Baking Escapade #12 – Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns Recipe

hot cross buns

Festivals make me so home sick…brings back memories and I crave for all the halla gulla of yesteryears…..Lent however is a period of penitence and reflection, meditation and abstinence….it is also mostly bang in the middle of financial years….and spread over 40 days which makes travelling to the other city to be with the family not a viable option….as a family we aren’t very ritualistic, however there are some things that we do follow….but being on my own, many things do get diluted….i try to keep the spirit as true as I can, giving the symbols and rituals a miss…..

To signify the 3 hours from 12 pm to 3 pm that Christ was hanging on the cross, worship and meditation services are held at that time….as kids, it was such a challenge for amma and peddi to prepare us kids to sit in church (quietly) all that time….they would arm themselves with colouring books, biscuits and a bottle of water to keep us occupied when we were really little, and later a strict warning and a stare would suffice to fix us….of course once we got involved in what was happening around you, this treatment was suspended… constant of the good Friday service, was the promise of Hot Cross Buns from a very famous bakery next door…..infact such was the demand for these HCBs that people would sneak off mid service to get their booty and avoid disappointment later…with about 5 large congregational churches within a 2 kms radius, this baker knew when he’d be in full demand…. After the intial enthusiasm, I began wondering what the big deal was all about the HCB….to begin with, they were’nt very different from the buns we got all year through…the cross that was marked on it, usually was so leathery, you’d have to gulp water to help swallow it….(obviously I developed a critical eye very early!!)….but traditions being what they are, we simply continued them…..this year however, it was different ……….On one day, two posts from two fabulously talented bloggers with cult following (i meant her…and her)…that’s what assaulted me a few days before Good Friday…. I did my usual internet research and decided; homemade was the way to go this year!! With K working like there is no tomorrow, and work being a little less than usual, I had enough time on my hands…..Thursday was spent reading and re-reading the recipes…and mentally planning the course of action…..i fear baking…all last year, and whatever posts you see on my blog, are the results of a very nervous person…I don’t trust myself to do well…for me baking is something that is still not my best buddy…….add yeast to it and you have a proper nervous wreck on your hands….. While I can mask this very well with people around….i prefer to indulge in my madness when I am on my own….. each project therefore is a test of nerves….successes are a delightful surprise …. I spend lots of time at blogs with fabulous bakers…hoping to draw courage from them….

hot cross buns

So gallantly I walked into the kitchen….literally had my hands in a knot while the yeast took its own time to rise…. I didn’t set out any of the stuff I needed till the yeast was frothy, because there would be less to clean up if the first step failed….i wasn’t sure if the yeast would rise at all….and when you are standing over the bowl of warm water and yeast pellets, willing for it to froth up already!! Time passes excruciatingly slow…. Rise it did….not as I wanted …all frothy and all…but I figured it will work….i substituted whole wheat flour for APF for the entire recipe….didnt have currants so just added raisins….and prayed that the dough would raise itself and double up….friends B and J (no not the world famous bloggers) called and said they’d come over and spend the night….and I hadn’t seen them in a long time so I wanted to see them too….when they arrived, I had just about set the dough to rest for the first rising…. I wonder if they noticed I was like a cat on a hot tinned roof all the while….till dinner…and later when we sat chatting too….every now and then I would pop into the kitchen to do something of the process….and finally made the buns and put them in the oven…….the smell of freshly baking bread…when it fills the house is indescribable……I think it would make it to the top three on a list of “these are a few of my favourite things” for me……. Its difficult to escape….the aroma mixed with the spices… can momentarily calm the most nervous person!! While I accepted the compliments for the aroma that spread through the house, I still didn’t know if I would end up with buns or bricks….. after all that tension!! Buns it was!! They had an angular shape because of spreading out a little on the baking sheet….but other than that, they looked lovely…like tanned beauties….and the texture!! It was crumbly and had a grainy texture…. it wasn’t spongy like APF bread is…but more like a cake….the spices lent just a bit of sweetness to it….tasted fabulous with a light spread of butter…. By the time I came back from church on Friday, the folks at home had eaten more than half of the buns….that is compliment enough for me….i think I will continue this as my own tradition for good Friday….the buns, minus the crosses will be baked again in my kitchen….they make a very filling breakfast…and because they are ever so slightly sweet, don’t need anything in the form of a spread….i was also happy that whole wheat could be successfully used in this….this one is a keeper….by the length of this post you can make out how excited I was!!

Recipe followed is from this wonderful site here with some changes of course… so here is my version…. You can also see nandita’s version here and meeta’s here


11/2 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 egg
50 grams melted butter
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour plus some more for dusting (I used ashirwad wheat flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 cup golden raisins

3 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp cold water – For piping the crosses

3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water – For sugar glaze


To the mixing bowl, add the yeast, all of the milk, 2 tsp sugar. Whisk well and keep covered in a warm place for around 10 minutes, till it has turned frothy

Add the flour into a bowl, the spices and raisins and whisk till well incorporated.

