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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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
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
88 Comments on “Overnight Hot Cross Buns”
These look delicious! I enjoy dried currants or raisins in my hot cross buns – would I need to modify this recipe in any way if I choose to include them?
Great looking recipe & buns. I’m having trouble finding yeast theses covid days.
Anyone have suggestions for reliable source online?
Maria, amazingly I found some SAF online: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lesaffre-Saf-Instant-Dry-Instant-Red-Yeast-16-oz/31059831
This is my favorite brand. Store it in your fridge/freezer for as long as a year.
I would add about 1/4 cup (or more — just eye it) of currants or raisins to the flour mixture. Toss it all together before you add the wet ingredients. Otherwise, follow the recipe as is. Should work out well! Have a Happy Easter!
Thank you! I think I’ll have to try these this weekend!
Also a good idea to hydrate any dried fruit in apple juice or hot water for 5 minutes so currants/raisins don’t leech liquid from the dough and dry it out.
Ahhh, interesting! I had no idea. Thanks.
oh snap, these are genius. out of the bazillion hot cross bun recipes, i think i’ve found THE ONE. i’m so into this overnight thing, it gives bread/dough/buns such an amazing flavor. and it’s easier, as long as i remain a patient patty 🙂
Molly, you are hilarious, and yes, it’s so true — the overnight rise gives so much flavor 🙂
Wow! Hot cross buns have never even seemed remotely appealing to me before, but I would seriously love one of these. You have the magic touch!
Too funny, Becky. Well, these might not be completely traditional, but they work, right? 🙂
These look awesome. Thanks for posting this pre-Easter. My only experience with hot-cross buns were the ones they had after church on Easter, and they always tasted horrible. I could tell they were bad even when I was 10. I can’t wait to make these and do this classic bun justice.
Yes, you must! You won’t be disappointed — nothing beats homemade pastries, no matter the kind. Happy Easter!
These look really delicious!
These look amazing! I love baking bread and especially like the way you are transforming one dough into another. Love it!
I think my head just exploded! — all these doughs that can become other delicious baked goods!?
You are the master, Ali 🙂
These look absolutely soft, tender and amazing. My mom has and will always make well-spiced hot cross buns. Maybe this version can become a Hawley tradition (kinda like how my fennel/potato gratin I serve at pretty much every holiday is based on your Alice Waters recipe! SO GOOD, so easy). Happy Easter, y’all!
Oh, Sophie, yours must be much more traditional! I bet all of the spices are delicious. I should look into a spiced variation, too. So happy to hear about the grating! Such a good one, right? Love the idea of adding fennel. Happy Easter to you, too! xo
Ooh, I’m a bit tempted, but I must confess it’s become tradition in our house to make your 2007 overnight hot cross buns recipe every Maundy Thursday night for breakfast on Good Friday. They’re just soooo good, why mess with perfection? 😉 Might have to try this version for Easter morning though–I mean, can you ever have enough hot cross buns around Easter time?! 🙂
This makes me so happy! You are tempting me to revisit my old recipe. I am definitely going to over the weekend. I haven’t made that recipe in age, and I’m just happy to hear that it’s a keeper. Happy Easter to you and thanks for writing in!
Thank you Trish and Julie!
Wonderful! Very excited to overnight these buns for Easter morning brekky 🙂 .. I clicked on your Ham Sauce link but it took me to cheddar biscuits and gravy. Eep! Can you redirect me? Thank you!
I know we emailed, so disregard this, but in case anyone else is confused: just keep scrolling. The ham sauce recipe is at the end of the post. Happy Easter!
So I made these Friday afternoon and popped them in the refrigerator Friday night… I checked this morning (Sat) and they are beautiful!… Would they stay puffy until tomorrow morning (Easter) or should I just bake them this morning?
Sorry I’m just seeing this! Did you bake them? I think they might be ok, but I can’t say for sure. I do worry about them deflating a bit. If you do wait, I would just be sure to stick them directly in the preheated oven. Or if they feel firm enough, brush them with egg wash, then stick in oven. If they feel fragile, you can do the egg wash in the last five minutes of baking — at say the 15-minute mark. Hope they turn out well for you!
