Overnight Hot Cross Buns
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Just as Lahey’s pizza dough can be dimpled into pissaladiere and Holly’s challah twisted into babka and Nigella’s Danish pastry spiraled into croissants, Molly Wizenberg’s cinnamon buns can be rolled into hot cross buns.
I’ve had success using Molly’s cinnamon roll dough in other forms, and as I looked online at hot cross bun recipes and at a recipe I had made years ago, I discovered the composition of dough closely resembled Molly’s, which has never failed me. This year, Molly’s recipe it will be.
These buns can be mixed and baked in the same day, but isn’t it more fun to pull a pan from the fridge, pop it in the oven, and
tend to fussy toddlers relax with the paper while the smell of freshly baked sweet buns fills the air?
Overnight Hot Cross Buns How-To
- Mix the dough: This is a simple no-knead dough that takes 15 minutes to stir together.
- Let it rise: Create a warm place for your dough to rise (see recipe for notes); then let it rise for two hours.
- Divide and shape: Portion the dough into 16 pieces; roll into balls, transfer to a buttered baking dish.
- Transfer pan to the refrigerator and let the buns rise overnight.
- The following morning, transfer the pan to the oven, and bake the buns until golden.
- While the buns bake, make a simple glaze. Once the buns are done, decorate them each with an “X”.
PS: A few ideas for Easter, and my favorite reminder this time of year: If you’re making a ham, don’t forget the ham sauce! Seriously, it’s the most delicious sauce ever.
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See how easy bread baking can be in my free ecourse!
Overnight Hot Cross Buns
- Total Time: 18 hours
- Yield: 16 buns
** UPDATED RECIPE 2020 **
I made these last Easter, as I always do, and while I found them delicious I also found myself wanting some warm, “spiced” notes as well as a little more salt. After a few experiments, these are the minor changes I’ve made, and I find the resulting buns to be especially delicious:
- Replaced 1/4 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup of brown sugar — in other words, instead of using 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, I use a mix of brown and white. I think the brown sugar really adds here.
- Upped the salt to 2 teaspoons. If you use a digital scale, which I highly recommend, it’s 10 g.
- Added a pinch of nutmeg. I keep whole nutmeg on hand, so I just swiped one across my microplane grater a few times… be careful, spices such as nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon can overpower quickly. A small pinch is all you need.
- Upped the butter from 3 tablespoons to 4. I always use salted butter, but unsalted butter here works just as well. (Just know that if you use salted butter, the buns won’t be too salty.)
- I brush the just-baked buns with a little melted butter.
Warm Place to Rise: If you need a warm spot, preheat your oven for one minute, then turn it off — it shouldn’t get warmer than 100ºF or so and you should be able to press your hands on the grates without burning yourself. Place bowl of dough, covered, in this warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.
If using active-dry yeast: Boil 1/3 cup of the milk and combine it with 2/3 cup cold milk — this should give you a nice lukewarm temperature. Test with your finger. Add a teaspoon of the white sugar (you can add an additional teaspoon or take from the 1/4 cup of sugar … an extra teaspoon won’t make a difference) and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let stand for 15 minutes or until foamy. You can then whisk the egg into this mixture, and you can whisk in the melted butter, too, so long as it has cooled a bit. Then proceed with the recipe.
2022 Update: Cream Cheese Icing
This year I made a cream cheese icing, and the kids loved it. It also doesn’t melt as quickly as the icing in the recipe below. To make it: mix 4 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup confectioners sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of sea salt. If your cream cheese is very soft, you can mix this with a spatula as opposed to a stand mixer. Taste, and adjust with more sugar and salt as necessary. Transfer to a piping bag or quart storage bag. Snip off a corner of the storage bag, if using, and pipe over the briefly cooled buns.
