If you are not a big fan of raisins in traditional hot cross buns recipes, then these Orange Cranberry Hot Cross Buns are going to put a smile on your face. These slightly sweet buns are extremely soft, flavored with orange zest and loaded with dried cranberries.
These Orange Cranberry Hot Cross Buns are perfect when served slightly warm with some honey butter. Make them for Easter or better yet make them anytime you want delicious dinner rolls, because – why not!
What are hot cross buns?
Hot cross buns are yeasted sweet rolls much like dinner rolls, often flavored with spices and filled with dried fruits like currants or raisins. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, marking the end of Lent.
How to make Orange Cranberry Hot Cross Buns
These hot cross buns are a little different than the traditional hot cross buns you’ll find since they don’t have any spices but are flavored with freshly grated orange zest. And they are filled with dried cranberries instead of raisins.
Yeasted bread always takes a little bit of time to prepare, but these Orange Cranberry Hot Cross Buns are actually very easy to make. I’m going to break it down into some major steps to make it simpler.
Preparing the yeast
- We use active dry yeast in this recipe to help the bread rise. The yeast needs to be activated in warm water with a little bit of sugar.
- When the yeast is bubbly as pictured, it is ready to go.
Rehydrating the dried cranberries
- Soak the dried cranberries in orange juice to rehydrate them before mixing them into the bread dough.
You’ll need one orange for the zest and juice to soak the cranberries. Soak the cranberries for 15 minutes to half an hour if you can. All we want to do is to rehydrate it a bit. You’ll need to strain them when you’re ready to mix them into the bread dough.
You can reserve the remaining juice to use in making the cross later or just discard and use fresh orange juice for the cross. In this recipe, I accidentally strained the cranberries over the sink so I just used fresh orange juice for the cross.
Making hot cross bun dough
- Mix the orange zest and sugar in the stand mixer bowl to release the essential oil.
- Sift in flour, and stir in the salt. Mix the dry mixture to distribute evenly.
- Add warm milk and melted butter (prepare this ahead of time to allow the hot milk to cool down enough so it doesn’t kill the yeast, 110°F). Add the bloomed yeast, and strained cranberries.
- Mix with the dough hook until a shaggy dough forms. This will take just a few minutes, you don’t need to knead for very long.
- Dump the dough out onto a floured countertop and shape into a ball. Put the dough ball in an oiled glass bowl and allow it to rise.
- After about 2 hours, the dough should double in size.
Shaping the hot cross buns
- When the dough is ready, dump it out onto a floured countertop and divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll into balls and place them into a buttered baking pan and allow to rise the second time for about an hour.
- Make the flour paste for the cross using flour and orange juice.
- The mixture should be soft enough to pipe.
- When the dough is ready, brush the top of each dough ball generously with egg wash.
- Pipe the flour paste over the top in a cross pattern.
- Bake at 400°F until golden brown.
What is the cross in hot cross buns recipe made of?
The cross on top of hot cross buns is usually made with a mixture of flour and water. In this recipe, I made it with orange juice and it turned out with a really nice orange flavor and slightly sweet. You could also make it with milk, cranberry juice, pretty much any liquid.
Storing and making ahead
These buns taste best the day they are made, especially when still warm. However, they will last 1 – 2 days at room temperature, up to a week in the refrigerator, and up to 3 months in the freezer. I like to store them in zip-top bags once they are cool.
To reheat, just toast them in the oven for 5 minutes at 350°F. For frozen buns, thaw at room temperature before toasting.
If you want to make ahead and have fresh bread the next day, either Step 8 or 10 (see photos above) is a good stopping point. You can allow the dough to rise in the refrigerator overnight. And then continue with the rest of the instruction the next day.
If you want to finish baking all the way through the day before, just leave them to cool in the baking pan. Cover and leave them on the countertop overnight and reheat them in the oven the next day before serving.
- This dough is supposed to be soft and slightly sticky, this will yield super soft buns. Refrain from adding too much flour while rolling to avoid drying them out.
- After the first rise, the dough will be less sticky and easier to handle.
- You can rub your hands with oil when handling the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hand.
- You can use dried orange cranberries in this recipe instead of just regular dried cranberries, or other dried fruits like raisins, apricots, figs.
- I didn’t use any spices in this easy hot cross buns recipe but you can add up to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon if you’d like.
More delicious dinner rolls
- Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
- Purple Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
- Hawaiian Dinner Rolls
- Honey Buttermilk Rolls
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
Orange Cranberry Hot Cross Buns
- 9" x 13" Baking Pan
- 1 cup whole milk (240 g)
- 3 oz unsalted butter (85 g)
- ¼ cup warm water (no hotter than 110°F)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (45 g)
- Zest of 1 orange
- 3 cup all-purpose flour (390 g)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup dried cranberries (83 g)
- Juice of 1 orange
- Extra flour for rolling
- Oil or butter for bowl and baking pan
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (65 g)
- 5 - 6 tablespoon orange juice
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- Zest the orange and set aside. The juice the orange and add the dried cranberries to the orange juice to rehydrate.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring frequently until simmering. Turn off the heat and add butter to the hot milk, stir until completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool.
- In the meantime, combine warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast in a small bowl and let the yeast bloom for 5 - 10 minutes.
- Add the orange zest and sugar to the stand mixer bowl and stir to release the essential oil. Sift in the flour and then stir in the salt, mix to distribute evenly.
- When the milk mixture is cooled to below 110°F and the yeast is bubbly, add them to the flour mixture. Strain the dried cranberries, reserve the orange juice for later use and add the rehydrated cranberries to the mixture. Knead with the dough hook for just a few minutes until the dough forms.
- Scrape the dough out onto a floured countertop and shape it into a ball. The dough will be soft and somewhat sticky, try not to add too much extra flour, just enough to keep it from sticking to your hands and the counter. Place the dough ball into an oiled glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 2 hours, until at least double in size.
- Oil or butter a 9”x13” baking dish and set aside.
- When the dough is ready, dump it out onto a floured countertop and divide it into 12 equal portions. Knead and shape each portion into a small ball, place dough balls into the prepared baking pan, and allow to rise the second time for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Beat an egg with a tablespoon of whole milk to make egg wash. Brush egg wash on top of the risen buns generously.
- Mix flour and 5 - 6 tablespoon of orange juice in a small bowl until a soft pipeable paste forms. Add the paste to a piping bag or a zip top bag and snip the corner to create a small hole. Pipe the flour paste on top of the buns in a cross pattern.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool to the touch on a wire rack. Best served slightly warm.
This post was originally published on 5/5/2017. The post and recipe have been updated and republished on 3/27/2020 with the latest improvements, extra tips, and process photos to help you in the kitchen.