Hot cross buns, the Lenten spiced rolls common to the Anglosphere, have a bad rap in the U.S. For good reason—bland, cottony crumb, weird candied fruit and a paste-like icing cross, they simply aren’t very good. That’s anything but the case in Australia. I’ve lived here now for four years and have come to love the country’s seasonal obsession with the subtly spiced and sweetened, fruit-studded buns.

Hot cross bun season in Australia starts January 1st and ends Easter Sunday (Holiday creep at its best? Why limit a delicious treat to just the week between Palm Sunday and Easter?) Supermarket aisles are filled with countless variations and bakeries compete with one another for the best in town. Variations get pretty wild—think chocolate, brioche, cinnamon-apple, bacon, gluten-free or perhaps the oddest, Nutella or Biscoff butter-filled version. Then there are the adjacencies, like hot cross bun pudding, ice cream sandwiches and croissants. Wild things happen when you’re so far from anyone else in the world.

I’d argue that there’s no reason to mess with the perfection of a classic rendition. Proper hot cross buns should have a light, enriched crumb (halfway to brioche, but not quite there), a gentle mix of warm spices (though not pumpkin spice!), a hint of citrus and a sturdy, semi-sweet, flour-based “cross” etched across the top. Not icing. And then there’s the polarizing fruit. Currants are the only option—little pops of contrapuntal chew and sweetness. Never, ever candied fruit. Ever.

Milk Street’s rendition of hot cross buns cleaves closely to tradition, but amps up the flavor. We enrich the dough with tangy buttermilk (instead of regular milk), orange zest and a little Lyle’s Golden Syrup for its bittersweet caramel tones. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is an amber-hued sweetener common to the U.K.; Mild clover honey works equally well if you can’t find the trademark green can of syrup. Also, we plump the currants in bourbon (or spicier rye whiskey if you prefer), which enhances the spice mix and then use a little more—sweetened with more of the Lyle’s—as a bracing glaze to add sheen.

I strongly encourage breaking with tradition and make them seasonless. These are too good to relegate to one week out of the year.

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