Hot Cross Buns On the Grill

Baked on a pellet grill, soft and smoky hot cross buns topped with vanilla buttercream icing.
hot cross buns on the grill

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Learn to make this Easter classic using your grill! Hot cross buns are traditionally cooked in the oven but there’s no reason you can’t do them in the grill.

I’m using the Z Grills 700D4E pellet grill, but as long as you can maintain a steady 375°F, you can use whatever grill you have. 

Oak pellets give this rich dough a smoky undertone without overpowering the traditional flavors. 

Buttercream icing adds to the richness of the yeasty dough! For an extra decadent dessert use these in our smoked bread pudding.

What are hot cross buns?

Hot cross buns have a long history of being associated with Good Friday and Easter in general.

They are sweet buns made with a yeasty dough and decorated with a white cross – either etched into the dough, or made of icing – that represents the crucifix.

They are often filled with dried fruits like raisins or currants mixed into the dough, though that is optional. 

What do hot cross buns taste like?

Our hot cross buns are a mix between a dinner roll and a cinnamon roll.

They have a nice crust on the outside, but are soft to the touch. They are dense on the inside with a spiced flavor thanks to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

The buns are lightly sweetened inside from the granulated sugar, but have an added richness to them once the buttercream cross is applied on top.

a man holding a hot cross bun in his hand showing the inside of the bun
Oak pellets will give the buns a nice smoky undertone

The wood pellets lend a very subtle smoke flavor to the buns that melds well with the woodsy spices. 

Dried fruit adds some tang and further sweetness to the buns. Raisins or currants are typically used, but you could add a variety of dried fruits to match your taste.

How to make hot cross buns on the grill

This recipe starts as a simple dinner roll recipe, but more butter and eggs makes for a denser filling.

While not quite rich enough to be a pastry, these align with more of a “dessert” roll than it’s dinner counterparts. 

What you need

For the dough:

  • Stand mixer with a paddle attachment
  • ¼ cup warm milk (110°F to 115°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast – not instant yeast
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 eggs – lightly beaten
  • 1 egg white for egg wash
  • 12 tbsp (1 ½ stick) unsalted butter – diced
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, with more for dusting
  • ½ cup raisins, currants, or dried fruit of choice – (optional filling)

For the buttercream icing:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar – sifted
  • ¾  tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk

Bloom the yeast

Bring the cold ingredients (except the milk) to room temperature.

Warm the milk in the microwave to a temperature between 110°F – 115°F. I used the ThermoPro TP15H digital instant read thermometer for accuracy. 

a measuring cup with milk and an instant-read thermometer; a measuring cup with milk and dry yeast
Make sure to use active dry yeast, and not instant yeast

After about five minutes, the yeast will begin to foam slightly.

Make the dough

Once the yeast has foamed, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until all combined – 30 to 60 seconds.

a clear plastic cup with foaming dry yeast, sugar and spices
You know the yeast is working, when it starts to foam

Add the flour in parts, being sure to incorporate the last portion and scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding the next bit of flour. I added the flour in four additions with the mixer on low. The dough will be dry at this point.

Increase the mixing speed up a notch and add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Mix the dough between additions making sure all butter is incorporated. 

Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides – about 2 more minutes.

a man kneading the dough with his hand
Mix the dough using a mixer and later by hand until all ingredients are well incorporated

Add the raisins or dried fruit of choice and mix until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for one more minute.

Let the dough rise

When you’re done kneading the dough by hand, roll it into a ball. Lightly grease a stainless steel or nonreactive bowl with cooking spray or butter and transfer the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough around in the bowl to coat the whole ball with the spray.

dough in a blue bowl
The dough should double in size during the first rise

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let it rise. It should double in size in about one hour.

Portion the dough for second rise

Punch the dough down in the bowl and turn it out on a floured work surface. Knead the dough by hand for one minute.

Divide the dough into 12 equal balls. Stretch the sides of the dough down and under each ball to create a smooth surface. 

uncooked dough balls on a metal baking tray
Leave some space between the balls, as they will double in volume during the second rise

Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish as you did the bowl and distribute the dough evenly with equal spacing between each ball. 

