Bread and Yeast Doughs Breakfast Spring

Rye Hot Cross Bun Loaf

Hot Cross Bun Loaf-34

I’m usually not one for mixing spices, citrus and dried fruit – Christmas pudding and fruit cake being prime examples of things I really don’t like. My exception, hot cross buns, is one that I’m pretty obsessed with around Easter. There’s something quite intoxicating and nostalgic for me about walking into a kitchen where a hot cross bun is being toasted.

Hot cross bun loaf-23

I’ve made hot cross buns in the past, infusing them with Earl grey tea. They were delicious but they didn’t quite have that fluffy brioche-esque texture that I look for in a usual bun. This year when I decided to incorporate wholegrains into my hot cross bun iteration I was even more aware of the need to make the loaf as pillow-soft as possible (rye and wholemeal flour can sometimes lead to denser loaves). This is where the tangzhong method of making bread dough comes into play. It starts the loaf off with a simple flour-water mixture heated together to make a kind of roux. It means your dough has some pre-gelatinised starch in it before baking which helps lock extra moisture in so a lighter crumb is achieved.

Hot cross bun loaf-6

I’d tried the method out before with white flour a few years ago but wondered if it would translate to wholegrains. I used it here with a blend of dark rye flour and wholemeal bread flour and the results were SO GOOD. The loaf was light, moist and toasted up like a dream. The spices gave the dough a darker colour anyway so no-one even noticed it was a ‘healthier’ bread. Incorporating wholegrains into our diets is so so important as the dietary recommendation for fibre intake has actually increased from 24g to 30g per day (according to SACN, 2015) for adults. An easy way to get that fibre is from making switches to wholegrains instead of refined sources of starch. Increased dietary fibre intake is associated with reduced risk of colo-rectal cancer and cardio-metabolic disease, it makes you feel fuller for longer and, when in the form of wholegrains like rye, is really tasty too! (Especially when that rye is baked into a hot cross bun loaf 😉 )

Hot cross bun loaf-32

Rye Hot Cross Bun Loaf

Rye Hot Cross Bun Loaf

Yield: 12 slices (1 large loaf)



  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 90 ml (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) water
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 125 ml milk, , any kind
  • 1 large egg


  • 180 g (1 ½ cups) wholemeal bread / strong flour, plus more for kneading
  • 120 g (1 cup) dark rye flour
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A 7g sachet, (2 ¼ tsp) instant active dried yeast*
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice**
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of an orange
  • 90 g (3/4 cup) raisins

Cross mixture:

  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water

Glaze (optional):

  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp water or orange juice, (from the orange you zested earlier)
  • Method:


Make the paste:

  1. Combine the plain flour and water, then pour into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a paste. Take it off the heat then stir in the butter until melted and combined and leave to cool to lukewarm.
  2. Stir in the milk and then the egg until the mixture is smooth and leave to cool to room temp.

Make the dough:

  1. Place the wholemeal bread and rye flours, sugar, salt, yeast, mixed spice and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir them together then make a well in the centre of these dry ingredients. Pour the paste mixture into the well then stir everything together to make a dough.
  2. Tip the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead for 6 to 8 minutes until smooth and slightly sticky, adding flour as needed.
  3. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Leave it in a warm place for 2 hours or in the fridge for 12 hours. The dough should have doubled in size***.
  4. After this resting period, add the orange zest and raisins to the bowl – fold and knead them into the dough.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll them into balls.
  6. Grease a 2lb loaf tin with some rapeseed oil and line the balls of dough up in the tin (2 rows of 4 dough balls). Cover the tin loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for around 45 minutes to rise again.
  7. Remove the clingfilm from the dough. Mix together the cross mixture (adding enough water to make a pipeable paste) and place into a sandwich bag with the very corner cut off. Pipe it in continuous lines across/along the rows of the dough, decorating each ball with a cross.
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven preheated to 180 C until deep golden on top.
  9. Meanwhile heat the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir and bring to the boil, cooking it until reduced by half. Remove from the heat.
  10. Remove the baked bread from the tin and brush all over with the warm glaze. Leave to cool completely before slicing. The glazing of the loaf is completely optional but it helps add a bit of extra sweetness and makes it look even more amazing!


