Using Too Much Flour Can Ruin Hot Cross Buns

Thanks to their signature markings, sweet, spicy, and fruity hot cross buns are an instantly recognizable treat. These namesake markings have special significance in the Christian tradition, and in some countries — the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — hot cross buns are a staple food item for Good Friday, the Easter season holiday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.

Despite their traditional use and long history, as well as their seemingly simple baking instructions, hot cross buns can be a tricky item to get right. As prominent English food writer and self-styled "Domestic Goddess," Nigella Lawson notes it's actually possible to knead the dough for hot cross buns both too little and too much. In either case, the result is an overly hard crust. A slightly off oven temperature can cause similar problems.

Those aren't the only ways to turn your hot cross buns into a baking disaster, either. Using too much flour can also be problematic and potentially even ruin your dough.

Adding more flour leads to a dry and tough dough

The dough for hot cross buns should ideally be quite moist as this lends a malleable and smooth end result. While it may be tempting to lessen this moisture by adding more flour, this can lead to a tough and dry dough. If the dough feels hard to handle due to its moisture or stickiness, BBC Good Food recommends rubbing a little oil on your hands instead. 

One method to avoid overly hard or tough hot cross buns is to wait to add dried fruits until the moist dough has first been kneaded until it's smooth. This provides better structure for the glutens — which develop when flour and water are mixed — and should result in softer, fluffier buns. Dried fruits can be added later, with another kneading for an extra-smooth texture.

Of course, paying close attention to recipe instructions is also an important element in making the Good Friday favorite. For example, our recipe for hot cross buns features 11 steps, with specific baking instructions regarding resting times and oven temperatures.