My hot cross buns recipe for Easter makes a delightful dough that’s rich, spicy and fruity. As I’ve been baking these hot cross buns for Easter in our Cambodian kitchen in recent years I’ve given this Good Friday treat a Southeast Asian twist yet still kept the traditional taste.
A few years ago we were at Lara’s mum’s house in Bendigo, Australia, eating terribly disappointing hot cross buns that we’d bought from the local bakery and supermarket. They squashed to next to nothing beneath your finger tips and lacked the spice notes we both remembered fondly from the hot cross buns we ate as kids.
Most of our two decades living abroad have been spent in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, which means we haven’t had many Easters and therefore haven’t eaten a whole lot of hot cross buns. That means cravings. And not only cravings for hot cross buns.
If you’ve been following our Instagram feed I’ve been doing a lot of sourdough baking in recent years and Lara has been cooking Russian food, primarily to satisfy cravings for things we miss. But also because it’s so difficult to get good bread in Cambodia and I can make better quality bread at home. So naturally, as Easter is coming, I’m making hot cross buns.
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Hot Cross Buns Recipe for Easter with a Spicy Fruity Southeast Asian Twist
I started experimenting with this hot cross buns recipe a few years ago. I have always had a tendency – Lara calls it an obsession – to test out an array of different recipes until I find just the right one and then tweak and tweak them until they’re absolutely perfect.
But since we’ve been living in Siem Reap I’ve also found myself giving foreign dishes a Cambodian or Southeast Asian twist by substituting or adding local ingredients to recipes. (Lara has been doing the same with her cocktails, as she did with this Cuban mojito recipe). This is to explain why this hot cross buns recipe is made with five spice instead of allspice and candied ginger and candied tamarind, all made locally.
So instead of adding allspice to the dough mix, I’m using five-spice in its place. I’ve also added dried ground cardamom as well for its camphor and lemony notes. An English or Australian hot cross buns recipe would call for dried fruit, such as currants and orange peel, but I’ve used raisins (which are easier to get than currants) and added candied ginger and candied tamarind, which are very local.
Dried tropical fruits, candied tropical fruits and fruit leather are all very easy to get in Cambodia and they are wonderful and fresh. Nothing is wasted here and near the end of each fruit season as you travel through villages in the countryside you’ll see farmers will have various fruits finely sliced or diced and laid out on platters in the sun to dry.
The dough mix is a very wet one which makes it difficult, but not impossible to knead by hand. I prefer to use a stand mixer or a hand mixer, requiring very little hand kneading, apart from adding the dried fruit mix and shaping the buns. Depending just how wet the mix is, I’ll coat my palms with vegetable oil or flour to stop the mix from sticking to my hands.
From my childhood memories in Australia, the buns were always baked so that they touched each other and rose together in a tall cake tin or loaf tin. A lot of the English recipes try to not have the buns come in contact with each other. While I like both ways you’ll get a taller rise from the joint buns as the separate buns will spread more while proving.
We often touch on the history of dishes and recipes as it intrigues us both, but Oliver Thring has done a good job of examining the history of hot cross buns in The Guardian, so we’ll leave you with that to peruse while your buns bake.
Published 26 March 2018; updated 1 April 2021
Hot Cross Buns Recipe with a Southeast Asian Twist
- 250 g strong white flour
- 25 g brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- Zest of 1/4 orange
- 4 g dried yeast
- 150 ml milk
- 1 egg
- 25 g butter diced
- 100 g dried fruit we use a mix of raisins, candied ginger and candied tamarind
The cross paste
- 50 g plain flour
- 20 g icing sugar
- 30 ml milk
- If you do not have a stand mixer or a powerful hand mixer with dough hooks, this is a difficult dough to mix by hand. It can be done by hand, but it’s a sticky mess!
- Mix flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the mixer. Add the five spice, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract and orange zest to the flour.
- Mix around to distribute the salt in particular as it can inhibit the yeast activation.
- Mix the dough on a slow speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the butter piece by piece, allowing it to get distributed through the dough.
- By this stage the dough should have come together and off the sides of the bowl and sticking to the dough hook. When this happens the dough is ready even though it looks wet and glossy.
- With oil or flour coating the palms of your hands, place the dough on a floured workbench. Spread the dough out and add the dried and candied fruit to the dough. Gently knead the dough to mix the fruit through the dough for a couple of minutes.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm that’s oiled on the side that might contact the dough as it rises. Prove for about 1½ – 2 hours in which time the dough should double.
- Once this is achieved, place the dough on a lightly floured workbench and knock the dough back to expel the air.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces around 100g each. Prepare a large baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- To prepare the bun dough shape, flatten the dough piece roughly and pick up a corner of the dough and press into the middle of the dough. Repeat until you have formed a tight ball. Turn the dough ball over, which should reveal a smooth, taught surface.
- Place the finished buns evenly spaced in the baking tray and prove the buns for one hour lightly covered with oiled clingfilm.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush each bun with an egg wash made form a beaten egg and a little salt.
- Create the cross paste by mixing the ingredients for the paste in a small mixing bowl. It needs to be piped so a good firm consistency is best. Place the mix in a piping bag and mark the crosses.
- Bake the buns for around 15 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through cooking. They should be a golden brown color.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Do let us know if you bake my hot cross buns recipe this Easter and do feel free to share your own hot cross buns tips and twists in the Comments below. I’d love to try them.