Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t seem to stop messing with recipes for hot cross buns. It’s not that these buns were particularly important to my childhood Easter celebrations, but apparently they left a big impression on me. I have my basic recipe that I seem to tweak more than I usually tweak my other recipes. In fact, I’ve been thinking about them all week, wondering if I should tweak them again. Then I got a call from my pal, Marc (warning: he is a major potty mouth). He’s having an Easter brunch for friends, and one of them is gluten-intolerant. He sent me a hot cross bun recipe he wanted to make and asked how hard it would be to change it to gluten-free.

I am always happy to help folks adapt recipes in order to allow them to welcome more folks to the table.  I am overjoyed when people want to include those of us who have food allergies or intolerances. And it turns out that the person he wanted to make the recipe for is a mutual friend of ours who just recently realized that she is gluten intolerant.  I will admit, though,  that this kind of thing also fills me with a certain amount of anxiety. Especially since the recipe that he wanted to adapt is yeasted. As you know, yeasted recipes require much more tweaking than just a simple cup for cup replacement of gluten free flour for wheat flour. So, I told him I would work on it and see what I could come up with in short period of time.

It turns out that the recipe is one of the must fussy recipes ever. It requires a million bowls and several steps and cooking and straining and resting and rising. This totally cracks me up because it is soooo Marc.  He is a culinary school graduate.  He and his husband often make elaborate dinners for their friends and family members.  Just listening to his preparations for these meals makes me want to take a nap.  But mostly they make me happy–cooking is not his livelihood but it’s his joy and his passion.

Anyway, I wanted to help out and of course it gave me an excuse to work on hot cross buns, again–win-win!  I spent most of yesterday working on adapting the recipe. It uses a technique that I am wanting to use more and more with my baking—rolling out dough with your hands. I have found that it’s challenging to create a gluten-free yeasted dough that can be manipulated by hand, but that bakes up moist in the middle. Most of the time, a dough that is firm enough to be manipulated often bakes up into an end product that is more dry than I would like it to be.  I am still learning about ways to do this that are satisfactory to me–and I hope to share more in the coming months.

I am really pleased with this recipe because it bakes up into buns that a supremely flavorful and moist–they are more dense than my basic recipe and are chock full of apples, dried fruit, and spices.  And they have an appley-cinnamon sticky glaze on top that puts this recipe right over the edge.  They are a wonderful addition to your Easter baking!

Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Gourmet Traveller


1 ¾ cups (350 g) granulated sugar, divided, plus 1 tablespoon
1 2/3 cups (375 ml) plus 1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1 Granny Smith apple (or flavorful apple of your choice), unpeeled, cored and diced
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons lemon juice

5 cups (700 g) of Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose flour mix, divided
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon double acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cups (530 ml) warm but not hot milk (about 110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 ¼ cups (150 g) golden raisins
½ cup (50 g) dried apples, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystalized ginger
3 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
Zest from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 orange

2 extra-large eggs
7 tablespoons (100 g; 3.5 oz) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Neutral tasting oil for brushing dough bowl (I like Rice Bran oil)
1/3 cup (40 g) tapioca flour for dusting

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine 1 2/3 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) of the sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon juice, and the diced apple, and stir to combine. Reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes and the apple pieces are cooked through and translucent. Remove from heat. Carefully strain the syrup into a small bowl and place the cooked apples into another small bowl. Let both cool.

While the apples are cooking, prepare the following:

In a small bowl, combine the raisins, diced dried apple, crystalized ginger, ground cinnamon, allspice, and the zests of orange and lemon.

In a medium bowl, combine 4 2/3 cups of the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

In a small bowl or a glass measuring cup, whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar into the warm milk until dissolved. Add the yeast and whisk until dissolved. Let sit until yeast has started to foam.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the eggs and melted butter. Add the yeast mixture. Beat on low for a few seconds to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat on low for a few seconds to combine and then raise speed to medium high and beat for 3 minutes.

Remove the paddle attachment (scraping off as much of the dough as possible back into the bowl) and attach the dough hook. Add the dried fruit and spice mixture and the strained, cooked apples to the mixture. Turn mixer speed to medium low and beat for several seconds to combine.

Brush another large bowl with oil and scrape your dough into that bowl. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour (until doubled in bulk).

After 1 hour (or when the mixture has doubled), turn on oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C; Gas Mark 7) to preheat.

As oven is preheating, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/3 cup tapioca flour (not flour mix) into a bowl. Uncover the risen dough. Dip a 1/3 cup measure into the tapioca flour and shake off the excess. Pat your palms in the tapioca flour to cover. Scoop out a heaping 1/3 cup of dough and shake out the dough into your hand—-it may seem like it’s not stiff enough to handle, but it is. With both hands, gently shape into a ball. Place dough ball into the center of the baking sheet.

You are now going to create 2 concentric circles of dough balls that are touching each other around the middle ball. Repeat dipping the measuring cup and your palms into the tapioca flour as needed. Repeat scooping and shaping process for succeeding blogs of dough and place them around the middle ball. Put 7 balls around the middle ball, and then 11 dough balls around this 2nd ring. The dough balls should be gently touching each other. If desired, us a pastry brush to gently brush off the excess tapioca flour.

Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes. The buns should look nicely risen and plump.

Once the buns have been rising for about 40 minutes, in a small bowl mix together the remaining 1/3 cup (40 g) of flour with 1/3 cup (80 ml) of cold water. Whisk until smooth (or as smooth as it gets) to make a flour paste. You will use this mixture to pipe a cross onto each bun. You can use a pastry bag with a medium tip or you can use a Ziploc bag with one of the corners cut off. Pipe a cross onto the top of each bun. You should have just enough flour paste to do this.

Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C; Gas Mark 7) for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C; Gas Mark 6) and bake for another 25 minutes. The buns should be golden brown while the crosses will retain a lighter color.

As the buns are baking, place the syrup mixture in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove and simmer over medium low heat. This will heat up the syrup and reduce it a bit.

Remove the baking sheet from oven and brush the hot buns well with the syrup mixture. Place the baking pan on a wire rack to cool. Be aware that the glaze will retain a sticky consistency as it dries.

Store at room temperature, loosely covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.


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  1. says

    These buns were a huge hit today, and not just with the gluten free folks. EVERYONE loved them, and they tasted as good or better than the real deal.

    Thank you for all your help. Yes, it takes some time to make this one but it creates something special and memorable. I’ll make these again!

  2. says

    Jeanne, so glad that I saw this recipe so I could include it in my gluten-free Hot Cross Buns recipe roundup! These look pretty amazing. One of the all-time flavor combos for sure. :-) Knowing your propensity for continually improving recipes, I suspect you’ll tweak these in the future to take out some of the “fussiness.” 😉


      • says

        Yep, I totally believe it! And did you see that I included another Apple-Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns recipe right after yours? It was a second recipe from Kylie of The Gluten and Dairy Free Bakehouse. She posted hers on the same day as yours. Totally different from your new recipe, except for the apple-cinnamon factor. You’ll have to take a look. 😉 It was fun collecting all these recipes. I hope that folks will use them. :-)


  3. Jennifer says

    Love your cookbook and your blog, but I got dizzy just reading this recipe… More time and effort than I have to give for one item on the menu.


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