Add the yeast mixture, melted butter and knead into a dough that is sticky, but has all come together.

Place on a slightly dusted surface and knead for 5 mins till the dough is smooth and elastic

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling wrap and leave in a warm place to double in volume. It takes about an hour.

Punch down the risen dough, remove the air by folding it over a few times.

Divide into 10 same sized balls. Grease a baking tin / sheet (I used a 12X9 inch baking sheet because that is the only one I had, a square 9X9 one is better) place the buns in rows, snugly together. Cover and leave it to rise for another 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 185 degrees C, make the batter for the crosses with 3 parts dough and 1 part water. Place this in a piping bag (I used a regular plastic bag with a hole cut at the bottom for piping), slash the buns with a knife and pipe crosses across the buns.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 25 mins.

When done, make a thick syrup of sugar (2 parts) and water (1 part) simmer for a couple of minutes and brush onto the buns when still hot.

That’s it!! Hot cross buns are ready!! Enjoy them warm or toasted with butter and jam / jelly or a fruit spread of your choice….we tore off pieces and gobbled them…the slight sweetness makes the need for a spread totally optional.

What I will do next time:

Use a smaller baking tin

Place the buns in rows of three to keep the shape

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Suneeta says:

    Hey Arundhati, I had seen your blog around 2-3 years ago and fallen in love with the pics of the food and your posts. Then I changed companies, got busy and forgot it all and recently searched again for it and guess what I found. You won’t believe this but I’ve heard exactly the same story of Good Friday and hot cross buns from my husband! So it’s just amazing and I am thinking that you are talking of the John’s bakery in Abids.It’s uncanny!

  2. Siri says:

    The buns look fantabulous dear and *Baking* is one area I didn’t venture out yet!.. seems like I should.. hopefully pretty soon!

    Great post Arundhati!


  3. nandita says:

    laughing at B’s comment, coz i thought of them too, when i read J and B came over, and then I realised you are in India 🙂

    am sure it would’ve been a riot…one way or the other!!

  4. Deepa says:

    ….a far cry frm the kanji we shared a long time ago(Bryan Adams wasnt it??;-))..the buns look lovely..enjoyed the post… nd..hey..belated easter wishes…!!

    i swear i miss kanji and payar every lent……happy easter to you too deeps… 🙂

  5. Mansi says:

    that looks like a succesful escapade Arundhati:) Meeta’s buns had me inspired too, so maybe I should really try bread baking again!

    you should you should….if not for anything….just the aroma that fills the house!!

  6. Your post remembered me of the Good Fridays in church..The buns look great..

    hi divya, thanks…:)

  7. bee says:

    wow. they look fantastic. we came over? don’t remember. maybe i was drunk, or both of us were. could you send us the buns please?’cos j and i don’t remember eating them. 😀

    would have loved to have you guys over…but no…you didnt come over…and no you dont get that drunk yet….i do have other friends you know….incidentally they are also b and j….not the world famous bloggers tho….infact not world famous anything !! 😉

  8. Vaishali says:

    The buns look good, Arundati. And I enjoyed reading your post- I could almost see your mom fixing you with a glare at church :)!

    the glares are something she treats with amnesia these days…..i tell her she’s in denial and old age!! thanks vaishali!!

  9. Haalo says:

    They look lovely Arundati – well done!

    hi Haalo……am so kicked that you stopped by!! welcome!!

  10. sushma says:

    hey this is very lovely looking piece. i hv never tried making one..

  11. Raaga says:

    but tell me… you didn’t use Atta for this, did you?

    itc’s ashirwad atta…the one i use for rotis

  12. rachel says:

    Very nice read! I give my toddler the glares in church now…yet she goes about paying no heed to it!!

    Love your bread basket of buns….

    its the most torturous thing to sit still and be quiet!! thanks for the kind words rachel

  13. Raaga says:

    they look so pretty… I wanted to bake some more masala buns on thursday for my MIL to take, but was pooped.
    I’ll make some again now 🙂 plain raisin buns… what say?

    totally agree!! i like flavoured buns….either sweet or savoury….go for it!!

  14. Miri says:

    Seems wonderful! well done – and dont worry too much about baking , you seem to be doing great! From one novice baker to another! 🙂

    hi Miri, thanks for stopping by and the kind words.

  15. Nandita says:

    Im the first to arrive on the scene – where there are smells of freshly baked bread, i land there immediately…
    Lovely lovely story, about ur experiences with the HCBs…and thanks for all the niceties you’ve said here 🙂

    Glad you loved these..even I want to make them again at home, with whole wheat flour this time, minus the crosses and with some tutti frutti pieces…


    hey Nandita!! am going to try them too…same way as you….i was almost delirious with joy…only got a nice rap for the lack of shape!!

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