Traditional baked hot cross buns are made with tangzhong method to give you the softest fluffiest buns ever. The only method I like to make bread and buns.
Ever since I knew about tangzhong method, that’s pretty much the only method I use to make my bread and buns these days. I literally swear by it! I wrote in detail about this tangzhong method in this How To Make Soft and Fluffy Hokkaido Milk Bread (tangzhong and autolyse method) in case you are interested to read more. I will not bore you with the same information in this post. I pretty much use the same basic dough with some little modification to make it into hot cross buns for the upcoming Easter.
HOW TO MAKE THE CROSS ON HOT CROSS BUNS
1. MAKE THE FLOUR PASTE
In this recipe, the cross is made with only two ingredients: all-purpose flour and water. They are mixed together to form a paste. Now you can adjust the amount of water to make it thicker or runnier.
There’s no right or wrong here. Runnier paste will blend into the buns after baked, while thicker paste will be more visible on the buns. I actually did both, runnier and then thicker paste as you can see in the photo.
2. TRANSFER TO PIPING BAG OR USE A SPOON
If you make the flour paste runny, you can drizzle on top with a small spoon, for thicker paste, a piping bag will help. If you use a piping bag, just snip the end with scissors
3. DRAW A CROSS ON TOP OF THE BUNS
Shown here is a more “runnier” paste that I could drizzle with a spoon on top of the buns after brushing with egg wash and sprinkle with white sesame seeds.
So, it’s really that simple! Some people use icing to draw the cross on hot cross buns after the bun is baked. It’s really up to your imagination 🙂 I actually want more visible crosses and so halfway baking (after 15 minutes of baking), I quickly made another thicker flour paste to draw on top of the runnier paste 🙂 That’s why you see one more faded cross and the other one is risen.
Please weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.
ROUX STARTER (TANG ZHONG):
- 15 gr bread flour
- 90 ml whole milk
- 120 ml whole milk
- 1 egg - about 50 gr lightly beaten
INGREDIENT TO ADD LAST TO THE DOUGH:
- 40 gr butter softened
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tsp water
HOT CROSS PASTE:
- 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp water - or add a bit more if you want it runnier
- 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds - optional
PREPARE TANG ZHONG:
- Place milk and the bread flour in a small saucepan. Whisk until there is no more lumps. Cook this mixture over medium heat until it is thickened, about 5 minutes or less. Remove from the heat and let it cool down completely
MAKE THE DOUGH:
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients and the tang zhong you made earlier. Use a dough hook attachment to knead the dough until all the crumbly dough starts to come together into one mass, it may take about 2-3 minutes for this to happen. Don't be tempted to add any liquid. You may need to stop halfway and scrap the dough off the hook and the sides of the bowl and knead again several times
- Once it comes into a dough, stop the machine. The dough will not be smooth, don't worry.Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. This is an important rest that bakers refer to as an autolyse (though in our case it's a short one. Read my post above for detail)
- After the rest, turn on and knead the dough again and knead for 1-2 minutes until it is a bit smoother. Then add the salt and sugar into the dough. Continue to knead until the dough is relatively smooth. You need to stop and scrape the dough off the hook and the bowl several times during this process. I promise it's worth the effort!
- Once you have a smooth dough, turn the machine back on again to knead and gradually add in the softened butter a bit by a bit. The dough will turn into a REAL sticky mess again because of the butter, just keep kneading and stop halfway and scrape the dough off the hook and bowl again and continue to knead until the butter is absorbed by the dough. IT WILL HAPPEN, don't worry! DO NOT be tempted to add any extra flour. You will get a shiny smooth dough that is very elastic. I promise!
- Place this dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover it with a clean and damp tea cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise at a warm place for about 1 hour. It may not double in size, but it will puff up some for sure.
- Punch the dough down, divide into 12 balls. Cover these doughs loosely with a plastic wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes. Make sure you don't skip this part of resing the dough before shaping
- Pull and tuck the dough to form a smooth round ball or slightly oval (it's up to you) with the seams tucked underneath. Place the seam side down on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with a plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel
- Let the mini dough proof again for another 40 minutes or until they puff up again to about 50% or more of their original size
PREPARE HOT CROSS PASTE:
- While waiting for the buns to proof for the second time, preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the flour with water. Transfer to a plastic bag or piping bag. If you make the paste runnier, you can use a small spoon to draw the cross on the buns
- Brush the top of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with some white sesame seeds (if using)
- If using a piping bag, snip off the pointy end with scissors and draw a cross on the buns after the egg wash
- Pop the dressed buns into the oven (3rd rack from the top) and let them bake for the next 15-20 minutes depending on the oven. It will be golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool down in the pan for about 5 minutes and then let them cool completely on a cooling rack. Enjoy and once it's cooled down completely, wrap it up with plastic wrap and it's good for about 3 days or so (it didn't last that long in our house)
- The plain buns without topping can be kept at room temperature for about 3 days. Wrap them up with plastic wrap tightly.
- Wrap the buns in aluminum foil and reheat in oven or toaster oven or air fryer at 350F for about 10 minutes to warm up. Then you can dress them with the topping as mentioned above
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Check out the steamed hot cross buns I made not too long ago 🙂