This recipe for Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns is incredible! The real deal… No one will know they are gluten free and Coeliac-Friendly. Made with traditional fruit and spice, they are soft, fluffy, doughy Easter perfection.
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Why I developed my BEST traditional Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns Recipe
I am SO excited to share this recipe with you… My Best EVER Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns. Developed, tweaked and re-worked over and over again until I reached Gluten Free Hot Cross Bun heaven. Because these are different from other gluten free Easter buns… Not only soft, fluffy, fruity, spicy, doughy deliciousness as soon as they have been made… But they are also STILL soft and delicious a couple of days later. No toaster required. Now… that’s rare!
Of course, they are amazing toasted too… But they don’t actually NEED toasting. And I promise (because they have been tested with gluten-eaters), that no one will ever know they are gluten free.
And that’s the main reason I went to such lengths to get this one right. Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns are an endless disappointment. I’ve tried them all… Bought and from ‘high-ranking’ internet recipes. It seems there is way too much style over substance. So… Hopefully this one will tick all your boxes too.
What are Hot Cross Buns and why do we have them at Easter?
Hot Cross Buns are an iconic Easter treat. But just in case any of you are scratching you head thinking ‘Really?… never heard of one’… A Hot Cross Bun is a yeasted sweet bun dappled with dried fruit (usually raisins, currants and (sometimes) sultanas), which has been marked on the top with a cross before baking.
A short history…
The origins of the Hot Cross Bun seem to go back as far as the 12th Century. Allegedly, way back then, an Anglican monk baked the first batch marked with a cross to observe Good Friday. The symbolic treat gained popularity and over time, they became synonymous with Easter.
But like many foods with a long and religious history, Hot Cross Buns also come with ample superstition. By the end of the 16th Century (believing they carried magical properties), Tudor Queen Elizabeth Ⅰ had passed a law in England preventing the sale of all sweet buns other than at Christmas, Good Friday and to funerals. The banning drove people to want the buns even more… Determined bun-eaters by-passed the law by making them at home… And before long the law had to be rescinded as it was impossible to enforce.
Of course, while it would be easy to assume that the cross symbolises crucifixion based on that history, the ‘facts’ are perhaps a little muddier. ‘Crossed’ spiced buns have long been enjoyed within populations regardless of religion for centuries. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans had variations to celebrate the change of the seasons. And even the Pagan Saxons had a version that was marked with a cross to honour Ēostre, the Pagan goddess of fertility and Spring.
History aside, the buns remain delicious. And although they now seem to be available (at least in the UK) for most of the year, they continue to be a symbol that marks the end of the Lent fasting period and a time for celebration.
Why choose THIS Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns recipe
If you are Coeliac or a gluten-avoider, the good news is that there are now many Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns available in the supermarkets, although they vary significantly in fruitiness, spices and texture. However, the fact that so many people asked for a good home-baked recipe, seems to indicate that not all is great in the Easter bun-buying world… But it also seems to suggest that many of the recipes available on the internet are less than worthy.
So… as is the crazy determination of Gluten Free Alchemist, we have risen to the challenge (no pun intended) to create the ULTIMATE Gluten Free Hot Cross Bun… One that is perfectly flavoured with seasonal spice and citrus… Generous with super-juicy fruit… Soft, doughy and fluffy of crumb… That is still soft and delicious the next day and beyond without having to be toasted… But that also toasts to perfection… And, of course, is marked with the traditional cross.
Have we delivered? You bet we have! In fact, we go a stage further. These buns can be part-made and frozen mid-process (tested after 48 hours), which means that you can even have fresh Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns in phased batches… Which is fantastic if you are the lone Coeliac in the family… Or you can just bake, freeze and defrost in the microwave.
The challenge of creating a worthy Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns recipe…
Heads up… When I set out to create my Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns recipe, I really wanted to make it super-simple. But the reality is that while I could create a ‘bag and bowl’ bun that tasted amazing fresh out of the oven, the early versions were dry and hard within 3 or 4 hours. And in my world, that simply isn’t good enough. Food should be edible for the duration and I won’t be forced to toast my buns just because they are poor quality. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE a toasted fruit bun as much as the next person, but there should be a choice… right?
