Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free (reworked 4/4/12)

Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
one ha’ penny,
two ha’ penny,
hot cross buns.
If you have no daughters,
give them to your sons,
one ha’ penny,
two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns

This is the song (minus the words) that we listened to over and over last spring as Girlfriend was learning to play the recorder.  Apparently, this is the same song kids all over the country use when they learn recorder.

After listening to it over and over again, I started thinking about hot cross buns.  I haven’t had them for years.  But I do have a vague memory of eating them as a kid.  I remember really liking the dough, but I took out all of the raisins.  So did my brother and sisters.  We would sit at the table, eating our hot cross buns, with growing piles of raisins next to our plates.

I did a little research on hot cross buns and came to find that they are a traditional Easter season treat–or more specifically, a Good Friday treat.  In the US, they are traditionally spiced and a bit sweet, with a cross marked on the top with a powdered sugar glaze.  In the UK, the cross is made with pastry.  According to the, the concept of hot cross buns goes as far back as ancient Egypt, when they made”small round cakes, marked with a representation of the horns of an ox, to the goddess of the moon.”  The ancient Greeks and Romans had a similar practice.  And the Saxons ate buns “marked with a cross in honor of the goddess of light, Eostre, whose name was transferred to Easter.”

Whatever their history, they are delicious.  They have spices and lemon and orange zest, are pleasantly sweet, and contain raisins.  Yes, I’ve grown up a bit and will accept raisins in certain baked goods–as long as they belong there.

Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free

Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in fridge):
1 1/4 C. (170 g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C. (205 g) white rice flour
1 C.(120 g) tapioca flour
1 C. (165 g) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

Special Equipment Needed
-stand mixer is really helpful, but a hand mixer will do


For the Buns
2 C (475 ml) warm but not hot milk
2 TBL active dry yeast (I use Red Star)
1 TBL granulated sugar
3 C (420 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
2 tsp xanthan gum
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp each fresh lemon and orange zest
2 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/4 C (50 g) additional granulated sugar
2 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 TBL (55 g) melted butter, warm but not hot (or neutral vegetable oil)
3/4 C (110 g) raisins (brown or golden)
1 egg mixed with 2 tsp water for egg wash for top of buns
Extra melted butter for greasing the muffin pans
Extra tapioca flour for cutting the cross on each bun

For the Glaze
2 C (225 g) powdered sugar
1 TBL milk
2-3 TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice (adjust to your taste preferences)

Grease 18 muffin cups (I use a 12 cup muffin pan and a 6 cup muffin pan) with melted butter.

In a small bowl or a 2 C glass measuring cup, whisk together warm milk and 1 TBL sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Whisk in yeast.  Set aside to proof (get foamy on top).

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, spices, zests and 1/4 C sugar.  Set aside.

In the bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place eggs, vinegar, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add yeast mixture.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture.  Turn up speed to medium high and beat for 3 minutes. Add raisins and beat on low until just combined.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. With a wet finger, smooth tops. Dip a sharp knife into the extra tapioca flour and cut a fairly deep cross into the top of each bun. You will need to dip your knife before each cut (i.e., 2 cuts per bun). Do not worry if there is extra tapioca flour on the top of the buns–this will not affect the taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C/gas mark 5. Place muffin tins in a warm place to rise until double in bulk–about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I like to place the rising rolls on the stove to take advantage of the oven’s warmth to help them rise.

After the buns have risen, brush the top of each bun lightly with the egg wash.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes–or until the buns are a golden brown on top.

When the buns are done baking, remove from oven, carefully remove the buns from the muffin tins and place on racks to cool.

Make the glaze.  Whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and lemon juice until smooth.  When the buns are cool to the touch, ladle on a bit of the glaze into the top cross of each bun.  The glaze will drip down the sides a bit.  You will probably have some glaze leftover.


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  1. Pauline says

    Just made these, I used cornflour instead of sweet rice flour as couldn’t get the other in time. They have risen amazingly, I just buttered the tin using unsalted butter, they came out easily! Look like muffins. Waiting for them to cool

  2. Susan says

    I just made these & they were fantastic! The best texture of any Gluten-free bread product I have ever made. For my family’s preferences I would change a few things next time. I would use 1 cup of Golden Raisins instead of 3/4 cup. I would not cut the cross on the top as I frosted mine with the glaze & then piped on a cross with Lemon Curd–that’s how our hometown Bakery did theirs & we like it that way. As with any GF baked goods–getting it out of the pan can be challenging. I used lots of butter on the muffin cups & then oiled the top surface of the muffin pan too–then you just have to work fast with a sharp knife around them to get them out of the pan. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe — I have missed having a Hot Cross Bun on Easter for years & years.