* The yeast I use doesn't need to be dissolved in water before use. If your yeast requires activation before use: warm the milk in the saucepan (before you make the paste) until just lukewarm, remove from the heat and then stir the yeast in. Set aside for 5 minutes until frothy then decant into a bowl and continue with the recipe as usual, adding the milk-yeast mixture to the paste in step 2.

**Mixed spice is a mixture of ground spices: cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg and allspice. For those of you in the US, pumpkin pie spice mix or apple pie spice mix will sub in well.

***If you left the dough in the fridge for 12 hours and it didn’t double in size, remove from the fridge and leave in a warm place for an hour. This should help the dough rise.

- I like to toast slices under the grill in the oven and then smear them with butter and lemon curd.

- Store the loaf wrapped in baking paper in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.

- dough adapted from King Arthur Flour

Thanks to Wholegrain Goodness (@WhyWholegrain) for sponsoring this post as part of their #GetWithTheGrain campaign! All opinions are my own 🙂

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  • Sally. March 13, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Mmm your Hot Cross bun loaf looks delicious, nothing better than home made right? I’m definitely going to be trying this one out, might throw in some chocolate chips while I’m at it haha! I’m terrible!

    Sally – DiagonSally

  • Hannah Hossack-Lodge (Domestic Gothess) March 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    This looks so good and toasted hot cross bun is one of my favourite smells 🙂 I made a tangzhong method hot cross bun loaf last week which was amazing but it is good to know that the technique also works so well with wholegrains as I haven’t tried that yet, I will do now!

  • athleticavocado March 14, 2016 at 12:08 am

    This loaf is simply beautiful! I love that its made healthier with whole wheat flour, added fiber for the win! This is PERFECT for Easter!

  • jess March 14, 2016 at 12:49 am

    this is gonna taste so good

  • Andrea @ Sunday Brunch March 14, 2016 at 1:22 am

    This looks so delicious! Definitely a lot of traditional tastes with the orange, cinnamon, and raisins but without being dated 🙂

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  • Tori March 14, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I just tried hot cross buns for my first time and loved them but I’m really excited about trying this quicker and healthier version! Gorgeous photos, Girl!

  • erika March 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Izy!!! You’re a freaking genius!! I just tried the roux technique for the first time with Cynthia’s stuffing rolls and they were DELISH. So freaking brilliant to apply the technique to whole grain baking!!! I’m gonna go ahead and put this on my ASAP list for baking before it turns scorching hot in Houston ❤️❤️❤️

  • Krysten March 15, 2016 at 1:11 am

    This looks so fantastic! I’m going to have to make this for brunch this weekend! Thank you for the post!

  • imogenmay March 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Oh damn that look so so good! I know what you mean about hot cross buns, so lovely and nostalgic. I almost love the idea of a hot cross loaf! Nom. Immy x

  • Millie | Add A Little March 16, 2016 at 6:32 am

    This looks amazing Izy! I love rye flour so I bet this is incredible with a deep flavour!

  • Alice Bayfield March 16, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I am LOVING hot cross buns at the moment, but haven’t ever made or eaten them in loaf form! I can imagine with the addition of rye they might have been a bit denser but your load looks amazing, and you get loads more to eat than with just simple buns! Alice xx

  • Margo, Thrift at Home March 20, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    never heard of tangzhong but I’m fascinated – I’ve baked wholegrain bread and other baked goods for years, but this is one trick I haven’t heard of. and I’m amazed that it’s the season for hot cross buns again. Must make these.

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  • laurencaris March 26, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Oh man this just looks incredible! I moved to Switzerland from England 2 years ago and they don’t have hot cross buns!!! I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life right now. I might just have to make this next week anyway, even though easter is over then, because who cares? I mean a hot cross bun is always worth it right?

  • Lynn April 24, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Hi, I want to try to make this bread. Is wholemeal bread flour same as wholemeal flour? If I can’t find wholemeal bread flour, what can I sub with?

    • Izy May 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

      it’s probably better to just use a plain bread flour in which case! The plain wholemeal flour won’t have enough gluten to make a fluffy loaf so it’d probably turn out too dense

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