These Hot Cross Buns are super soft. The dough is perfectly spiced and filled with fruit and is incredibly soft thanks to the Tangzhong method. They are finished with a traditional flour and water cross which is piped on before the Hot Cross Buns go into the oven.
Table of contents
Super Soft Hot Cross Buns
Hi hi! Happy nearly Easter! I have been making my classic hot cross bun recipe for a few years now, but decided it was time to twist things up a little bit. So, here we have super soft hot cross buns, which use the Tangzhong method. I have written a bit more about this below. These are a slightly smaller batch than my regular recipe, but they are so, so soft and so good. I hope you give them a try! I tested a loaf of bread using this same super soft dough and it worked out great. Watch this space for that too!
What is the Tangzhong method?
The Tangzhong method is an Asian Technique, and involves cooking part of the flour and water in a bread recipe to form a thick paste, or a roux. The process of making the Tangzhong gelatanises some of the starch in the flour. This means the flour is able to absorb a lot more water, and also holds onto it throughout the dough making process. This gives an incredibly soft bread which stays soft a lot longer than other bread does. Tangzhong (which is a Chinese word) is made by cooking the liquid and flour together, while the Yudane method (which is Japanese) involves adding boiling liquid to the flour and leaving it to set overnight. The benefit of using a roux means that the bread dough can stay 'lean' - so very little added fat etc but still stay extremely tender and soft.
Side note: One of my Instagram followers very kindly sent me this IG post about Shokupan (which is made with Yudane) and the name "Milk Bread" and how it has been colonised. I highly suggest popping over and having a wee look.
Why use the Tangzhong Method for Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns are great to make at home. However, I do find that they tend to go stale quite quickly. By using the Tangzhong method in these Soft Hot Cross Buns, the buns are not only incredibly soft to start with, but they retain that softness much longer than the traditional method. Both methods are great, but I wanted to see if adapting my original recipe to incorporate this method would work, and I am happy to report that it does!
My first test I totally overlooked the fact that I needed to use Bread Flour for the recipe, and therefore made the most bizarre dough I think I have ever come across. It was like slime - held together but SUPER stretchy. I made my next test with Bread Flour (strong flour or High Grade if you're outside of the US) and the dough was still super stretchy, but held up extremely nicely. Always check your gluten content!
How to make Super Soft Hot Cross Buns
These Soft Hot Cross Buns have a few steps to them and take a little time, but a lot of that is waiting for the dough to rise etc. I haven't tested doing the first rise overnight but I would say that it works just fine. I would leave the dough out on the counter for an hour or so just to kick start the rising process before putting it in the fridge, as the cinnamon inhibits the yeast in the dough which prolongs the process a little.
- Make the Tangzhong - This involves making a roux by cooking down some of the milk and flour from the recipe to make a thick paste. The roux cools while the fruit for the recipe soaks.
- Soak the fruit - I use Earl Grey Tea, but chai, or warmed apple or orange juice (or just boiling water) would work great here too.
- Make the dough - Pop everything except for the butter and the draining fruit into the mixer and leave it to do it's thing, then add the butter and incorporate. Then, add the fruit in and mix in by hand.
- First rise - The dough has a large proportion of spices in it so takes longer to rise than non spiced dough. You should allow 2-3 hours for this.
- Make the Hot Cross Buns - Shape the dough into perfect hot cross buns and then tuck them in for their second rise.
- Mix up the cross mix - The cross mix for these Soft Hot Cross Buns is just a flour and water mixture that you pipe on just before baking.
- Bake the Hot Cross Buns - The Hot Cross Buns hang out in the oven for 30 minutes, then are brushed with a sugar syrup and are ready to enjoy!
Super Soft Hot Cross Bun FAQ
These really need the mixer to develop the strength in the dough. If you want to make some by hand, these hot cross buns would be a great option.
YES. You do. I tried without and it didn't go well at all.
Yes! Just use the '2x' button on the recipe card. You can use a 9"x13" (20cmx30cm) pan or just a baking sheet to make these on.
I used a 9" (23cm) metal baking pan - this one is from Williams Sonoma
I haven't tested doing the first rise overnight but I would say that it works just fine. I would leave the dough out on the counter for an hour or so just to kick start the rising process before putting it in the fridge, as the cinnamon inhibits the yeast in the dough which prolongs the process a little.
Bread Flour is flour with a high protein content (Usually 11-13%). It is also called strong flour or High Grade Flour. Because this dough is so soft, it relies on the gluten to give it strength which is why it is so important to use bread flour. Check the % of protein on your bread flour too. Some places can't get bread flour or the bread flour is lower in protein. You can buy Vital wheat gluten and add some of that in if you need (I haven't tried it so not 100% sure of the ratios but it should help a lot)
Warmed Orange or Apple juice, or chai would work great here.
Don't freak out. It will be fine provided you made the recipe by weight and got your measurements right. Set a timer and walk away from the mixer. If it really really isn't coming together you can add flour a teaspoon at a time (some brands are more or less absorbent) just to help it come together. If you didn't weigh your ingredients... you're on your own here.
You can leave it out!
Yes, you will just need to activate in in the milk (which needs to be lukewarm), with some of the sugar from the recipe. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to get foamy then proceed with the recipe.
I usually use the microwave but someone suggested covering them with foil and popping into a 350°f / 180°c oven for 5 minutes or so, so I will try that next time for sure 🙂 I also sometimes toast them!
For more Easter Recipes, check out:
Made this recipe and love it?
