Paul Hollywood’s Soft and Tender Hot Cross Buns Have a Sweet Secret Ingredient

Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns

I don’t know if this is a universal lesson taught across all schools in America, but I have yet to meet a person who didn’t share the elementary school experience of being handed a plastic wind instrument called a recorder and being taught to play the tune, “Hot Cross Buns.” I couldn’t tell you why we were taught it. I just know that we all know it and all can hum it at the drop of a dime. Sadly, up until today I didn’t even know what a hot cross bun was or knew that it actually held some significance.

Maybe if we spent less time learning how to play it on the recorder, I wouldn't have had to take it upon myself to discover that hot cross buns, the food, are a symbol of the Christian faith. The cross represents that which Jesus was crucified on, and the spices represent those that were used to embalm him after death. And still he rose. That’s a yeast joke, get it?

With my newfound understanding for the bread's symbolism and with Easter here, I was in tune to try my hands at making a batch of the hot cross buns made by the man himself, Paul Hollywood.

Get the recipe: Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients for Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns

You’re going to need more than a sheet of music to make these sweet rolls. To get started you’ll need bread flour, salt, sugar, yeast, unsalted butter, beaten eggs, warm whole milk, cool water, sultanas (golden raisins), chopped mixed peel (candied lemon and orange peel, like the kind you use to make fruit cake), orange zest, an apple, ground cinnamon and apricot jam.

Related: This Easy 80-Year-Old Cookie Recipe is Perfect for Easter

How to Make Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns

Add the flour to a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the large bowl and add the yeast to the other side. Add in the butter, eggs, milk and half the water. Using your fingers, mix the ingredients, slowly adding the rest of the water until the flour is mixed. Continue mixing until the dough is soft but not soggy.

Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns Recipe<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Courtesy of Dante Parker

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes. Continue to knead the dough until it forms a soft and smooth skin. Once it’s smooth, place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Let the dough rest until it’s risen and doubled in size, which should take about an hour.

Tip the dough back onto the lightly floured surface and scatter the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple and cinnamon on top. Knead the ingredients into the dough until they're evenly dispersed. Cover the dough and let it rise for another hour.

Related: Italian Easter Bread with Colored Eggs Recipe

Repeatedly fold the dough inward until all of the air is removed. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces and roll them into small balls. Place them fairly close together on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and cover it with a clean plastic bag. And again, let the dough rest for another hour.

Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns Prep<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns Prep

Courtesy of Dante Parker

The next step is to make the mixture that you'll use for the cross on top of the buns. Mix together the remaining flour and water, transfer the mixture to a piping bag or a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off. Pipe an x on the top of each bun, then bake them at 425° until their golden brown, about 20 minutes.

What I Thought of Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns

These hot cross buns tasted like the sweet sister of an English muffin. They were softer and more dense, but the interior had similar nooks and crannies that taste great with some good Irish butter.

I mistakenly misread Paul Hollywood’s recipe, thinking he made a typo with the “80g chopped mixed peel” and thought I needed to make 80g worth of orange zest, chopped and mixed. Maybe it's because it's an ingredient more common in British culinary contexts, but I honestly did not know mixed peel was a thing. If you like fruit in your baked goods, I’m sure seeking out mixed peel would make the hot cross buns even better.

Related: 49 Simple and Spring-Worthy Easter Sweets From Cakes and Cookies to All the Peep Treats

Final Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns<p>Courtesy of Dante Parker</p>
Final Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns

Courtesy of Dante Parker

Tips for Making Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns

  1. Convert your measurements from metric to standard before you begin. It will be very helpful to have everything outlined before you start.

  2. Powder your hands with the flour before handling the dough. This ensures easier handling because the dough gets quite sticky.

  3. Substitute regular raisins for sultanas. Sultanas are similar to golden raisins, but I couldn’t find those anywhere. Regular raisins or currants make a good substitute.

Up next: The Easy, Cheesy Roasted Potato Recipe That Will Be the Star of Any Meal