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let the balls rise in a warm place again for another hour. They should have almost doubled in volume and should be touching one another at this point.

Cook the hot cross buns

Preheat your grill to 375°F for indirect heat.

After the second rise, whisk together one egg white with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt until fully mixed. Using a sauce or pastry brush, brush the top of each bun with the egg wash.

Using your sharpest knife or kitchen shears, cut a cross into the top of each bun, being careful not to tear the dough.

uncooked hot cross buns on a baking tray on a grill
Be careful not to tear the dough when making cross-shaped cuts

Transfer the baking dish to your grill and bake until the buns are golden brown. About 30 minutes on the ZGrill 700D4E. 

Transfer the baking dish with the cooked buns to a wire rack and let them cool down. 

cooked hot cross buns on the grill
Bake the hot cross buns on the grill until they are nice golden brown

Note – your buns may cook in 20 minutes or up to 40 minutes depending on any temperature fluctuations on your grill. 

Make the icing

In the mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low until smooth and fluffy.

Slowly add the confectioners sugar in parts until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla extract. 

Pour in the milk and continue to mix for three to four more minutes. 

You can add lemon or orange zest for a fresh citrus taste to your buttercream.

Ice the buns

Add your icing to a piping bag with a small tip and pipe a cross on each bun along the indentations where you scored the dough. 

cooked hot cross buns with icing in a shape of a cross
Mix the icing ingredients and pipe a cross on top of each bun

If you don’t have a piping bag, you can add the icing to a small zip-top sandwich bag, push it into one corner, and cut off the tip.

Serve and enjoy

cooked hot cross buns with icing on a plate
Serve the buns and enjoy while still slightly warm

Serve while the buns are still warm to the touch and for the perfect dessert to a smoked Easter meal!

hot cross buns on the grill

Pellet Grill Hot Cross Buns

Baked on a pellet grill, soft and smoky hot cross buns topped with vanilla buttercream icing.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Author: Phen Pavelka

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup warm milk (110°F to 115°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast – not instant yeast
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • kosher salt
  • 1 eggs – lightly beaten
  • 1 egg white for egg wash
  • 12 tbsp (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter – diced
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, with more for dusting
  • ½ cup raisins, currants, or dried fruit of choice – (optional filling)

For the buttercream icing:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar – sifted
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Bring all cold ingredients to room temperature except the milk.
  • Warm milk in microwave to between 110°F – 115°F.
  • Pour milk in stand mixer bowl with yeast and let foam, roughly 5 minutes.
  • Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until all combined – 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Add flour in four parts – scraping down the bowl as needed in between until fully incorporated.
  • Increase the mixing speed to medium-low, add butter a few tablespoons at a time. Mix the dough between additions making sure all butter is incorporated.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides – about 2 more minutes.
  • Add raisins or dried fruit of choice and mix until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for one more minute.
  • Roll dough into ball and place into lightly greased bowl, turning to coat.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise for one hour in a warm, dry place. The dough should roughly double in volume.
  • Punch dough down in the bowl and turn it out on a floured work surface. Knead the dough by hand for one minute.
  • Divide dough into 12 equal balls. Stretch the sides of the dough down and under each ball to create a smooth surface.
  • Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish as you did the bowl and distribute the dough evenly with equal spacing between each ball.
  • Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let the balls rise in a warm place again for another hour.
  • Preheat your grill to 375°F.
  • After the second rise, whisk together one egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt until fully mixed. Using a sauce or pastry brush, brush the top of each bun with the egg wash.
  • Use your sharpest knife or kitchen shears to cut a cross into the top of each bun, being careful not to tear the dough.
  • Transfer the baking dish to your grill and bake for 30 minutes or until the buns are golden brown.
  • Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let them cool, but not completely.

Make the icing:

  • In a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low until smooth and fluffy.
  • Slowly add the confectioners sugar in parts until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Mix in vanilla extract.
  • Pour in the milk and continue to mix for three to four more minutes.

Ice the buns and serve:

  • Add icing to a piping bag with a small tip and pipe a cross on each bun along the indentations where you scored the dough.
  • Serve hot cross buns while still warm.

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