I bloody love Hot Cross Buns. I even made my very own version, the Chocolate & Cherry Hot Cross Bun, which I shared with you a couple of years ago. But I’m not going to sugar-coat it: Hot Cross Buns take effort. There’s yeast involved, so of course you have the kneading and the waiting, and the kneading again. And some more waiting. It’s a big time commitment.
But fear not, you short-on-time bakers. You can have all the joys of a Hot Cross Bun, homemade and fresh out of the oven in just 45 minutes, all thanks to my new recipe for Hot Cross Muffins.
Easter is probably the second best baking holiday, after Christmas (of course). There are chocolate goodies, egg nests, Creme Egg concoctions, and general spring flavoured treats wherever you turn. I’ve eaten way more than my fair share of Mini Eggs this month, and I won’t be slowing down anytime soon. But sometimes, you just need something a bit more wholesome and traditional on your plate. And that’s why the Hot Cross Muffin is perfect.
If you’re not familiar with Hot Cross Buns at all (I’m not sure if they’re as popular in other countries as they are in the UK) then they are usually a bread-like bun, filled with mixed peel, dried fruit, and lots of warming spring spices. Plus, they HAVE TO have a flour cross piped on top – the clue’s in the name. And my Hot Cross Muffins aren’t all that different. There’s still spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) as well as sultanas (or raisins) and mixed peel. They’re just muffiny instead of bready.
They’ve definitely still got the X factor though:
Inexperienced muffin bakers take note – you absolutely need to ensure that you don’t over-mix your muffin batter. There’s no faster way to a tough and chewy muffin than to beat the batter to within an inch of its life. To help you avoid this, you’re going to mix all the wet ingredients together in one bowl, and then all the dry ingredients together in another. Mix these bowls individually as much as you like, but once you combine the two, keep things minimal.
I always mix my muffin batter by hand – there’s no need for electricity as there’s no butter here. And as soon as everything is pretty much mixed together, you’re good to go. There will be some lumps in the batter, but that’s absolutely fine. Lumps are the key to perfect muffins!
And that’s it. Actual Easter is on the horizon, and so the recipes around here will be becoming a little less egg shaped, and a bit more springtime. I’ve got something pretty special lined up for you later in the week (if my real life job doesn’t kill me in the meantime), so until then let’s all look forward to the best thing about Easter… the four day weekend.
- 1 large egg
- 120ml (½ cup) whole milk
- 120ml (½ cup) vegetable or sunflower oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 large orange
- 150g (¾ cup) caster sugar (US granulated sugar)
- 200g (1½ cups + 1 tablespoon) plain or all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 25g (⅓ cup) chopped mixed peel
- 115g (¾ cup) sultanas or raisins (or a mixture of both)
- 80g (⅔ cup) plain or all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar (US granulated sugar)
- 80ml (⅔ cup) water
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F (180°C fan) and line a muffin tray with 8 paper muffin cases.
- Crack the egg into a medium sized bowl, and add the milk, oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Whisk together and then set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Add the mixed peel and sultanas/raisins, and mix very gently together with a whisk or fork, until all of the dry ingredients are wet. Do not over-mix, or the muffins will be dry and tough. The mixture should have some lumps in it! Spoon the muffin mixture into the cases, until they are three quarters full. Set aside.
- You now need to make the mixture for the crosses. Place the flour, caster sugar, and water into a small bowl, and beat together until smooth and paste-like. Spoon into a piping bag (fitted with a round nozzle, or just with the end cut off) and pipe crosses on top of each of the unbaked muffins.
- Bake the muffins in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. A toothpick or skewer inserted into the muffins should come out clean. Leave to cool in the muffin tray for a minute or so, and then remove and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.
- To get extra tall muffins, you can preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (200°C) and then turn it down to the normal temperature when you have put the muffins in. This can be dangerous if you forget to turn the oven down though, trust me!
- These muffins will stay fresh for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container. They should also freeze well - just defrost at room temperature overnight before eating.