I used to love traditional hot cross buns during Lent and around Easter — in fact, it's true to say I still mourn them, now that I'm following the gluten-free diet. There's something about their dense, yeasty flavor, plus the little chunks of fruit and the sweet sugary icing, that just says "spring" to me.
Therefore, to satisfy my own craving, I decided to seek out a recipe I could use to recreate them in a gluten-free form, but that still tasted as good as the original.
It turns out there are numerous good recipes available for gluten-free hot cross buns, including some that omit other ingredients, such as dairy and eggs, that are potentially problematic for those of us who can't eat gluten. (Unfortunately for those who can't tolerate yeast, these recipes all do include yeast — it can be a difficult ingredient to eliminate in baked goods.)
No matter which recipe you choose, these will take some time to make. Plan to allow about 15 to 20 minutes to mix and form the buns, and then up to 90 minutes for the buns to rise and another 30 minutes or so for them to bake.
Here's my list of gluten-free hot cross bun recipes, plus a brief rundown of what ingredients each one requires (and what you can substitute). Enjoy, and Happy Easter!
• Gluten- and Dairy-Free Hot Cross Buns. This recipe, from About.com's Expert on Gluten-Free Cooking, comes pretty close to how I remember hot cross buns tasting — the buns are lightly spiced and sprinkled with raisins, and the sweet icing has a faint hint of lemon in it. The recipe recommends using coconut milk instead of dairy milk, but if you're sensitive to coconut, you can utilize any type of non-dairy milk in it. The recipe does call for using a beaten egg to "wash" the buns, but you certainly could omit that if you're sensitive to eggs. The recipe makes nine large gluten-free hot cross buns.
• Living Without's Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns. Living Without, a magazine devoted to living well with allergies, published this recipe for gluten-free hot cross buns in 2011. It uses candied lemon and orange peel, which I always associate with hot cross buns (just make sure any prepared candied fruit you use is safely gluten-free). This recipe calls for bean flour (soy, chickpea or some other form of beans), and does include milk and eggs. It yields nine gluten-free hot cross buns.
• The Art of Gluten-Free Baking's Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns. Chef Jeanne Sauvage uses her own pre-made gluten-free flour blend, plus yeast, vinegar (apple cider vinegar recommended) and eggs to make these Easter treats. They do include milk and butter, but she notes that you can substitute a "neutral" oil for the butter, and you should be able to use a non-dairy milk, as well. The recipe yields eight buns, and includes a fun stroll down memory lane in the form of the lyrics to "Hot Cross Buns," a tune which I learned to play on the recorder back in elementary school (and which my daughter now plays on her recorder).
• Jules Shepard's Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns. Jules bills this recipe as "super-easy," but (like all these recipes), it does include quite a few ingredients. It calls for eggs and dairy ingredients, but she also provides instructions for working around those if you can't tolerate them. Since the buns take 90 minutes to rise, she recommends making the batter and forming the buns prior to church so that they have time to rise, and then baking them immediately afterward for a warm late-morning Easter treat. The recipe yields 10 gluten-free hot cross buns.
• Vegan and Refined Sugar-Free Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns. If you follow a vegan diet and have eliminated refined sugar, this recipe — from the blog "Without Adornment" — should appeal. It uses gelatin (make sure to use a vegan form if you want vegan buns), egg replacer and honey or agave syrup. If you want your hot cross buns to be entirely free of refined sugar, make sure to use sugar-free dried fruit. The recipe makes nine gluten-free hot cross buns.