
    • Alternatively, You can also bake this is a cookie sheet. Arrange it side by side or away from each other if you want it to bake individually or close to each other if you want it to look like a pull-apart rolls.
  9. Second Rest Period:  Cover and let the dough rest for another 30 minutes in a warm place.
  10. Cross on Top: Snip the tip of the ziplock with the flour mixture ( step 7). Put a cross on top of each bread. I like to just draw a straight horizontal line end to end, then another straight vertical line end to end.
  11. Pre-heat the oven while the bread rest for another 15 minutes or until the oven is pre-heated. If you are using to oven to let the bread rest, do NOT forget to take it out before pre-heating the oven.
  12. Bake:  Bake for 23 – 25 minutes. If the top begin to brown too quickly, cover the top with aluminum foil and continue baking.
  13. Let Cool – Let the bread cool slightly to allow the texture to build up. This is very important, if you serve it immediately the bread will still be wet. Lift the parchment paper (if baking in a dish pan) or lift the bread ifbaking individually. The bottom of hebread should not feel wet. If it still feel wet, bake 5 more minutes.
  14. Serve: Brush top with jam (or butter) fo a shiny look and sticky feel.

Makes 6 rolls

Soft and Fluffy Small Batch Orange Hot Cross Buns By SweetNSpicyLivng

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