That’s okay! 🙂 I did end up baking them… they looked too perfect to risk deflation!! 🙂 They were awesome and delicious! I too added about a tsp of cinnamon and some allspice and a touch of ginger… oh and soaked raisins 🙂 Thanks for my first success at overnight rising!! 🙂 YUM!
Oh good! So happy to hear this. Love your additions — I should really give some optional spices to add in the ingredient list. Isn’t the overnight-rise fun? Happy Easter!
1. Do y’all think I could make this dough in my bread maker and follow the #2 method?
2. Alexandra you said that if you put them in the fridge at 10 and took them out at 6 that would be good (or even earlier). So is it important to not have them sit in the fridge longer than 8 hours?
3. Your pictures look AMAZING! They look like they have been scored with the X on top. When I made another recipe today they all deflated when I did this!
Thank you so much for any tips!
Stephanie, hi! I have no experience with bread machines so I can’t offer advice for #1. As for #2, you can keep them in the fridge longer than 8 hours definitely, but just keep an eye on them. If they start looking too puffy, you might want to get them in the oven. #3. You can score them with an x, but it’s definitely a risk and you have to work quickly or they will deflate. I advise in the recipe not scoring because it’s really not necessary, and I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Hope that makes sense. Happy Easter!
These look so delicious! Will be putting together tonight for Easter morning. Thanks so much, looking forward to some tasty buns tomorrow. 🙂
I made these tonight, for Easter. This is a nice, sturdy, but tender roll, just the right amount of sweet. I did fiddle around a bit, because for me, Hot Cross Buns have to be spiced. So in went a teaspoon of cinnamon, a half tsp. of allspice, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. cloves. Also, I threw in a heaping half-cup measure of raisins. Gotta have raisins.
I decided to work up the dough in the trusty bread machine, because it does a capable job of dough for me, and I had lots of other things to do. I threw everything in together and off it went, making yeasty magic. (Note: if you put the raisins in at the start, the bread machine will masticate them into little raisiny flecks throughout the dough. Which, isn’t so bad really, and makes them darker and whole-wheat-looking. Good flavor. However, if your machine has a little dingy-ding bell to tell you when to add thingies like raisins and such, do it then and your raisins will remain whole.) I decided to make an even dozen good sized rolls in a 9 x 13 pan and baked them at 375 for about 20 minutes. Omitted the egg wash and just brushed them with butter when they came out of the oven. Cooled and baptized them with thick sugary Jesus-approved crosses. 😉 Thanks for the recipe! It allowed me to adapt it to what I needed and is surely a keeper.
Wonderful to hear you were able to adapt this for a bread machine! I wouldn’t know where to begin. Your spices and raisins sound like nice additions. Happy Easter!
Those are the FLUFFIEST hot cross buns EVER. Bunny Tail
Buns or Bunny Buns—Ha. I know—lame. Anyway you have the touch with yeast dough no doubt.
Normally I don’t talk about ME, but I draw your attention to the slight name change from Wild Goose Tea. New web design—whoopee and new features.
I am so happy you are talking about YOU! I’m looking forward to your new site!
Great recipe. I have followed your blog for years. Peasant bread and spanakopita are family favorites… I’ve made so many of your recipes with great results. You are a wonderful inspiration. Thank you for all you. Congrats on the new baby!
Thank you, Renee. That means so much to me. I’m so happy you have had success with the recipes here, but especially the peasant bread and spanakopita — two family favorites! Thank you for your sweet baby wishes, too.
First off. belated baby and bunny wishes to you and yours.
Secondly, these hot cross buns looks superb. You have a knack for all things bread related.
Lastly, we had broiled lamb chops with Nigella’s mint sauce for our Sunday dinner. Once again, they were a HUGE hit. I can not thank you enough for sharing that recipe.
Now that you have reformed my aversion to lamb, I wonder if you might take on a leg of lamb someday? In the past, with lamb roast I have been put off by the distinctly overwhelming flavour unlike the french chops. Have you any suggestions for rectifying my palate?