So, I (half) apologise for what appears to be a plethora of ingredients. However I also say loud and clear that a long list of ingredients is NOT an indication that the recipe is difficult. It is just what is required to create a texture and crumb that is perfect and that lasts. And ‘that is lasts’ was crucial in the criteria for development. As always, it also goes without saying that there are no nasty additives.
Actually, none of the ingredients are that difficult to source. And most of them will be in the gluten free larder. But take it from me… the choice of ingredients is a careful selection that works. And making these buns may just be one of the most therapeutic bakes I’ve made in a long time.
Top Tips and Frequently Asked Questions for making these gluten free Easter buns
Just in case you need more convincing, let’s walk through some of the ingredients and processes used to make these Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns and consider why they are important…
Why is the fruit soaked in orange juice and hydrated before adding to the dough?
Seriously don’t miss this step… If you want moist, fluffy buns with super-juicy fruit, the dried fruit needs to be soaked and hydrated. Soaking in orange juice not only brings extra seasonal citrus flavour to the bake, but it ensures the fruit is plump and bursting with flavour.
But perhaps more important, is that adding plain dry fruit to the dough without soaking will result in a dry and crumbly bun. As it bakes, the fruit will suck the dough dry and that is a bad thing!
Does the flour blend matter?
Yes. Seriously… it does. I tried making these buns with my own gluten free flour blends A and B as well as a popular commercial option… The results remained dry and unhappy. The blend that worked best is the unique one I have used in the recipe…
Importantly… it contains no corn (which will be music to the ears of my corn-intolerant friends). But, it is very carefully balanced for the starches that help give the doughiness, and for the proteins which support the structure.
I have offered some possible substitutions for the protein-flours as I know not everyone can tolerate oat flour. But I would be reluctant to alter the balance of either the tapioca or potato starches, as these have been tweaked to a point that works.
Why is the psyllium husk hydrated rather than being added dry to the flour mix?
Anyone familiar with my Wholemeal Bread recipes will know that the psyllium husk is usually mixed in with the dry flour ingredients. For these buns, the psyllium is hydrated separately with the eggs and some milk. It is really important that the instructions for this are followed, to ensure the fluffiest of buns with a good moisture content. The process allows the moisture to be absorbed and held by the psyllium for an unequalled texture when baked.
Do I have to use honey as well as caster sugar?
The recipe uses a little golden caster sugar as a slight sweetener, but also contains a little honey (which has been added to help the yeast activate). In reality, you can use sugar instead of honey to activate the yeast, but if you can use honey, do. It seems to be another ingredient which helps to support longevity of texture.
Can I use Instant Yeast to make Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns?
Usually, bread recipes at Gluten Free Alchemist contain instant yeast. For these Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns however, I have switched to Dried Active Yeast (the type which is activated before adding to the mix) and have given the bun dough two proofings. Why? Because when I started on the recipe’s development, instant yeast simply didn’t produce the fluffy buns I wanted. The first proofing (and the use of Dried Active Yeast) made a massive difference to the final texture.
Why is butter and oil used in the recipe?
Similarly to the use of honey, the balance of oil and butter supports the long-lasting texture of the buns, while ensuring they still have the rich and buttery flavour of traditional Hot Cross Buns.
Why have these Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns been egg washed and glazed?
This is necessary too… The buns have been egg-washed before baking to help seal the dough and protect from the harsh heat of the oven. This extra step helps to hold moisture in, for a perfect crumb.
The brown sugar glaze adds the traditional shine and sticky surface.
Why add steam to the oven during baking?
It’s easy to forget this stage of the process. But it also makes a big difference to an even rise and good texture. Why? Because the moisture from the steaming dish of water helps keep the surface of the dough soft and protected during the first minutes of rapid rise when initially placed in the oven. The buns can continue to expand while the yeast remains active, without negative impact.
Can I use different fruit or chocolate chips instead of Currants and Raisins?
Yes. Not everyone likes traditional fruit in their buns. So, it’s fine to substitute with an equivalent weight of chopped alternative dried fruits (maybe apricots, cherries, cranberries or blueberries). Or even sub with about 120g chocolate chips. Just be aware that chocolate chips need adding after the first prove… When I tested this option, I (stupidly) added them with the rest of the ingredients and the warmth of the dough caused the chips to melt… When the dough was knocked back, the chocolate simply amalgamated with the dough… Delicious, but no chips.
As it was such a popular request, there is now a separate Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns recipe to use on Gluten Free Alchemist. But we also have an amazing Marzipan Hot Cross Bun recipe too… with hidden marzipan surprise!
