Hot Cross Cardamom Buns Revisited

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summary: recipe for hot cross birds and bunnies based on recipes for brioche and pulla; submission for YeastSpotting and Bake Your Own Bread; (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

Easter just isn’t Easter without hot cross buns, is it?

-me, Hot Cross Cardamom Buns, April 2009

hot cross buns When I made the brioche birds last month, I took a photo and then carefully put the birds into the freezer so we could have them for Easter morning.

I know myself. I knew that I would not manage to take a photo on Easter morning AND post it in time.

But alas. I did not take outside circumstances into consideration. Of course, I should have – especially by now, after more than twenty years of happy marriage to someone who loves eating as much as I do. Yes, I really should have.

Sometime in the middle of last month, here’s how the conversation went:

he: [carrying a tray with cups and mid-morning tea] Your little birds are delicious!!

me: [distractedly] I’m glad you lik… [sitting up straight] What?

he: [enthusiastically] I love the brioche birds! They’re your best bread! I just pulled two out of the freezer and they took no time to heat up. They’re really good! You should make those all the time!! Do you want me to get one for you?

Ha! The best laid plans. Guess what hot cross thing I was doing last Saturday morning?

hot cross buns Actually, I wasn’t cross at all. I was thrilled that the BBB brioche had been so successful.

Then as I was looking at the BBB recipe, I noticed the Pulla (cardamom bread) recipe just underneath it and suddenly decided I should make hot cross cardamom buns again.

But I really wanted to make birds. I was also thrilled with the bird shape. It’s dead easy to do too. And they look so ridiculously cute!

So I decided to make hot cross birds. I even cut little frown marks in their foreheads.

hot cross buns And then while the dough was rising and I was at the computer reminding myself how to shape the birds, I remembered seeing some bunny buns.

Suddenly, I HAD to make some hot cross bunnies too. :-)

Here’s what I did to make this year’s hot cross buns:

Hot Cross Cardamom Buns
based on the recipes Finnish Cardamom Bread (Pulla) and BBB brioche


  • 250 gm unbleached all purpose flour
  • 7 gm vital wheat gluten (aka gluten flour) ¹
  • 5 gm (1.25 tsp) dry yeast ²
  • 90 gm milk, heated to 90F ³
  • 25 gm sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground 4
  • 2 gm Kosher salt
  • 150 gm salted butter, softened 5
  • 60 ml plain yoghurt
  • 1 egg, room temperature


  • Thompson raisins, cut in quarters
  • pepitas


  • plain yoghurt
  • lemon juice
  • water
  • sugar
  1. Mixing the dough Put flour into the bowl. Whisk the yeast into milk that is heated to 90F. Set aside.
  2. Stir sugar, ground cardamom and salt into the flour. Using your hands, smear the butter into the flour until it is pea sized.
  3. Add egg, yoghurt and yeasted milk and stir until the flour is encorporated and you have a rough dough. (You can use your hands or a wooden spoon.)
  4. Kneading Turn the dough out onto an UNfloured board. Wash and dry the mixing bowl. Please do not be tempted to skip this step.
  5. Using both hands on either side of the dough and thumbs resting on the top in the center, lift it up and flip it over in the air before plopping it back down on the board. Fold the dough in half away from you as you plop the dough down. Keep repeating until the dough is smooth. Every so often, use the dough scraper to clean the board. Stretching the dough is desired on the turns. But this won’t start happening right away. (Please look at Richard Bertinet’s video for clarification.)
  6. When the dough is smooth, place it in the clean mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in a draft-free area to rise to double (about an hour in a warm spot).
  7. Mixing the topping Whisk together a small amount of yoghurt, water, lemon juice and sugar into a small bowl. You’ll have to wing the amounts. I used a some yoghurt, some water, a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of sugar. The mixture should be the consistency of cream. Set aside.
  8. Shaping Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scatter a light dusting of flour on the board and gently remove the risen dough onto it. Cut the dough in half. Move one half to the side and cover it with a clean tea towel.
    • Bunny Shaping hot cross buns Cut the half of the dough that is out into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place it seam side down on the cookie sheet. Make sure they’re well spaced. Use kitchen scissors to snip ears and cut up raisins for eyes. 6 Use the tea towel that is covering the other half of the dough to cover the shaped bunnies. Further cover the gateau with a plastic grocery bag and put it in a draft-free warm spot for about 30 minutes.
    • Bird Shaping Cut the remaining half of the dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a rope that is around 8 inches long. Tie each one into a single knot and place it on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Put one or two pepitas and raisin pieces on the part of each knot that is sticking up to make the eyes and beak of each bird. On the part of each knot that is on the bottom, slash with a knife to form each tail. When all the birds are formed, cover with a clean tea towel, followed by a plastic grocery bag and put in a draft-free warm spot to rise until about doubled.
  9. baking Turn the oven to 350F and make sure the rack is on the top shelf.
  10. Brush the birds and bunnies with yoghurt topping mixture. If the bunnies’ ears have disappeared, use the scissors once more to redefine them. Bake on the top shelf of the oven (to prevent the buns from burning on the bottom) at 325F for about 15 minutes until they are light gold.
  11. Put the trays on footed racks to allow the buns to cool. (They’re still baking inside!) 7


