Step by step golden saffron hot cross buns recipe

By Dan Lepard

  1. Makes 12
  2. Hands-on time 45 min, proving time 2 hours 30 min, oven time 25 min
  3. Rating

These hot cross buns from Dan Lepard have a subtle blend of saffron, vanilla, orange, mixed spice and honey. This step by step guide from the master baker will make sure you're well equipped to make this classic Easter recipe with ease.

tried and tested
Step by step golden saffron hot cross buns


  1. 300ml whole milk
  2. ¼ tsp powdered saffron or a good pinch saffron threads (see tips)
  3. 100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  4. 50g clear honey (see tips)
  5. 2 medium free-range eggs (plus 1 extra egg, beaten with a pinch of salt)
  6. 150ml warm water
  7. 7g sachet fast- action yeast
  8. 3 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 1 tsp orange extract
  10. 150g dried apricots, chopped
  11. 175g sultanas
  12. 175g currants
  13. 200g chopped mixed peel
  14. 3 tsp ground mixed spice
  15. 1 tbsp cornflour
  16. 2 tsp fine sea salt
  17. 800g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  18. Vegetable oil for greasing and (optional) kneading

For the crosses

  1. 150g strong white flour
  2. Juice ½ lemon
  3. 150-200ml water

For the spiced glaze

  1. 50g caster sugar
  2. 1 tbsp clear honey
  3. ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  4. 75ml orange juice

Key equipment

  1. Baking sheets
  2. Piping bag
  3. Pastry brush


  1. 1. Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan, then add the saffron. Put the cold cubed butter and 50g honey in a large mixing bowl, pour over the saffron milk and leave for 5 minutes or until the butter melts.
  2. 2. Add the 2 eggs, warm water, yeast, and vanilla and orange extracts, then whisk to combine. Stir in the dried fruit and mixed peel (2a), then the mixed spice, cornflour and salt. Add the 800g flour, then mix together with your hands to form a soft, sticky dough (2b). If the dough feels firm, add a splash more water. Cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film, then set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. 3. Lightly oil or flour the worktop, then turn out the dough and give it a quick knead (about 10 seconds). Put it back in the bowl and re-cover with the cling film, then leave in a warm, draft-free place (see Dan’s Tips For Success, opposite) for 90 minutes – or see tips. Give it another quick knead halfway through.

  4. 4. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Cut the dough into 12 x 180g pieces. Pat each piece flat, pull the edges into the centre to round the shape (4a), then turn over and shape into a smooth ball. Put each bun rough side down on the sheet, then cover and leave to rise somewhere warm and draft-free for 1 hour or until nearly doubled in size. Sit the buns close together but not touching; as they’ll expand as they rise so their edges fit snugly together.
  5. 5. When the buns are almost ready, heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. For the crosses, beat the ingredients in a mixing bowl to make a thick but pipeable batter. Leave for 10 minutes, then spoon into a piping bag and set aside.

  6. 6. Brush the risen buns with the beaten egg and salt mixture, then pipe crosses over the top (6b – see Dan’s tips for success below). Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.
  7. 7. Meanwhile, put the spiced glaze ingredients in a pan and boil to a thick syrup. Remove the buns from the oven, then brush with the glaze while hot. Cool on wire racks.

  10. The fruit will plump up and absorb water as the dough rises, so don’t worry if the dough feels quite sticky to begin with.
  11. WARMTH
  12. It’s crucial to keep the dough, and later the shaped buns, warm and humid as they rise – the dough loses heat quickly, especially when cut into pieces. If the dough or buns get too cold and dry, the buns will be heavy once baked. I cover the dough/buns with oiled cling film, then a tea towel, then put in a switched off but still warm oven that had been heated to no more than 50°C/fan30°C.
  13. TIMING
  14. The baking time seems short, but the buns continue to cook when out of the oven.
  16. It’s easier to pipe the crosses onto the buns in one long line so you get a smooth result.

Nutritional info

PER BUN 547kcals, 10.5g fat (5.4g saturated), 12g protein, 103.2g carbs (44.6g sugars), 1.1g salt, 6.4g fibre

Chef's tip

You can leave the dough to rise in the fridge overnight, then bring it to room temperature before shaping it, but the buns won’t be quite as light and fluffy in texture.

Freeze the just-baked, cooled buns in an airtight container between layers of baking paper for up to 3 months. When defrosted they’ll be as good as just-baked.

Buy powdered saffron at or grind it from the threads.

This recipe gives a weight for honey rather than a measure such as 2 tbsp. It’s more accurate and less messy (especially if you have scales that can be reset to zero).


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April 19

In step 6 it says to brush the buns with the beaten egg and salt mixture but this is not in the ingredients list

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