my grandma's buns {and brioche hot cross buns}

In a lot of ways, my two grandmothers couldn’t have been more opposite…. especially when it came to food.

Growing up my maternal grandmother always made a feast of holidays with homemade, overflowing platters of food, while my paternal grandma left the cooking to someone else.

Maternal grandmother (which is the grandmother I talk about a lot on here) always went around to everyone at the dinning room table and asked who wanted seconds before firsts had been finished. She busily made sure everyone was fed before she even sat down. She’d also wait until everyone was seated to take her fresh homemade rolls out of the oven and then come out of the kitchen with a tray of them and almost shouting say, “Who wants a fresh roll?!” and then she’d throw them across the table to raised hands. 

My paternal grandma was much more polite. She always made sure her grandkids were served their food first before sitting down herself, but dinner with her was a much more shiny, proper and well, less loud affair. 

I equally loved them both. 

One of my fondest memories at the table with my paternal grandma is Easter brunch. She’d purchase hot cross buns from a local bakery and serve them to us. They weren’t “the best roll I’ve ever had” especially since there were currants and orange peel in them or something, but I loved scooping the frosted cross that graced each bun with my little fingers. And I loved the story that grandma told with them. They were special. 

My paternal grandma passed a few years ago, but every time I see a hot cross bun, I think of her… because hot cross buns are a little fancier and more dressed up than the hot, fluffy family-secret-recipe rolls my maternal grandmother would toss across the table at us. And oddly enough, each bun is so fitting of each grandmother: Fancy and frosted vs homemade and inelegant. I feel I am somewhere between the two. 

I shared this special “family secret” roll recipe as a late Christmas present to all of you wonderful friends who subscribed to my email list by downloading the lil’ breakfast ebook. If you’d like the roll recipe, go ahead and download that ebook or hit subscribe at the side of the website; I plan on re-sending the roll recipe to those who missed it. By the way, I haven’t sent out very many emails yet, but I promise, I have been working hard on some content and goodness to share with you… happy surprises worth opening in your inbox coming soon. It will all be good I promise.

Below is my version of the perfect hot cross bun. I think both grandmothers would be proud. And yes, I am aware Easter has past, (it’s quite rude of Easter to take place in March this year, I mean really) but even still, this brioche is the easiest most fool-proof recipe I’ve ever made and it makes for fantastic buns: fancy and frosted or homemade and inelegant, your choice. ;)

Love you friends. x 


brioche hot cross buns

brioche dough adapted from artisan bread in 5 minutes a day


brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves. I use a little less than half of this recipe to make about 9 hot cross buns) 

1 ½ cups / 350ml lukewarm water

1 tablespoon yeast (I used Active Dry, but Red Star Platinum, or Quick-Rise yeast is also recommended)  (1 packet)

1 to 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

8 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

½ cup / 170ml honey (a little more if you'd like your buns on the sweeter side) 

1 ½ cups / 3 sticks / 340g unsalted butter, melted

7 ½ - 8 ½ cups / 875g - 1125g unbleached all-purpose flour (you'll also need more flour for kneading the dough and to add to the dough once it's risen a first time) 

for the hot cross buns:

1 cup / 128g golden raisins 

½ cup / 64g tart dried cherries 

1 cup / 250ml boiling water 

1 teaspoon vanilla or one vanilla bean scrape

1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash 


cream cheese frosting:

8 ounces / 250g cream cheese, softened, still cool  

5 tablespoons softened butter, still cool

1 teaspoon vanilla 

½ teaspoon cinnamon (or more if you'd like! I've added up to 1 ½ teaspoons before... ;) 

⅛ teaspoon cardamom (if you don't like the taste of cardamom, use nutmeg here instead)

1 cup / 120g powdered sugar 


for the dough:

Mix the honey with the lukewarm water. Add the yeast. Stir it up just a bit with a spoon. 

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs just slightly. Add the yeast mixture and melted butter and mix. 

Add flour slowly, about ¼ cup at a time, with the mixer speed on low. Mix until it forms a very very wet, sticky, sticky dough. 

Pour sticky, almost-unmanageable dough into a large butter-greased bowl. Keep covered with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise for at least 2 hours. 

*Dough is ready to be kneaded, used and ready to form into rolls or buns or loaves at this point. If you plan on saving your dough, you save it at this stage. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

After you've formed your buns, let them rise one more time before baking, about 1-2 hours. See notes below on how to make the hot cross buns. 

Then bake at 350° F/ 180° C for 18-20 minutes.

note! Baking time and rising time may very depending on altitude. Adjust accordingly. Also keep in mind refrigerated + cold dough, may take longer to rise a second time. 


to make the hot cross buns: 

Pour 1 cup boiling water over raisins and cherries in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Let it stand 20 minutes. Strain water from raisins and cherries and pat them dry with a towel. 

Take a little less than half of the brioche dough and save or freeze the rest. OR if you'd like to turn all of the dough into hot cross buns, triple the dried fruit amount. Remember this recipe makes enough for 4 loaves of brioche!)

On a floured surface, knead the raisins and cherries into the dough. Folding and kneading it about 20-25 times through. 

Once dried fruit is incorporated, form dough balls. I made each dough ball about 130g. I wanted them huge, fluffy and touching when they baked. Feel free to make yours smaller, but I recommend weighing each dough ball so you get all buns roughly the same size. 

Line a quarter sheet pan (13 in x 9 in / 33cm x 23cm) with parchment paper, and arrange your dough balls. 

Let the dough rise for a second time, covered for at least 1 hour. If you made the dough balls big like I did, they will touch when risen. 

Brush each bun with egg wash and bake for 18-22 minutes. Buns should appear golden brown. 

Wait for buns to cool before frosting. 


for the frosting: 

Process all ingredients in a food processor until blended. Pipe frosting on using a freezer bag or pastry bag, making the crosses as thick as you choose.

Frosting and dough can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. Keep both in the fridge until they're ready to use. 

Serve with a little extra frosting on the side and a fork if needed. xo