If you make this Soft Hot Cross Bun recipe, I would LOVE for you to leave me a review below and let me know how you liked it! Make sure to tag me on Instagram if you make it!
A note on salt and oven temperature
It is important to note the type of salt that is called for in a recipe. I use Diamond Crystal salt throughout my recipes - if you use a different sort of kosher salt or regular table salt you will need to adjust accordingly as some salt is 'saltier' than others. Morton's salt is twice as salty, so you will need half the quantity. Same goes for a regular table salt. I am working to get gram measurements throughout my recipes for salt but still getting there.
All oven temperatures are conventional unless otherwise stated. If you are baking on fan, you will need to adjust the temperature. An oven thermometer is a great investment to ensure that your oven is the correct temperature.
Why is this recipe in grams?
I post my recipes in grams because it is the most accurate way to bake. Cups are not only inaccurate but they vary in volume worldwide. However, there is no way for me to provide one cup measure that works for everyone. Posting in weight fixes this issue. If you would like the recipe in cups, then you are welcome to convert it yourself via google. However, please do not ask me to do it for you as I am not comfortable providing a recipe using a method that I have not tested. Baking with a scale is easy, accurate, and also makes cleanup super simple. Here is the scale that I use if you would like a recommendation! Here's to accurate baking!Print
These Hot Cross Buns are super soft. The dough is perfectly spiced and filled with fruit and is incredibly soft thanks to the Tangzhong method. They are finished with a traditional roux cross which is piped on before the Hot Cross Buns go into the oven.
- 20g Bread Flour
- 90g Whole Milk
- 100g raisins or sultanas
- 25g dried currants
- 200g hot strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea
Hot Cross Bun Dough
- All of the Tangzhong
- 130g whole milk
- 60g light or dark brown sugar
- 275g bread flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 15g milk powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon ¾ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- a few turns of black pepper (optional)
- 30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the Crosses
- 40g All-purpose or bread flour
- 40g water
- 30g water
- 25g Sugar
- ⅛ tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
- tiny pinch of salt
Please read through the entire recipe before starting.
- Place the Bread Flour and milk in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and forms a thick paste - this should take 2-3 minutes from start to finish. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin forming. Cool to room temperature. I like to soak my fruit while this is cooling.
SOFT HOT CROSS BUN DOUGH
- Place the raisins and currants in a medium bowl and cover with the tea. Leave to stand for 30 minutes then drain well. I like to drain the fruit while I am mixing my dough.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the Tangzhong or transfer it into the bowl of the mixer if it was not already. Add all the remaining dough ingredients except for the butter and the drained fruit.
- Fit the mixer with the dough hook, and mix on medium to high speed for 10-12 minutes. The dough will look super sticky and like it will not come together - trust me here. It will. Don't freak out. Set a timer and walk away from the mixer if you need to.
- Mix the dough until it is soft and smooth, and is clearing the sides of the bowl. This takes me about 12 minutes but may take you more or less time depending on your mixer. Go by how the dough is looking rather than the time. Add the butter and mix on medium for a further 3-5 minutes until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface and lightly press into a rectangle. Add the drained fruit on top of the dough and fold it up to incorporate. Knead the dough with the help of a bench scraper until the fruit is evenly incorporated. It will be weird and squishy at the start but it all incorporates eventually promise. Use a little flour if needed to shape the dough into a ball, then place into a lightly oiled or buttered bowl.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot to rise until approximately doubled in size. This should take anywhere from 2-3 hours. It won't get super puffy. You can do this in a clear sided container if you need and mark where the dough line is when you start the rise so you can measure easily.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Weigh the dough, then divide into 9 equal pieces. Shape each into a tight ball, then place the balls of dough under a piece of lightly greased plastic wrap and leave to rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, grease and line a 9" (23cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
- Re-shape each ball of dough into a tight ball (using a little flour helps tuck all the fruit inside the ball), and place each into the prepared baking pan.
- Cover the pan with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 1-2 hours until the buns are puffy and when pressed lightly with a finger, leaves a small indentation that starts to spring back.
- Toward the end of the rising process, preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c.
- Prepare the cross mixture by combining the flour and water and mix until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag and clip the end up.
- Snip the tip off the piping bag and pipe crosses onto the tops of the buns (do all the vertical lines first then horizontal. Do one continuous line rather than individual crosses). You can practice the pressure you need to get the size of the line you want on a piece of parchment paper first if needed.
- Bake the buns for about 30 minutes until golden brown, and registering 190°f / 90°c internal temperature (make sure you test in a few places so your thermometer isn't accidentally in a raisin!)
- Toward the end of the baking process, make the sugar syrup. Brush the buns with the syrup as soon as they come out of the oven.
- Leave the buns to cool slightly then serve warm or at room temperature with butter. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temp, and briefly refresh in the microwave or oven before eating - they are amazing toasted.
- Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then leave to stand until ready to use.
The dough is sticky. Don't freak out. If you really really feel like it isn't coming together and is just a big sticky mess, you can add extra flour just a teaspoon or so at a time. Sometimes different bread flours absorb a different amount of flour. Usually I wouldn't recommend adding more flour, but with a sticky dough like this, it's ok to just add a tiny bit to help to bring it together.
It will feel like the fruit is too wet and won't incorporate. Just be patient and use a bench scraper to help you. Don't worry. It will all be fine.
Keywords: Easter, Hot Cross Buns, Tangzhong, Soft hot cross buns