1.) Flour: The recipe calls strong flour (bread flour). It is very difficult for us to find unbleached bread flour so I added a small amount of vital wheat gluten (high gluten flour). I used Susan’s (Wild Yeast) formula of adding roughly 3% vital wheat gluten to mimic strong bread flour.

2.) Yeast: I use active dry yeast. If you have instant yeast, just use the same amount. You don’t have to rehydrate it (but I like to rehydrate instant yeast – I think it works better). Richard Bertinet uses fresh yeast in the video about making brioche for Gourmet magazine. If fresh yeast is available, use 9.4gm and crumble it directly into the flour.

3.) Milk: The BBB recipe calls for 3.5 eggs. I think this is excessive. So, I substituted one and a half of the eggs with milk and another egg with yoghurt. (One egg is roughly equal to a quarter cup (60ml).)

4.) Cardamom I used an electric coffee grinder to grind the cardamom seeds. Please note that I measured the seeds BEFORE grinding them.

5.) Butter: Both recipes call for unsalted butter. However, as when I made the brioche, this time I used salted butter. I reduced the amount of salt from 3gm to 2gm. It was still a bit too salty. Next time I may leave the salt out entirely. It is also a LOT of butter. Next time I may reduce that amount as well. Please note that if you are using an electric mixer to blend and knead the dough, you should start with firm room temperature butter that has been cut into cubes.

6.) Scissors for Ears Cut the ears closer to the center of each ball rather than near the edge. As the dough rises, they WANT to move to the sides. Also, some people think these look like cats. So make sure to put little tails on the bunnies (and hope that the people who think they look like cats won’t say that they look like lynxes).

7.) But I LIKE warm bread just out of the oven!! N.B. Of course you will want to serve warm hot cross buns. Reheat them after they have cooled completely. (They are still baking when they first come out of the oven!) To reheat any UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

I was so pleased with the birds and bunnies. But especially thrilled with the bunnies! However, next time, I’ll definitely have to cut longer ears. When the bunnies weren’t directly beside the cat, they really did look like cats! :stomp:

hot cross buns

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Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:

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BYOB is a monthly event begun by Sandy (At the Baker’s Bench), passed on to Cathy (Bread Experience) and hosted by Heather (girlichef) last year. Heather wrote:

[BYOB] encourages you to start (or continue) getting comfortable baking bread in your own kitchen. Anything from simple quick breads to conquering that fear of yeast to making and nurturing your own sourdough starter. All levels of bakers are welcome to participate.

BYOB Badge Heather has handed the BYOB hosting reins over to Roxana (Roxana’s Homebaking). For more information about BYOB and how to participate, please read the following:

  • BYOB: Bake Your Own Bread
  • BYOB April 2013 (scroll down to the bottom of the page)


hot cross buns



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3 responses to “Hot Cross Cardamom Buns Revisited

  1. Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking

    What a cute idea to make Easter bunnies out of hot cross buns dough!

    It is cute, isn’t it, Roxana? I was really glad I blundered onto the idea. Although, I did get some flak. Some people didn’t like the idea of eating the cute bunnies. – Elizabeth

  2. Elle

    Hot cross birds and bunnies are so much more fun than round rolls in a pan. Very cute and who can hate buns with cardamom? Very lovely spice for spring. Hope you will be getting spring things like asparagus soon Elizabeth!

    Thank you, Elle. I hope so too! Mmmmm… asparagus…. – Elizabeth

  3. Tanna

    I actually enjoy it when these kinds of urges take control

    I do too, Tanna. Even though I was a little bit miffed at having to bake more buns for Easter, I was really glad that they were so well received that they were eaten before they were supposed to be eaten. – Elizabeth


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