Easter 2020 at home: make Railtown Cafe's Hot Cross Buns

Here's how to cook up a batch of doughy comfort while celebrating and self-isolating

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      Traditionally, hot cross buns are eaten during Lent, especially the week before Easter. These days, they're a year-round staple at a lot of bakeries, bringing a bit of comfort in soft, doughy form.

      One theory as to their characteristic design is that a 12th-century monk marked them with a cross.

      Another holds that they have pre-Christian origins and were baked to celebrate Eostre, a Germanic goddess of fertility, after which Easter is said to be named. The four quarters of the cross on top represented the phases of the moon, while the cross itself symbolized rebirth after winter.

      Back in the day, the cross was made out of plain dough or simply marked with a knife; these days, it's often made of icing or chocolate. 

      They're a hot item at Railtown Cafe, which has lots of other deliciousness on offer for take-out and delivery this holiday weekend, in addition to its regular Takeout Meal Program.

      Besides the buns, check out the ready-to-eat Smoked Turkey Dinner, $18, which comes with brown-butter-and-thyme roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, caramelized shallot, and turkey gravy.

      (For a full list of small, independent restaurants in B.C. and beyond offering takeout, delivery, curbside, and other services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, see Breaking Bread.) 

      Meantime, Railtown Cafe chef/ower Dan Olsen was kind enough to share his famous recipe with the Georgia Straight

      Happy Easter and happy baking! 

      Railtown Cafe's Hot Cross Buns

      Yields 12 Buns



      5 Tbsp (75g) milk
      1 ¼ tsp (5g) dry yeast
      7 tsp (35g) sugar
      10 tsp (50g) vegetable oil
      1.5 large eggs
      1 ¼ c (300g) all-purpose flour
      ½ tsp (2g) lemon zest
      ½ tsp (2g) orange zest
      ½ tsp (3g) salt
      1/3 tsp (1g) ground cinnamon
      1/3 tsp (1g) ground allspice
      1/3 tsp (1g) ground nutmeg
      1/3 tsp (1g) ground clove


      ¼ cup (50g) raisins
      ¼ cup (50g) dried cranberry
      ¼ cup (50g) dried apricots
      1 cup (250g) water

      Hot Glaze:

      ¼ cup (50g) sugar
      3 Tbsp (50g) water


      ½ cup (60g) icing sugar
      3 Tbsp (50g) Water


      Soak the dried fruit ingredients in water.

      For the dough, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl on low speed. Increase the speed by one and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

      Drain out the water from the soaked fruit, toss it in the bowl with the dough, mixing until combined.

      Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and let it rise for 75 to 90 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

      Place risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into ball shapes, each 60g. Place buns on a greased rectangle ring, cover with a plastic wrap, letting the buns rise for 45 minutes.

      Make a cross pattern on each bun with a knife. 

      Bake it at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes, with low fan.

      For the hot glaze, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute, stirring to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Set aside until the buns are finished baking.

      Brush the hot buns with the hot glaze when they come out of the oven. 

      Allow buns to cool completely in the pan.

      Combine icing ingredients. Cover each cross pattern with icing.