Hot Cross Rocks

For years I have been talking about making hot cross buns. I mean years. They are one of my favourite dough-based snacks ever. Hot and spliced with butter or fresh and squidgy straight from the pack. But I have never made them. Until this year, I finally put my money where my mouth was and made these! Ta da! Impressed?

Did I say hot cross buns? What I really meant was hot cross rocks. Perfect for taking out an assailant at 50m a la Crocodile Dundee, but less perfect for eating. That is unless you want to sink to the earth’s molten core with the weight of them. Or lose all your teeth.
The essential problem is they didn’t rise. Not one millimetre.
If I hadn’t wanted to eat one so much, I would have probably thought it quite funny that they didn’t rise – it being Easter and all. And I console myself with the thought that Jesus would have probably laughed too. If he didn’t have nails through his hands.
There’s nothing like the Bible to put things in perspective.
Anyhow, back to baking! The really annoying thing was I followed the recipe exactly. I infused milk with cardamom pods, cloves and orange zest. I mixed mixed peel with strong bread flour, yeast and salt. I kneaded properly. I did everything it said in the recipe, only 12 hours later to find that the dough hadn’t swelled at all. I decided to cook them anyway, although didn’t bother painting the crosses on, realising already they were dead in the water.
It was from the normally amazing Nigella Feast book and I find her recipes nearly always work. So what did I do wrong? Any ideas? Or any failproof recipes? I am hoping my hot cross bun dreams can be resurrected. Lucy


  1. Oh dear! I’m sure it was dodgy yeast or something else rather than your culinary expertise that led to the demise of the baked treats. Spices can make yeast be a bit sleepy and sometimes can kill the yeast like too much salt does.

    Our Fresh From the Oven challenge this month is Hot Cross Buns. Details on the special FFTO page on my blog :o)

  2. That is a shame. I am no expert but could it be that it was over mixed, too long or maybe too high a speed? I know once i mistook instant yeast for fast action and that was a disaster too.
    Think I used Mary Berry for mine (as I do for so many things) and they were yummy.
    Hope you give them another go!

  3. Either duff yeast or yeast past its sell-by, I’d say. There are quite a few reasons why it can die before you get it out of the packet.

  4. I think your yeast is either very old or that your scales are out. Do you use digital scales? Could be a HUGE excess of salt. Anyway, I think this calls for an entirely new recipe for you to post of Hot Cross Rock Cakes which could be divine? x

  5. I could have wrote this post every year for the last 3 years :) I too love hot cross buns, can make a decent loaf from scratch almost with my eyes closed and found several ‘trusted’ recipes.

    I’ve tried about 6 times over the years and not once produced a decent hot cross bun yet. Like you I have never got as far as making the crosses, knowing the effort would not improve anything :( So I have no idea what you may have done wrong nor do I have a failproof recipe, LOL!

    I’ve resisted the temptation to try again so for this year but if any of your readers come up with an answer / great recipe ……. I just may be have to give it another go!!

  6. I think we’ve discovered it – the milk was too hot and killed the fresh yeast. Murderer!
    But love the idea of hot cross rock cakes, and am particularly happy that no-one would blame our general crapness for flat buns. Poor old yeast got all the blame!

  7. Yep, you should be looking at blood temperature for anything hot added to yeast or you risk killing it. As with this it was obvious that the yeast hadn’t worked before putting in the oven so I would have given it longer.

    Yeast can vary in activity (due to age, storage etc) so I’d always be guided by the dough and not by time. If it seems inactive, I’d move it somewhere warm (not hot) like a sunny windowsill or a warm airing cupboard to speed things up but if absolutely nothing is happening despite warmth and time, then’s the time to start again.

  8. Interesting these rocks. I have never made hot cross buns before but I am thinking about it! I like the idea of making them like this. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I used the recipe out of the River Cottage Bread Handbook at the weekend, and it’s probably the best I’ve used in terms of how the buns turned out, but my bread making generally has improved massively since I got my hands on the Handbook for Christmas… it wouldn’t have been too long ago that I too would have been posting about hot cross rocks…

  10. I did the same receipe and exactly the same happened! I don’t think you’re meant to prove it in the fridge – i did tweet Nigella but sadly got no reply!

  11. I’m still a novice with yeast-things, but made the recipe on the Pink Whisk site and they were lovely! All thanks I’m sure to the recipe rather than me. It was very easy, with no heating milk, etc, so you may want to try it. You can make a loaf, buns or swirls from the same recipe. Mine were swirls and looked a bit like pain au raisin. Good luck if you try it!


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