Vegan Hot Cross Buns

Better than store-bought!

Soft, fluffy, moist and spicy, these buns will rival any buns you can buy from the shop, vegan or not.

This is a big claim.

I am aware of this.

I would not say it though if I didn’t believe it to be true!

I have tried my hand many times over the years at various hot cross bun recipes (none of those which I previously made were vegan), but none ever came close to the soft, moist buns you can buy at the local grocery store. So while it is fun to experiment, I always came out at the end with a drier, harder, denser product than I could get from a shop.

Until now! 🙌🏼

I am beyond excited to share this vegan hot cross bun recipe, which, after reading up a lot, looking through various recipes, and a bit of trial-and-error, I have eventually created!

Lockdown 2020 is sucking…

You may be wondering where my usual food photographs are. Playing around with my very amateur camera skills is literally my favourite part of writing these blog posts (aside from, of course, actually eating the food I create). Hehe!

Well, after all my experimenting in the kitchen, making batch after batch of hot cross bun variations, I ran out of ingredients and have not been able to make buns to photograph. I wanted to get this recipe out as soon as possible, with the start of the Easter weekend being 4 days away, and so I intend adding the photographs once we have gone out to the shops – armed with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer – and re-stocked our pantry!

{Edit: 20 April 2020: I have since got my hands on more ingredients and made a double batch of these, and took copious amounts of photographs – so all the images you will find on this blog post are my own!}

There is a secret to this recipe – the secret that I believe is what makes this recipe different from others I have tried.

Don’t let this scare you off, it is a super simple and quick additional step in the method, which I think makes all the difference. It also sounds really cool and technical if you tell people, so you get street cred too.

If you like reading technicalities of baking techniques and are a person who really likes to know the ‘why’ of things ( it’s not just me, is it? 🙋🏼‍♀️), then read on.

If you don’t, skip ahead to the recipe now and go ahead and try your hand at these Easter buns!

What is this secret trick for super soft hot cross buns, you ask?

I came across this method while reading a few different blogs, this one being the first. This blog post also explains it quite nicely.

The method is called tangzhong. I mean, that sounds like you are a literal kitchen ninja right? You really don’t have to be a ninja to make these buns though, they are so simple, but don’t tell people that!

Tangzhong is a method that apparently originated in Japan for making super soft breads. It was popularised a few years ago by appearing in a cookbook written by someone called Yvonne Chen.

Literally, all it is is making a roux (cooked paste or slurry) with a portion of the flour that is called for in your recipe, and water. If you have ever made a simple white sauce you know what a roux is. Trust me, no rocket science. Just follow my steps in this recipe and you will be rewarded with the best Easter hot cross buns ever, vegan or otherwise!

The ‘science’ behind it is that cooking the flour and water stops the liquid from evaporating as it is ‘locked in’ and the starch holds the moisture. It also prevents this portion of flour from developing gluten (which is what kneading the dough is aiming to develop). In doing this it creates a dough, and an end product, with a higher moisture content and lower gluten development, which means softer and lighter bread that keeps for a longer time too.

I have photographed the dough throughout the entire process to make creating these easier for you – it will give you a better idea of how it is roughly supposed to look to make it easier for you. Photos are a bit further down.

A word on yeast

In the recipe I use instant yeast, merely because it is the most readily available yeast at the supermarket, if you are lucky enough to get some at all before it is sold out due to panic buying. 🤦🏼‍♀️

This yeast does not need to be activated in warm liquid like active dry yeast, and you can add it straight into your dough mix, easy peasy.

What I found out through experimentation

I tested this recipe with a few variations, as I wanted to be able to suggest alternatives incase you don’t have certain ingredients, which is very probable now due to the lockdown situation in large parts of the world.

I tried the recipe with white bread flour and it rendered a pretty tough and dense bun, which was not great at all. So stick with all purpose cake wheat flour if possible!

I tried the recipe using various fats – I used Flora Vegan margarine, melted; odourless/refined coconut oil, melted; as well as olive oil. All 3 worked great, with my favourite being the Flora vegan, but there are the other options that work fine as alternatives, if need be.

For the spice mix, I perchance had some pumpkin pie spice in a jar in my kitchen, which I have been keeping on hand ever since I made this creamy pumpkin pie. I love adding this to so many things I make, but it really shone in these hot cross buns! It was a happy accident that it worked so well, as I had just used it because I was lazy (🙈) to spice these buns, but honestly, I now would not use any other spice combination in these, the balance is perfection!

After reading up a bit, I found many bakers online saying the raisins and dried fruits should be added to the dough only after its first proofing and not when making the initial dough, as it can apparently affect the end texture, so this is what I did.

This recipe is simple to do, and making the dough takes only about 15 minutes. You will require time and patience for the dough to prove though.

While the dough is proving, go and do something else for an hour and the time will pass quickly – read a book, do some gardening, or do a home workout! Then come back to it, shape the buns, and while they prove again, have a shower ( if you did a workout or gardening), or do the dishes (that you will have just made in making the dough).

