Hot Cross Buns: an Easter tradition

Nothing says Easter quite like traditional Hot Cross Buns. Hot and smothered with butter, they’re the annual treat everyone looks forward to. But where did this tradition come from? Why do we eat them specifically at Easter time?

History of the Hot Cross Bun

Hot cross buns are said to date back to medieval times. A traditional hot cross bun is a spiced, yeasted bun, made with raisins or currants and marked with a cross on top. The cross is said to represent the four seasons and the rebirth of the pagan goddess Eostre. Later, Hot Cross Buns became a staple in Christian households. The cross – usually piped using flour and water paste – represent the death of Christ on the cross.

What about the nursery rhyme?

‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns!

One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,

One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!’

Is a catchy rhyme that most of us were taught in primary school. The English nursery rhyme was first published in the book Christmas Box in London, 1798. The rhyme was also a call for street vendors selling buns to drum up interest in their wares around Easter time.

How we Make Irrewarra Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

True to our style, Irrewarra’s Hot Cross Buns are 100 per cent sourdough, with no baker’s yeast, sugar or eggs. To soften the buns we add extra sourdough culture and fresh milk. The result is a bun that’s dense, moist, well-spiced, and full of plump Australian sultanas, currants and citrus peel.

[embed video of handshaping hot cross buns technique - Bronwynne]

When we first started baking over 25 years ago we would hand-cut and shape every bun individually – it was a laborious process. Each baker would be able to roll two buns at a time, one in each hand, to get through hundreds of orders each day. That’s a lot of buns! Over the years we have perfected our process and we now use an industrial Fortuna baker's bun shaper which saves us time and gives us the perfect cut and rolled dough buns. 

Once shaped, our bakers lay out the buns in lines on trays and prepare the cross batter for piping. Our cross mix has changed over time, and these days we find the best mix uses leftover sourdough starter with a little added flour and water. It’s an important step to get right: if the mixture is too thin, it will run down the sides of the buns while they’re in the oven. Too thick, and our crosses stiffen too much for our sourdough Hot Cross Buns to properly rise. 

[embed in video reels of Hot Cross Bun Videos]

we finish our buns with a spritz of milk on the top before putting them into a hot steamer oven to ensure our buns form a golden and shiny top without the need for a sticky glaze. 

Once baked, we leave our buns to cool on racks before they are packaged fresh and then delivered to our bread retailers across Victoria, all ready for you to pick up at your local retailer, take home and enjoy. 

How to serve Irrewarra Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are best served hot, hence their name! We recommend serving them gently toasted with a slather of lightly salted butter to bring out the flavour of our sourdough culture and the sweetness of the dried fruits. 

While some Hot Cross Buns hit shelves as early as Boxing Day, Irrewarra Sourdough Hot Cross Buns are only available for a limited time in the weeks before Easter.

Our Hot Cross Buns are available at most Victorian bread retailers – find your closest stockist or ask at your local store.