Thank you, Lisa! I am so happy to hear that you like the lamb chops with mint sauce — we love that one, too. We are doing a whole lamb on a spit this weekend for Greek Easter — I will be sure to document the process. As for a leg of lamb, I would love that challenge! I will talk about it with my aunt this weekend, and I’ll start doing some research on my own. It would be so much fun to get this right. I will keep you posted!
Oh, thank you! I am eager to see what you come up with.
You are such a gem!
I must admit, I was wary, especially when it didn’t rise all that much overnight in the fridge, and in 3 hours this morning. I put them in the oven with them not completely expanded, but it was either that or not be able to get them in/out before work. Well, they just came out, and they look (and smell) amazing! They filled out nicely, and are just awaiting the glaze.
Oh, yay, so happy to hear they filled out in the oven! Sometimes that happens, and I don’t know what explains it — I use this dough for so many different things, and when I store it overnight, it can be unpredictable — sometimes it’s bursting through the plastic wrap, sometimes it looks as though it hasn’t budged. But in the end, it does always seem to work. Hope you were able to enjoy one before work!
Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried it last week-end doing the overnight in the fridge method. They were without a doubt the best hot cross buns I have ever made! Today, I am making a double batch to share with family in town. Just about to put them in the oven. They look gorgeous.I did add fruit and a dash of spice. 🙂
Yay!! So happy to hear this, Jane!!
I clicked on your Ham Sauce link but it took me to cheddar biscuits and gravy. Eep! Can you redirect me? Thank you!
How many fluid oz is your cup of milk? Looking forward to trying this – even though i am a few days late for easter!
So sorry for the delay here, Lissie! 1 cup is 8 oz.
Ali — Hello! Is instant yeast important in this recipe or can I swap in active yeast instead? Thank you.
Hi Anne! I’m going to add a note to the recipe right now. This is what I would do if I were 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 … and 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.
I haven’t made this recipe yet cause I’m rationing my flour; I live in Olympia WA and there is none anywhere. Also talked to friends in Nashville and Anchorage and they have none either.
But anyway, as soon as I get some flour (I have a grain grinder and have plenty of whole wheat berries and rye berries, but these rolls need at least 50% white) I’ll make these.
I LOVE your videos!! No talking, no music, fast, great lighting. I just sent a link to your site to 6 of my other baking friends.
Everyone is calling or emailing me about how to make sourdough starter/bread, which is frustrating since we’re all short on flour. When I bake now, I scoop up all the flour from the board, sieve it, and put it back in the flour canister.
Anyway, your videos are so fun to watch in these dark times, so thanks!
Beverly, I have friends in Seattle who are also out of flour! I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s been a little bit hit or miss here, too, but I would be so depressed if I couldn’t get my hands on any. Fingers crossed your stocks return soon. Thank you for the kind words re videos and for sending others to my site … means a lot 😍😍😍
Thank you for another wonderful recipe! I will definitely making these on Thursday before Good Friday ❤️
Wonderful to hear this, Louise! 💕💕💕
We love Hot Cross Buns and this recipe looks amazing. But if they are Hot Cross Buns, shouldn’t they be decorated with cross? Traditionally they are eaten on Good Friday.
Hi Anne! Yes, they are a Good Friday tradition. Regarding your question about the cross, I use my icing bag and piping tip to make an X over each one … is it not looking like a cross to you?
Thank you for the recipe! They look fantastic and delicious 😋 ☺️
These were delicious and a big hit with my family. Your recipes always make bread so approachable. One of my boys described them as a non-cinnamon cinnamon roll. 😆
So happy to hear this, Jamie 😍😍😍 My kids are so excited for me to make them again this week.
Delicious! Thank you for the great recipe, and directions for using active dry yeast. The video was very helpful. I added a little cinnamon and some currants. In my limited yeast baking experience, I was pleased that the hot cross buns were respectable enough to take some over to our wonderful senior couple next door. (Left on the front porch, of course). Many thanks!
So happy to hear this Marilyn … cinnamon + currants sounds lovely 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hi! I’m hoping to make these Saturday night and have them warm and fresh on Easter morning! Do you think bread flour would work in these? I have Mello Judith that I bought from my Costco (50lbs!!!) ha! Thank you!
Absolutely! I, too, have a 50-lb bag of bread flour sitting on my kitchen counter 😂😂😂