Hot Cross Buns with Karen Zorio

With Easter taking place the first weekend of this month, I wanted to feature an Easter treat, “Hot Cross Buns.” I asked Karen Zorio to share with us the history of this food and how to make them.

1. What are Hot Cross Buns?

They are little sweet buns, not a cinnamon roll, but they have spices. The icing cross design on the top represents the crucifixion of Jesus. The spices used inside of the rolls represent the spices used to entomb Jesus on his burial.

2. What is the history of Hot Cross Buns? 
Their origin is the United Kingdom. They date back to the 12th century when monks would make these and give them out to the poor on Easter Week and mark the end of the Lent season, which typically lands on Good Friday. They have become a tradition in many countries and now popular around the world. For those observing Easter, they are a tradition usually eaten on Good Friday.

3. What are the ingredients that you use?
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
3/4  c sugar
3 Tb butter
2 Tb of dried yeast to 
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 c plain flour  
1 Tb milk
1 beaten egg
1 Tb oil
1/2 c dried fruit (diced small)
Dried fruit typically used are lemon peel, orange peel, apricots, golden raisins, currants, or dried cherry. Karen uses currants.

1/2 c powdered sugar
 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tb milk or heavy cream

4. How do you make them?
 Put everything in a mixer all at once and mix for 5 minutes. Then, cover with a dry towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot for about an hour until doubled in size. Punch down the dough, roll it into a log, cut it into 12 equal pieces, and put them in a greased 9x12 glass dish. Take an egg yolk whipped with a teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the rolls with a pastry brush.  Let the buns rise another hour or so in a quiet place away from drafts. When they've double in size, bake them in a hot oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove them immediately and cool on a wire rack for an hour. Next, whip ingredients for the icing and place them in a pastry bag or zip lock bag (with the corner cut). Create a cross design on the cooled buns.

Karen Zorio retired in 2014 from her bakery Something Savory. Since retirement, she has been working as a personal chef for a local family. Karen is a seasoned baker, a joyful person, and the one to ask for birthday cakes, special treats, and meals. She and her husband, Mike, make their home in Maryville where they enjoy supporting their community and delight in their grandchildren. She claims that she is retired, but she still enjoys making foods for other people to enjoy. Karen can be reached by email at

Join Amy Campbell-Rochelson weekly at “The Tennessee Farm Table Podcast & Broadcast” for stories of Food, Farming, and Folklore. Listen on your schedule by podcast at or by radio Saturdays from 9:00-9:30, 89.9. WDVX, Knoxville, and 2:00-2:30 WUTC, Chattanooga. 

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