For the dough:
- 3½ cups (448 g) or more unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (64 g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (56) brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons(10 g) kosher salt
- pinch nutmeg, see notes above
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup (256 g) whole milk or 2%, divided
- 4 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
For finishing (See notes above for a cream cheese frosting variation)
- 1 tablespoon melted butter, optional
- 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
- pinch sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and nutmeg, if using. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk and heat until warm to the touch, another 30 seconds or so. Whisk this milk-butter mixture into the bowl with the egg-milk mixture. Resulting mixture should be warm to the touch.
- Add the milk-egg-butter mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to combine all ingredients until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky. Sprinkle a handful of dough over the surface, and use your hands to briefly knead dough in bowl just until it all comes together—use more flour as needed, but go light. Dough should be on the sticky side. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a bowl cover. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (See notes above for creating a warm place for your dough to rise.)
- Butter a 9-inch square or round baking pan. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. If dough is especially sticky, knead briefly with a little bit of flour. Divide into 16 pieces. If you want perfectly sized balls, each portion should weigh about 59 grams. Roll each piece into a small ball using flour as necessary — this is a very sticky dough! Place balls equally spaced into pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth bowl cover and stick in fridge overnight; or, if baking immediately, let rise again until rolls have doubled and are squishing against each other, 25 to 35 minutes (or more depending on how cold your kitchen is).
- Preheat oven to 375ºF. If you are doing the refrigerator rise, remove the pan an hour (or more if possible) before baking. It’s OK if, after the hour, the buns look unchanged. Brush rolls with egg wash. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until rolls are evenly golden brown.
- Meanwhile, stir confectioners’ sugar with milk, salt, and vanilla to form a glaze (or see notes above if making the cream cheese frosting). Adjust the glaze with more milk or salt to taste. If you like a more pronounced “x”, keep the glaze on the thick side. For more control making the “x”, transfer glaze to small ziplock back. Snip the corner and use it like a pastry bag (or use an actual pastry bag if you have one).
- Remove pan from oven and immediately brush with melted butter, if using. Let buns cool ten minutes before drizzling glaze overtop. Serve immediately, re drawing the “x” over individual buns if you wish. Serve with more softened butter, if you wish… it might sound excessive, but a little warm butter on a hot cross bun is, well, heaven.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: hot cross buns, Easter, breakfast, holidays, overnight, buns, sweet, Good Friday
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88 Comments on “Overnight Hot Cross Buns”
Just wanted to say that these were amazing. I’ve been making Hot Cross Buns for years for Good Friday, but hated all the work in the morning. It is a blessing to have a recipe to make ahead and just pop in after the hour rise. I thought I maybe did something wrong because the dough didn’t rise much either in the first or on the counter, but they puffed up beautifully in the oven. My kids and husband said they were the best we’ve ever made, and that’s a lot of Hot Cross Buns recipes over the years! The only changes I made: Used 2 cups AP flour and 1.5 cups bread flour, skipped the egg wash, added mini chocolate chips to the dough, and a touch of cinnamon as well, and after brushing with the butter at the end I did sparkling sugar on top, which I think helped the crosses to stay in place. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe!
I’m so happy to hear this Christine! My kiddos love these, too … I don’t know what they would do if I added chocolate chips …. completely lose their minds 😍😍😍 Might have to try that next time. Love the idea of sparkling sugar, too.
Okay, this year I made them with cinnamon chips from King Arthur Flour and they were also amazing!!
Oh yay! So nice to hear this, Christine! I love this idea so much 🙂
Hello, I was wondering if it is possible to add dried fruit to this dough, such as currants. How much would you suggest and at what point in the recipe? Thank you!
Yes, absolutely! Add the currants with the flour. I think 1/2 to 3/4 cup is about right. You may want to adjust with more based on your results.
I’ve tried several bread recipes from you and they all turned out very well. My sisters and I love your bread recipes ( challah, focaccia).
I would like to also make this yummy recipe. In step 4, you said ” to briefly knead the dough until it all comes together and use flour as needed, but go light.” I am using a hand mixer, please tell me how many minutes to knead using a hand mixer on low speed? Thank you.
