Hot Cross Buns Cream Cheese Braid

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Dietary: Kosher, Peanut-Free, Soy-Free, Tree-Nut Free, Vegetarian

Isn't it gorgeous? And it tastes even better. Your guests will be so impressed. And you'll know you snuck in some healthy whole wheat flour into their holiday pastry!

Prep: 30 min
Total Time: 50 min
Yield: 12 servings


  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, soaked in 1 Tbsp orange juice for 30-60 min (optional)
  • 1 cup Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups Hodgson Mill Best for Bread Flour, divided, plus 1 cup more for kneading
  • 2 tsp Hodgson Mill Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 package Hodgson Mill Yeast, fast rise, or active dry
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, room temperature or warmer
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 8 oz cream cheese, 1 package, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, fresh
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  • Mix whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups bread flour, vital wheat gluten, nutmeg and yeast in a large bowl. In a saucepan over low heat, heat milk and butter until butter is melted and mixture is warm (120º to 130º). Add sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved.
  • Add melted butter and milk mixture to dry flour mixture. Add egg, vanilla, room temperature orange juice, and lemon and orange zest and mix until well combined. Continue mixing and slowly add in the remaining 1 cup of bread flour until dough is workable. It will be a bit sticky.
  • Knead on a floured surface until smooth, about 15 minutes. Shape into a ball. Place in greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, approximately 60 – 90 minutes.
  • While dough is rising make cream cheese filling. In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until smooth. Beat just until combined, don’t over mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, (or Silpat®, or parchment paper), roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Be careful to roll it out to an even thickness, and don’t worry too much about a perfect rectangle—you’ll cut off the corners anyway.
  • Along one long (14-inch) side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch-long cuts that are 1 inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you’ve already made on the other side.
  • Spoon the cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. Leaving 1 inch on the top and bottom unfilled. Sprinkle golden raisins soaked in orange juice on top of the cream cheese filling.
  • Cut off the first set of strips of dough on both the top and bottom of the rectangle, so you have a top & bottom lip of dough to fold up over the pastry. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Trim excess dough leaving enough to tuck the ends underneath the braid.
  • Transfer to baking sheet. (If rolled out on parchment paper, it’s easy to slide onto a sheet). Cover. (I used loose plastic wrap covered by a towel). Let rise in warm place until double, about 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  • Just before putting in oven, make an egg wash by mixing egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water and lightly brush over the top of the braid.
  • Bake on baking sheet for 15 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; it will be starting to brown deeply, so cover with foil, shiny side down, and continue cooking – the top is done before the braid is cooked through. After 5-10 more minutes remove from oven. Let cool 10 minutes.
  • Prepare the lemon glaze by mixing powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle glaze over braid.
  • Notes: Keep in refrigerator after cooled, for up to 3-4 days. Takes 3 1/2 – 4 hours total prep time, depending on warmth of your kitchen. You may also prepare the recipe up to the point where it’s filled with cream cheese, cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and then refrigerate overnight. The next morning remove from refrigerator and let rise for 45-60 minutes, remove plastic wrap, then bake as usual.