Brunch · Dessert · Teatime bakes · vegetarian

Wholemeal Hot Cross Buns

Every Easter, I make a batch or two (…or three) of hot cross buns. Sure, the commercially packed ones from the supermarket or the local baker are great, but they can often entail jumbo sized buns which overshoot a “snack” allowance and may have sticky tops of sugary glaze. Making homemade versions means you get to customise your buns and have complete control over what ingredients go in and what stays out!

Make anytime Easter time with these portion-sized homemade hot cross buns that crossover more health with all the yum!

These buns have roughly the same energy content as a traditional hot cross bun from a major supermarket or bakery, but are packed with added fibre and minus all the glucose syrup, gelling agents, flavouring, mineral salts, emulsifiers, vegetable gum or colouring.

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Rise of the wholemeal

Traditional Easter buns are brown in colour because of the cinnamon and mixed spices that are added to the typically white flour, and are therefore NOT wholemeal or high in fibre. Fibre not only keeps you regular, it also bulks up the food to keep you fuller for longer and may assist in weight management and better control of blood sugar levels. Boost the fibre content of your batch by using wholemeal flour in place of the usual white flour – sift the flour as usual to aerate it, and then add the husks back into the bowl.

Natural sugars vs added sugar

The upside of baking a batch at home is that you have complete control over what goes in and what stays out of your buns. This means that you can avoid all the added sugars that may be used in commercially sold hot cross buns. Added sugars include baking sugar (caster sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar) as well as maple syrup and jams. When baking, it is sometimes inevitable to add some sugar to the mixing bowl. The most important thing is to cut down wherever you can and replace the added sugars with natural sweeteners.

Sweeten your batch naturally with dried fruits such as sultanas, chopped dried figs and dates – these have natural sugars derived from the fruit that have been concentrated during the drying process. The dried fruits will also come along with fibre and antioxidants – nutrients that plain caster sugar can not boast about! For the chocolate-lovers among us, add roughly chopped dark chocolate (70% cococa or higher) instead of the white or milky chocolates varieties. All of that said, remember that sugar is sugar, regardless of the form, so it is important to be mindful of portions. Many of us will be familiar with how easy it is to overeat chocolate; a square or two per serve and you can enjoy the rich flavour, bonus antioxidants and health benefits of the cocoa without overdoing the fats, sugars and overall kilojoules.2017-04-01 18.49.37

Read up on how to make your Easter break a mindful and healthful one via my blog: 3 Hot Spots for a Mindful Easter.


Serves: 16 buns

Costs: $5.75 ($0.35 per bun)

Cooking time: 1 hour 20 mins (+ 1 hour 15 mins proving time) 


Hot cross buns

  • 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
  • ¼ cup caster sugar, or sugar substitute
  • 1 cups white plain flour
  • 3 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 400mL warm low-fat milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 40g canola spread, chilled, reduced-salt variety
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup sultanas

Flour paste (for crosses)

  • ½ cup white plain flour
  • 2 tsp caster sugar, or sugar substitute

Glaze (see Notes)

  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 2 tsp caster sugar 

Let’s get cooking:

  1. Mix together yeast, 1 tsp each of the sugar and white plain flour into a small bowl. Add all of the warm milk and mix well. Cover and stand in a warm place for 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy.
  2. Sift flours, salt, sugar and spices into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the spread into the flour to form fine crumbs. Make a well in the centre of the mixture. Lightly whisk egg and pour into the well, along with the yeast mixture and sultanas. Mix well with a wooden spoon to form dough. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or cling wrap, and stand in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  3. Punch dough down (lightly dust the dough top and your knuckles with flour before doing this to prevent sticking). Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Line a medium-sized square pan with baking paper and lightly spray with canola oil (e.g. lamington pan or 23x23cm casserole dish). Cut dough into 16 equal pieces. Knead one piece into a round shape, covering the rest with a clean cloth to keep warm (and prevent from drying out). Place rounded bun into prepared pan and cover with another clean cloth. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Keep pan covered with cloth and stand in warm place for 30 minutes or until buns reach the top the pan.
  5. Preheat oven to 200°C. To make flour paste for crosses: mix flour, sugar and just enough hot water to make a smooth lump-free paste (see Notes). Transfer to a piping bag or ziplock bag and cut off the tip. Pipe crosses onto the buns.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned on top. Prepare glaze by whisking gelatin, sugar and 1 tbsp hot water to dissolve mixture. Turn out buns onto a wired rack and brush hot glaze while buns are still hot. Serve warm or cool, on their own or with some spread.


  • Flour paste: add water by the tablespoon. If it gets too runny, add another tablespoon of flour.
  • Glaze: an alternative to gelatin is honey or maple syrup – use ¼ cup for every ¼ cup hot water.
  • If you like, you can more spice, especially cinnamon, for a more warming aroma.
  • Finding a “warm place” for the standing time can be a challenge in the Autumn chill. I cleared out a small cabinet in the kitchen and used heat packs to warm it up until I needed it. Note that applying heat packs or high heat directly to the mixing bowl/pan will lead to the sides of the bowl becoming too warm and the dough won’t rise properly.
  • Of course, the buns are best eaten on the day, but if there’s any leftover at the end of the day you can store them in an air-tight container for a few days or wrap them cling wrap individually and freeze them for a few weeks. To serve, defrost them in the microwave (on a paper towel and uncovered) for 40-50 secs on med-low power (10-30%). Stand for 1 minute before serving. 

Nutritional information:

Per serve
Energy (kJ) 915
Protein (g) 6.5
Total fat (g) 3.2
 – Saturated fat (g) 0.8
Carbohydrate (g) 39.1
 – Sugars (g) 12.8
Fibre (g) 4.2
Sodium (mg) 36.6


Recipe inspiration from and kitchen.nine


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