The time will pass anyway, if you give these a try, you will be rewarded in that time with pillowy soft, fresh-out-the-oven vegan hot cross buns!

They are:

  • Soft and fluffy
  • Light
  • Moist
  • Spicy
  • Citrusy
  • Warming & comforting
  • A beautiful reminder of the special time of Easter.

Enjoy with a smear of vegan butter on top and a cup of tea, and once lockdown is over, make a batch for your family!

If you are more of a chocolate-lover, check out my easy and rich chocolate cake recipe instead.

For another traditional Easter food, have a look at my vegan pickled fish recipe.

Here are step-by-step pictures to help you on your hot cross bun adventures:

Fresh out the oven and just glazed.

Try these out, and don’t forget to comment in the comment section below the recipe and let me know how they turned out!

Soft Vegan Hot Cross Buns

Recipe by Catherine StevensonCuisine: United KingdomDifficulty: Intermediate
Servings

6

buns
Prep time

2

hours 

30

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Total time

3

hours 

Soft, moist and spicy vegan hot cross buns that rival any you could buy from the shops.

Ingredients

  • For the tangzhong
  • 1,5 Tbs cake flour

  • 1/4 cup water

  • For the buns
  • 240g cake wheat flour/all purpose flour

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 1,5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

  • 0,5 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 30g castor sugar

  • 5g instant yeast

  • 150ml plant-based milk, such as soya or almond

  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

  • 30g Flora vegan margarine/coconut oil, melted, or olive oil

  • 50g raisins

  • 50g mixed citrus peel

  • Zest of 1/2 an orange

  • For glaze
  • 2 Tbs smooth apricot jam

  • 2 Tbs water

  • For the crosses
  • 20g cake flour

  • 1 – 1,5 Tbs water

Directions

  • To make tangzhong
  • Whisk the 1,5Tbs flour and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and place on the stove over medium/low heat.
  • Stir continuously as it begins to thicken.
  • It should take a few minutes to cook and reach a thick pudding consistency. Take off the heat and set aside.
  • To make the dough
  • Place the flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, castor sugar and instant yeast in a bowl and combine.
  • If using margarine or coconut oil, melt it and allow to cool slightly.
  • Add the 150ml plant milk and vanilla essence to the tangzhong and whisk to combine.
  • Add the melted margarine or oil, along with the tangzhong mixture with the additional milk to the dry ingredients and mix together to form a soft and fairly sticky dough.
  • Place the dough onto a clean surface, dusted with flour and begin kneading. The dough should be wet and feel fairly sticky – this is what we want.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes – setting a timer is advisable. Use sprinklings of flour as you go, when the dough becomes too sticky, but use only enough to stop it from sticking to your hands, you don’t want to dry out the dough too much.
  • After 10 minutes of kneading the dough should feel smooth and elastic.
  • Roll the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover with cling wrap.
  • Place in a draft-free and warm place (I use the switched-off oven) for about an hour, until the dough ball has puffed up and roughly doubled in size.
  • Place the dough onto a clean surface and punch down with your fist to get the air out.
  • Sprinkle the raisins, mixed peel, and grated orange rind onto your dough and fold it over on itself, kneading it into your dough to incorporate. Knead for a few minutes to fully incorporate the additions.
  • Weigh your dough and divide into 6 equal portions. I found my dough to be roughly between 500-600 grams, and so created 6 portions of roughly 90-100 grams.
  • Knead each portion lightly to smooth, and roll each into a smooth round ball, pulling the dough down from the top and folding it underneath the ball to create a smooth and taut surface.
  • Place the buns a few centimetres away from each other in a greased baking tray. I used 2 loaf tins, placing 3 buns in each, as I had nothing else that was the right size. This worked perfectly for me.
  • Cover the tins again with cling wrap and place them in a warm, draft-free place, again for about an hour until they have risen and doubled in size.
  • Making the crosses
  • Once the buns have risen, preheat the oven to 190C.
  • Combine the 20g flour and 1-2 Tbs water, small amounts at a time, until a paste is formed.
  • Place this paste in a piping bag, or ziplock bag, and snip off the corner.
  • Pipe crosses carefully over the surface of the risen buns.
  • Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden on top.
  • Make the glaze
  • Once the buns are cooked and cooling, place the jam in a small heatproof container with 2 Tbs water and heat in the microwave until the jam is melted, about 20-30 seconds.
  • Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the tops of the buns. They can be still warm when you do this.
  • Once cool enough to handle, take them out of the trays and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack. Or just tuck into one warm, straight away!

Notes

  • You can use currants or sultanas instead of raisins if you would prefer. I’m sure dried cranberries would work too.
  • This recipe makes six buns.
  • The prep time shown includes proofing times.
  • I have labelled the difficulty level as intermediate only because there are a number of steps and it is not as straightforward as a ‘mix in one bowl and pop into oven’ type of recipe.

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