It’s very nearly Easter and one of the things my family loves at this time of year (apart from the copious amounts of chocolate eggs…) is hot cross buns. Being gluten-free and vegan, these gorgeous spiced buns have sadly been off-limits to me and each year I watch enviously as my family indulge. This year will be different – no more watching from the sidelines for me as I have developed this gloriously gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free recipe so that everyone can now indulge in this delightful Easter tea-time treat.
These buns are soft, bouncy, perfectly spiced and fruity. Quite different to shop bought free-from versions which always seem to be super sweet sticky cake-like things, these are bready and just slightly sweet which is just how I like it. It took endless batches of buns to get this recipe just right but, amazingly, my kids are still as keen to eat them now as they were hundreds of buns ago! Luckily they are pretty simple and quick to prepare so even my 8 and 10 year old daughters can make these when they need a hot cross bun fix – and it includes division practice when they have to weigh the dough and divide it by 9 buns so it’s like a maths lesson at the same time!
Chef Tips 👩🏻🍳
With all this experimentation, I have found a few important rules for making these buns.
- First is that creaming the yeast (mixing it with a little sugar and water for a few minutes before adding to the other ingredients) is vitally important for a fluffy light texture.
- Also, making sure to leave the flax mixture soaking for a good 10-15 minutes but NOT leaving the yeast any longer than 5 minutes is important. You need the flax to fully absorb the liquid but you don’t want the yeast to grow too much in the cup so that it doesn’t have enough energy in the main bun mixture to give it the lift it needs.
- Making the buns in a muffin tin rather than in a square tin is a bit of a game changer. I had been trying to make them the normal way all squidged together in a brownie tin but instead of rising up they seemed to just spread out instead so I got flat little buns that tasted nice but were too thin. Making them in a muffin tin ensures that all the yeast’s energy works to make the bun rise UP rather than out!
- Weighing the dough and dividing it equally into the same size buns helps to ensure even cooking so that you don’t end up with one little burnt one and one big undercooked one!
- These buns don’t keep very well so are best eaten on the day of baking or toasted the next day.
Admittedly, these buns are not as healthy as my regular recipes – there is a small amount of caster sugar (it is difficult to replicate the lightness with any other sugar) and I use a refined gluten-free flour mix (to ensure everyone following the recipe gets the same result) but I feel that this is a once a year treat, and I’d rather have a home-made version that contains natural high-quality ingredients and the amounts of sugar and spice controlled exactly to my liking than gorge on shop-bought super-sweet versions containing questionable ingredients (especially the allergen-friendly ones!).
For ease and consistency, I have used the Dove’s Farm gluten free plain flour blend in this recipe so that it is easy for everyone to use exactly the same flour and therefore get exactly the same results. I’m sure you could substitute with an alternative mixture of gluten free flours, like rice, oat, sorghum and tapioca or arrowroot flour if you prefer.
I hope you like these little hot cross buns as much as we do. This Easter I will really enjoy being able to make one batch of hot cross buns that the whole family can enjoy and I will be eating mine toasted with a big dollop of vegan butter. Yum!
Recipe Card 📖
Hot Cross Buns (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan)
- 1.5 tbsp ground flax seeds (linseeds)
- 170 ml plant-based milk (choose whichever is your favourite)
- 6 g quick yeast (I use Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast)
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 360 g gluten-free plain flour (I use Dove’s Farm Gluten-free Flour Blend)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 ¾ tsp mixed spice
- 100 g vegan butter (I use Earth Balance Original buttery spread)
- 25 g caster sugar
- 60 g currants
- 20 g mixed peel cut into small pieces
Cross paste ingredients:
- 4 tbsp gluten-free plain flour
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp oil
- a tiny pinch of baking powder
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
- Mix the ground flax seeds with the milk in a small jug, then leave for 15 minutes so that the flax can absorb the liquid. While you wait, get the ingredients ready and prepare a muffin tin by spreading butter or vegan butter around 9 muffin holes. Set aside for later.
- Mix the yeast in a cup with 1 tsp caster sugar and 1 tbsp water. Set aside for 5 minutes. (This is called “creaming” the yeast and really helps to give the hot cross buns a lighter texture but make sure you don’t leave it longer than 5 minutes or it will use up all its energy and the buns won’t get the benefit of it!).
- In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice and pulse a few times to ensure even mixture of the ingredients and no lumps in the flour (or sieve the ingredients into a bowl and mix with a spoon).
- Then add the butter / vegan butter and caster sugar and whizz for 20 seconds or so until it is well combined and looks like small breadcrumbs. Stop whizzing before it clumps together too much. (If making by hand, you will need to rub the butter and sugar in with your fingertips as if you are making pastry).
- Add the flax mixture and the yeast mixture and whizz again for a few seconds until combined. (or stir in and mix by hand). Then empty the mixture into a bowl and mix in the currants and mixed peel by hand, with slightly oiled hands to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to you.
- Divide the dough into 9 equal sized amounts and shape each into a little ball with your hands and place each one into the buttered muffin tin holes (I like to have the buns all the same size to ensure even baking so I weigh the dough and then divide the amount by 9 to get the exact size of each bun). Press each bun down lightly so that it fills the base of the hole. Then cover with a damp tea towel or a bigger roasting tin. Leave until it has risen by about 50% (about 45-60 minutes).
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven).
- When the oven is hot and the buns have risen, mix together the cross ingredients. It should be slightly runnier than toothpaste consistency so add a touch more water if necessary (but be careful not to make it too runny or the cross will spread too much on the buns). Spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe crosses over the buns (or very carefully pour directly from the jug). Then pop the buns in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 200°C (180°C fan oven).
- Bake for 10 minutes then take them out of the oven and brush the tops with apricot jam. Put them back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes until browned.
- Remove from the oven and pop them out of the tin onto a wire rack to cool.
- Once cooked and cooled, the buns will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two but will go harder each day so they’re best consumed on the day of baking and only toasted if any later.
- Making the buns in a muffin tin is a game changer for gluten-free hot cross buns that lack the structural support of gluten versions. You can make these buns in a normal square brownie tin instead but you will find they spread out rather than rise up. They still taste delicious but they are flatter than the ones made in individual muffin moulds.
- Be careful when changing the quantity of this recipe as you will still need to cream the yeast in a tsp of sugar and a tbsp of water, even if the quantity is smaller. So, you need to use the total liquid content (190ml made up of 175ml milk and 1 tbsp/15ml water) to make the adjustment and then take the 15ml water off that amount to find the adjusted quantity of milk to use. Likewise, you will need to adjust the total caster sugar content (25g + 1 tsp (5g) = 30g total) rather than adjusting each caster sugar item separately.
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free baking recipes too:
I’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a star rating too! Thank you!