Also, if I add 2-3 tablespoon fillings ( ie. sweet coconut combined with butter and egg) inside each bun, do I adjust the baking temperature and how long should I cook the buns ?. Thanks
Hi Helen! So nice to hear this 🙂 I would mix 2-3 minutes at the most. Your filling sounds yummy! I wouldn’t adjust the temperature, and I don’t think you’ll need to adjust the time by much, but you may need to give it a few more minutes. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t done a filling, but just play it by ear. My guess is that 2 to 5 minutes more should do it.
I made this with coconut filling, and adding raisins & shredded coconut for another batch. It is SO SO FRACKING AMAZING !!! The texture is soft, fluffy, slightly chewy and slightly firm at the same time. My search is over for hot cross buns. I would give this recipe 10 stars if I could. I will use this recipe to add savory fillings. Thank you for such a delicious recipe and providing very clear instructions combined with video clip instructions. You have the talent to make bread baking to look so easy, with precise step by step instructions.
Amazing!! So nice to hear this, Helen. Thanks so much for reporting back. THe coconut filling sounds fabulous!
These look so delicious. Before I start, just wondering if I could make 9 rolls instead of 16? Fewer, bigger rolls would be preferable in our household.
P.S. I’m making that chicken with clementines this weekend for sure along with that carrot salad with quinoa. You keep variety in our lives!
Have fun with your family and please be safe.
Hi Leslie! Yes, absolutely, 9 big rolls will be lovely.
And yay for clementine chicken with carrot salad — that’s a perfect combination. And thank you for your kind wishes… we will be safe 💕💕💕
Do you think using egg replacer for the egg in the dough would work?
I am considering making these Easter Sunday to share with elderly neighbours. You say to serve immediately but I won’t be able to deliver them immediately on finishing – will they still be good a few hours after baking and icing?
Oh yes! Totally fine hours later.
Hello! I made these last year and the flavor was great, but they seemed a little heavy/dense. Any reason this might be? Though I read in the Simply Recipes hot cross bun recipe that adding less sugar (she uses 1/4 cup for the same amount of flour) makes a tender, light bun. Could less sugar have a similar effect in this recipe? Just wanting to nail it this year:) Thank you!
Yes, absolutely! Less sugar = lighter bun. Go for it! I think using 1/4 cup of sugar here would be just fine. You can use 2 tablespoons each of brown sugar and white.
Great recipe. Successfully adapted it by substituting 150g of starter for the yeast (probably ended up using 500 g of flour because of the extra liquid in the starter). I used used only a quarter cup sugar (mixture of white and raw) and added some sultanas. Baked at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes.
Really, really happy with the results – soft and fluffy.
So wonderful to hear this! Love this idea so much. Question: how long was your bulk fermentation? I’d love to try this!
About 12-14 hours at room temperature, but I think it took this long because I had forgotten to activate my starter. I then only waited a couple of hours after I fed it before I made the dough (as by this time it was midnight). Left it on the bench overnight and it had hardly risen by morning so gave it some TLC by wrapping the bowl with a tea towel and putting it inside a thick pillow case. By early afternoon, it had proofed nicely.
Also meant to say in my earlier comment that I love your sourdough focaccia recipe. Made it twice and turned out great both times.
Thanks so much for writing back and sharing all of these notes! I so appreciate it. And great to hear that the sourdough focaccia turned out well, too!
Hi! Would these buns be ok if i refrigerate them for 2 days instead of 1?
Should be fine! Be sure to cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and give the buns a good hour at room temperature before baking. Happy Easter!
For spice, try 2tsp of cinnamon and 1tsp of allspice. After first rise add 1 1/2 cups of choc chips or raisins. I didn’t know I could refrigerate overnight, it calls for half the yeast compared to making immediately so great tip.
Love all of these tips, Sara! Thanks for writing 🙂
Can raisins be added to the buns? If so, how/when would one do so?
Yes! Add them with the flour.