How long will these Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns stay fresh and how should I store them?
Stored freshly baked and at room temperature…
The recipe for these Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns has been carefully developed to stay fresh for longer than most other home-made gluten free Easter buns. They have been tested for softness at 2 to 3 days and were still delicious un-toasted. At this point, they all got eaten, but I suspect they may have been fine for a little longer.
Of course, like any fresh bread product, the texture of the buns slowly begins to tighten over time. However, wrapped tightly in clingfilm (or a plastic bag with the air sucked out of it) they did especially well. To stop the buns sticking to the film, I popped a little baking paper round the batch first. Store at room temperature.
Freshly baked and frozen…
My Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns can also be baked and frozen. The usual rules apply to ensure freshness… Freeze as soon as possible after they have cooled, wrap tightly and eat within a month or so.
When taken out of the freezer, either defrost to room temperature, or chuck a couple in the microwave for a few seconds to have fresh steaming hot buns. Toast or not as you wish.
Freezing Gluten Free Bun dough part-way through making to bake later…
As a bit of an experiment, I tested freezing the dough after the first prove and before the second. It worked a treat!
Simply knock back the dough, roll into balls and freeze separated from each other on a tray. If possible, fast-freeze and then store the buns once fully frozen in an airtight container.
When ready to bake and eat, defrost the buns naturally to room temperature, before placing somewhere warm to rise (I tested by placing over a warm bowl of steaming water). The rise may take a little longer (depending on how cold the buns are when you start). But once risen, finish the buns with egg wash and crosses (or not) before baking as per usual.
Stages of making Gluten Free Hot Cross Bun Dough in pictures
Will you make my Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns?
So, there you have it… My Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns explained. I really hope you give them a go. Please don’t see the list of ingredients as a hinderance. The results took our buns to another level and I hope you will feel the same…
As always, do let me know if you make them and how they work for you. Leave a comment, rate the recipe, ping me an email or tag me on social media with pictures of your epic buns. It really makes me smile to see how your bakes turn out and makes all the hard work in development worth it. You’ll find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns
- spoon and fork
- Small saucepan
- cling film
- large baking sheet
- oven-proof bowl
- disposable piping bag/squeezy cooks bottle with fine round tip
Hydrated & Other Dried Fruit
- 120 g mixed dried fruit (currants; raisins; sultanas) (150g hydrated weight – soaked in orange juice and then drained)
- 70 g orange juice for soaking the fruit
- 60 g chopped mixed peel
- zest 1 orange optional – finely grated
Dry Flour Mix
- 160 g tapioca starch
- 145 g potato starch
- 85 g oat flour For no oat version sub with sorghum flour
- 70 g sorghum flour or buckwheat flour For no oat version sub with brown rice flour or buckwheat flour
- 5 g fine sea salt = 1 level teaspoon
- 3 g xanthan gum = 1 level teaspoon
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 20 g Dried ACTIVE YEAST The type that needs activating (I use Allinson's)
- 2 to 3 tsp honey (for preference – or golden caster sugar)
- 60 g hand warm water
Psyllium Husk Hydration
- 3 large eggs UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 28 g ground psyllium husk
- 100 g full fat milk
- 1½ tsp orange extract or vanilla extract
- 60 g golden caster sugar
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 200 g full fat milk
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 egg + a dash of milk
- 30 g potato starch
- 20 g sorghum flour or buckwheat flour
- 40 g milk approx
- 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp water
Hydrating the Fruit – ahead of time
- Ahead of time, mix the mixed fruit (currants/sultanas/raisins) with the orange juice in a bowl and leave to hydrate for 2 to 3 hours (or overnight), stirring occasionally.
- Once hydrated, drain the fruit and discard the juice.
- Mix the hydrated fruit with the mixed peel and orange zest (if using) and set aside.
Dry Flour Mix
- Mix together the 4 flours, salt, xanthan gum and spices until thoroughly blended. Set aside. TIP: Weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously.
- Weigh the yeast, honey (or sugar) and hand warm water into a small bowl. Make sure the water is tepid only, as if it is too hot, it will kill the yeast.
- Beat together with a fork or whisk briefly to mix thoroughly and enable the yeast granules to dissolve.
- Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes while the yeast activates. Yeast that has activated will appear frothy and may even bubble slightly.