  3. Leigh says

    I made these last night and popped in the fridge overnight cling wrapped and then baked this morning, they turned out pretty well. I made up the all purpose flour mix, didn’t manage to get the sweet rice flour in time, so just increased the white rice and brown rice quantities to compensate. Also with the recipe, I added 2 cups of milk but in brackets it says 475 ml…so is it meant to be 2 cups (ie 500 mls) or 475 mls? And does it make much difference anyway? My other comment is that the crosses didn’t really work, it seemed to wet to try and cut crosses in it, could have been my extra 25ml milk??? and maybe even lack of the sweet rice flour in my flour mix??? Also when cooking I think I could’ve given them 5 mins less in my oven, so definitely keep a close eye on them. My glaze crosses didn’t really work either, but I wasn’t that fussed if I had it or not. All in all for gf hot cross buns, I thought they were pretty good! Better anyhow than the last recipe I tried two years ago, which should have read ‘rock cross buns’ lol! Happy Easter!

    • says

      Leigh: 2 cups equals 473 ml, which I rounded up to 475 ml. So, if you added 500 mls, you added an extra 2 tablespoons of milk. Also, the sweet rice flour does add to the baking quality of the mix, so I would use that next time.

  4. says

    I used your flour mix for the first time for these (a feat, for a serial substituter!) and was really impressed with the texture. Instead of all the citrus and dried fruit, I opted for crushed cardamom seeds, as I’ve recently been mulling over a cardamom-laced, sugar-topped “coffee bread” that my Finnish grandmother reportedly used to make.

    My only tweaks for next time will be to oil the muffin pan better, pay attention to them so they don’t over-rise, and halve the baking powder. Because they had so many air bubbles inside and an almost custardy interior, mine were like popovers than buns. Still delicious, obviously! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Alice Evans says

    I tried this recipe and the flavour is good but the consistancy is very much like batter, more similar to a yorkshire pudding than a cake or bread! Good recipe but depends how similar you want it to be to a hot cross bun

    • says

      Alice: tell me more. Do you mean the baked rolls seem more like a Yorkshire pudding to you? Or the batter? What texture do you like in your hot cross buns?

  6. Sharna says

    Oh I haven’t had these in years, can’t wait to share these buns with my children who have wheat allergy and thus have never had one! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  7. Wendy Hunt says

    Hi. My question is about the sweet rice flour. I have looked and looked for this to no avail. I finally located some in an Asian Grocery store. First line says Glutinous Rice Flour, followed by Sweet Rice Flour. Is it possible that this is what recipes asking for Sweet Rice Flour mean? I remember reading on some site that Glutinous Rice Flour was not to be confused with Sweet Rice Flour. But I’m getting frustrated by my search which yields no satisfactory conclusion! I also don’t know how the sweet rice flour differs from the brown and white rice flours. I have been tempted to just increase them. Anyway, if you can shed any light on this I would be most grateful.

  8. says

    Hi, on wednesday, I printed the old recipe, and used it, these came out “al right”….i baked them on a cookie sheet, and they rose, but deflated a little during baking, the first batch i had the oven at 375 and the bottoms burned.
    The second batch I baked them at 325 and these came out perfect, (same deflation though).

    I live in The Bahamas and I was wondering if it might have anything to do with the temperature adjustment.

    I see the extra milk and less xanthum gum in the revised recipe, can you explain why?

    Thank you.

    • admin says

      Jamilah: The extra milk and the less xanthan gum lead to a wetter dough–which creates a nicer end result. The buns are more “squishy” and more bun-like. Also, there will be some deflation–when the hot air inside the dough cools down, the pressure on the walls of the buns is decreased, leading to a bit of deflation. Also, I would watch the buns as they bake to make sure they do not bake so long that they burn. Also, do you know the exact temperature of your oven? If not, I would get an oven thermometer and let it “live” in your oven so you know the exact temperature you are baking at. Happy baking!

  9. Skye says

    I so appreciate your site. I finally got brave and tried baking a cake – my first since beig diagnosed, and the pumpkin chocolate chip cake was a success. I’d like to try these buns but can’t figure out the timing for Easter morning. Should I prep the night before and leave them to rise and then bake in the morning? Or bake the night before and reheat? Do they keep overnight or are they much better immediately?

    • admin says

      Skye: It depends on how early you want them and how early you want to get up in the morning. It takes about 15 minutes to make, 1 hour to rise, 20 minutes to bake, and then 30 minutes to cool, and then a few minutes to frost. That said, you could prep them up until the rising time and then place them in the fridge and let them rise overnight (dust with tapioca flour and then cover very lightly with plastic wrap). That should slow down the rising. Then bake in the morning. You will probably need to bake them a bit longer because they will be cold going into the oven. Happy baking!

  10. Marilyn says

    For the several years I made pastries, etc. for our Unity Church, I broke from convention & didn’t decorate the tops of the buns with crosses. The Unity Church doesn’t make a big deal of the cruxifiixtion, but concentrates on the ascension. Instead of crosses as decoration, I piped a white upward spiral on top of each bun. The first year there was a lot of discussion, but it makes perfect sense to them now!

    Thank you for all the recipes, dear Jeanne. Hope you and your family have a sweet Easter!

    • admin says

      Marilyn: So nice to hear from you! And I like your idea of the spiral–it’s perfect! Have a terrific Easter!


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