This hot cross brioche braid, aka Hefezopf, is a buttery yet light, yeasted bread that tastes best warm with a generous spread of butter. Traditional hot cross bun spices are included in this easy recipe for a fragrant addition to your Easter brunch table.
What is brioche?
Brioche is a French pastry that is rich, buttery, and slightly sweet. It is characterized by its soft, tender texture and golden crust. Brioche dough is made with a high proportion of butter and eggs, giving it its distinctive flavor and richness.
Why are hot cross buns & brioche associated with Easter?
Brioche, also called Easter bread, is enjoyed in several European countries on Easter Sunday. Hot cross buns however are an old English tradition. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday as a symbol of this significant day in the Christian faith when Jesus was crucified.
Hot cross brioche braid, the best of both
This buttery braid is light, fluffy, and buttery like the brioche or Easter bread but also includes the fragrant and warming spices of the traditional Hot Cross Buns – the best of both if you like.
As a combination of the two, you don’t need to limit it to a certain day and can enjoy this delicious treat all Easter and year long!
How to make great brioche
Yeast doughs can be scary and temperamental at times. Here are a few tips for making great brioche:
- Warm ingredients: Use lukewarm milk to activate the yeast with the sugar. Don’t skip that step.
- Use eggs at room temperature. Again, you don’t want to use cold ingredients to keep the yeast happy.
- Use softened, not melted butter. If it’s too hot it’ll again impact the rise.
- If your dough isn’t rising the room temperature is probably too low. Place the bowl in a warm place in your house (hot water cupboard, in the sun), or wrap a towel or blanket around it to keep it cozy.
- Add a little flour to the dough if it is too sticky when kneading it. Not too much though as the brioche gets too dry.
Serve slightly warm with a generous spread of butter. Similar to a hot cross bun it also tastes deliciously toasted.
You can store any leftover brioche in an airtight container for up to 4 days. It also stores well in the freezer for up to 3 months in a freezer-proof container.
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Hot Cross Brioche Braid
- 1/2 cup milk lukewarm
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 eggs large, room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 tsp orange zest
For the glaze
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp milk
- In a small bowl, stir together 100ml lukewarm milk and a pinch of sugar. Stir in the yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, 1 tsp sugar
- In a large bowl, sift the flour and add sugar, salt, spices, orange zest, and raisins. Create a well in your dry ingredients with your hand.3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 pinch salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 tsp orange zest
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and add them slowly to the well.3 eggs, 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- Add the yeast mixture and slowly combine the ingredients until a tacky dough has formed. Add the softened butter at this stage (not earlier).
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes until well combined. It will be quite sticky.
- Form a ball and cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature until it has doubled in size. This might take slightly longer on a cold day.
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Divide the dough into three equal parts and roll each of them into a long log shape. Transfer the logs to a baking tray, combine them at one end and start braiding. Tuck in both ends.
- Cover the braid with a tea towel and let it rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Whisk an egg yolk and tablespoon of milk and brush the braid with the glaze.1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp milk
- Bake the braid for 20 minutes. Let it cool for 15 minutes before serving it.