Psyllium Husk Hydration
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric whisk until they are just starting to thicken.
- Add the psyllium husk to the eggs and beat again. The mixture should become thick enough to start holding shape.
- Scrape down the bowl and re-whisk to ensure the psylium husk and eggs are well blended. Keep beating until the psyllium and egg become a thick, airy batter consistency.
- Next add the 100g measure of milk and the orange extract and beat again to combine.
- Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the psyllium husk to fully hydrate.
- While the psyllium husk is hydrating, weigh the caster sugar, butter, 200g measure of milk and sunflower oil into a small saucepan.
- Gently heat on the hob over a medium setting, stirring frequently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. To cool more quickly, either transfer from the hot pan to a cool jug, or keep stirring in the pan to help the steam to escape.
Mixing the ingredients together to make a dough
- When the hot milk has cooled a little (you should be able to touch it without burning), add it little by little to the hydrated psyllium mixture in the bowl, whisking thoroughly between each addition.
- Next add the activated yeast mixture and beat again to blend evenly.
- Once fully blended, add the flour mix to the bowl.
- Beat the flour into the wet ingredients with either a wooden spoon or electric beaters with a dough hook. Start slowly (to avoid the flour spraying out of the bowl).
- Keep beating for several minutes to ensure the mixture becomes a very thick, even (but sticky) dough-batter.
- Lastly add the drained dried fruit and mix firmly into the dough until even.
Proof the Dough
- Scoop the dough into a single heap and rest a sheet of clingfilm over the bowl (not touching the dough).
- Set the bowl in a warm place to proof (rise) for about an hour. I set my bowl over another bowl with a little steaming water in the bottom (changing the water to refresh the warmth regularly).
Knocking back the dough
- Once the dough has risen to about double the size, 'knock it back' by stirring and turning with a solid wooden/silicone spoon.
Rolling the dough into buns
- Base line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- With lightly oiled hands (I wear tight-fitting vinyl food gloves and rub a dribble of oil into them), pull off pieces of the dough and roll into balls in the hand, to make about 13 even-sized dough-buns. The balls should be 5 to 6 cm in diameter.
- Arrange the dough balls in rows on the lined baking sheet with a gap of about 1½ cm between them.
- Gently rest a piece of clingfilm over the top of the dough-buns (they mustn't be restricted) and set aside in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the warmth of the room. The buns will more or less double in size.
Preparing the mixture for the crosses and the egg-wash
- While the buns are rising, make the mixture for piping the crosses. – In a small cup or bowl, mix together the flours and water until smooth.
- In a separate small bowl, beat an egg with a dash of milk ready to egg-wash the buns.
- Place a heat-proof dish or pan at the bottom of the oven and then pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Boil a kettle of water ready to pour into the heat-proof dish in the oven.
Baking the buns
- When the dough-buns are risen – very gently, but thoroughly brush the tops all over with egg wash.
- Transfer the mixture for the crosses into either a small piping bag with a fine piping tip/tiny snip off the end, or a plastic squeezable piping/icing bottle. If the mixture has stiffened too much add a tiny drop of water and stir through, BEFORE TRANSFERRING. The mixture needs to be just pipeable and not too runny.
- Pipe a line of cross-mixture down the centre of each row of dough-buns and then turn the tray and repeat the process at right-angles, so that all the buns are topped with a cross.
- Half-fill the tray/dish placed in the base of the oven with boiled steaming water.
- Bake the buns for 13 to 15 minutes until the golden and firm on the tops.
- While the buns are baking, prepare the sugar-glaze by heating and dissolving the brown sugar with the water either in a tiny dish in a microwave for a few seconds, or in a small pan on the stove.
- When baked, remove the buns from the oven and cool for about 5 minutes on the tray, before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.
- While still hot, brush the tops of the buns with brown-sugar glaze.
Eating and Storing
- These Hot Cross Buns can be enjoyed either warm or cold. Best slathered with butter. They will stay soft for a good 24 to 48+ hours, although will eventually start to dry a little. Toast them or not as you prefer.
- To store after they have cooled, make sure the buns are tightly wrapped in clingfilm or a bag to ensure maximum freshness. (I place a little additional baking paper between them to prevent sticking).
- To Freeze: Freeze on the day of making and as soon as possible after cooling, tightly wrapped for maximum freshness.
© 2019-2022 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
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