Warm and fragrant, these traditional gluten free hot cross buns will make your house smell like a home, and make your Easter celebration special.
What makes these buns special?
Yeasty and lightly sweet, with just the right spices (don’t skip the cardamom; they just won’t smell right), these gluten free hot cross buns will bring back memories for many. They’re like a less-eggy, differently spiced version of panettone.
These hot cross buns are made with a highly enriched dough, with plenty of unique flavors. The dough has eggs, and lots of butter, plus allspice, cinnamon, and cardamom.
The zest of a lemon and the zest of an orange brighten up the aroma and the flavors. If you really don’t care for all those flavors, though, you can omit any of them without changing anything else in the recipe.
If you don’t have all the different spices, you can use apple pie spice, which is quite similar. Or even just all cinnamon—but consider the other spices! They just smell so good.
What to expect from this bread-making experience
This isn’t a high-rising dough
Be sure to read through the whole recipe before you begin, so that you account for the resting and then rising time for the rolls. This isn’t a high-rising dough at all, despite 9 grams of instant yeast, since it isn’t a very wet dough.
After you make the dough, you should allow it to rest for 45 minutes, covered. It won’t rise much, but allowing this rest gives the flours some time to absorb the wet ingredients.
Once the buns are shaped, they will only rise to about 150% of their original size. The recipe in my bread book for gluten free hot cross buns is made with gluten free bread flour, and it rises higher.
You’ll find that the buns have quite a bit of “oven spring,” which is the rise that happens when yeast bread is in the oven. The rolls will separate at the site of their slashes, and the inside will be tender and chewy.
The buns will be tender but chewy
This recipe makes buns that are tender inside, thanks to the plenty of eggs and butter in the dough. But they’re not meant to be light and fluffy.
The sweet egg glaze on the outside of the raw, risen buns helps them brown evenly and develop a crisp, thin shell during baking. Eat them sliced open and slathered with soft butter, or whole and plain.
Ingredients and substitutions
If you can’t have dairy, in place of milk you can use any unsweetened nondairy milk you like. My favorite is unsweetened almond milk, and since it has fat it’s not too watery.
In place of butter, you can try using your favorite vegan butter. My favorite brands are Miyoko’s Kitchen and Melt.
There is only one whole egg in the bread dough, but there’s also an egg yolk which provides richness. The whole egg in the bread should be able to be replaced with one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). In place of the egg yolk, you can try adding another tablespoon (14 g) of unsalted butter.
For the glaze, which is made with an egg, you should be able to make something similar by mixing confectioners’ sugar with heavy whipping cream. That should also help the rolls shine and brown.
Tapioca starch/flour is a separate ingredient from the all purpose gluten free flour blend in this recipe. That means that, regardless of the composition of your all purpose gluten free flour (all of my recommended blends contain tapioca starch), you will need 75 grams of tapioca starch/flour.
If you can’t have tapioca starch, you can try using superfine sweet white rice flour in its place. That’s also called “glutinous” rice flour, and is made with short grain rice. I can’t promise results, though, since I haven’t tried it.
Hot cross buns are traditionally made with dried currants, but if you can’t find them or honestly don’t feel like bothering (I hear you), you really don’t have to use them. Any small dried fruit will work just fine.
I think they’d be great with chopped dried apricots, but of course raisins would work, too. You can also use fewer currants or other dried fruit, if you’d like a less currant-dense hot cross bun.
If you don’t have instant yeast (also called bread maker or rapid rise yeast), you can use active dry yeast in its place. You’ll need more active dry yeast, and you’ll need to let it prove in the milk first.
To convert a recipe that calls for instant yeast to use active dry yeast instead, you need 125% as much, by weight. Here, the recipe calls for 9 grams instant yeast, so you’ll need (9 grams x 1.25) 11¼ grams. Just use a bit more than 11 grams and you’ll be fine.
Gluten Free Hot Cross Buns
For the bread
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour, plus more for dusting (I used Better Batter)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
5/8 cup (75 g) tapioca starch/flour, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast (9 g) (See Recipe Notes)
1 teaspoon (4 g) cream of tartar (See Recipe Notes)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Grated zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
Grated zest of 1 small orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) warm milk
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) plus 1 egg yolk (25 g), at room temperature
8 tablespoons (112 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 ounces dried currants
For the glaze
1 egg (any size), at room temperature
¼ cup (about 30 g) confectioners’ sugar
For the icing
½ cup (58 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons milk
For the instant yeast
Instant yeast is also called bread maker or rapid rise yeast. If you don’t have it, you can use a bit more than 11 grams of active dry yeast, but first you’ll have to prove it in the milk.
Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar is often easily found in the spice section of larger grocery stores. If you don’t have it and can’t get it, you can try using 1 teaspoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice in its place. Just reduce the milk by the same amount, so the hydration ratio is intact.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch/flour, granulated sugar, yeast, and cream of tartar. Whisk to combine well. Add the cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, lemon zest and orange zest, and whisk again to combine well.
Add the vanilla, vinegar, milk, 1 egg and egg yolk, and the melted butter. Beat until very smooth and uniform in color and texture. The dough will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, add the currants to the dough, and mix until they’re evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Cover the dough and allow it to rest, covered, for about 45 minutes. It won’t visibly rise very much. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside.
Divide the dough into 8 approximately equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time on a surface lightly dusted with tapioca starch, roll each piece of dough into a tight ball. The dough should be relatively easy to work with, but sprinkle lightly with more tapioca starch as needed to prevent sticking. If the dough separates at all, pinch it together and continue to shape. Place the buns about 1½ -inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Cover the baking sheet with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free environment to rise until about 150% of their original size. In warmer, more humid environments, they may rise sufficiently in 45 minutes to an hour. Otherwise, it may take much longer.
While the buns are nearly done rising, preheat your oven to 350°F and make the egg glaze. In a small bowl, place the egg and beat it well. Add the 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar, and beat to combine well. You should have a thick, shiny glaze.
Once the rolls have finished rising, with a sharp knife, slice a cross (+) on top of each roll about 1/4-inch deep. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each bun generously with the egg glaze.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the buns are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Allow the buns to cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the buns are cool, make the icing for the cross. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ½ cup confectioner’s sugar with 1 teaspoon milk. Mix to combine well. It will form a thick paste. Thin it with some more milk, a drop or two at a time, until it falls off the spoon slowly but steadily.
Once the rolls have cooled completely, place the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small, plain tip, and pipe a cross (+) neatly over the cross you made with a knife, on each roll. If you attempt to ice the cross before the rolls are completely cool, the icing will melt and run.
Allow the icing to set and serve. Leftovers can be frozen in a single layer, then wrapped tightly with freezer-safe wrap. Defrost at room temperature, then sprinkle lightly with water and refresh in a warm toaster oven.
Originally published on the blog in 2012. Recipe method changed, and recipe itself modified slightly to add tapioca starch/flour for much better results. Video and all photos new.