Hot Cross Shortbread Cookies are shortbread cookies with all the citrus and spicy flavours of a Hot Cross Bun. It’s the perfect recipe for your cookie jar all year round, but when you dress up these cookies with a piped cross, they make a great addition to your Easter tea table.
The origin of the Hot Cross Bun may go back to the 12th Century when it is said that they were baked by monks and marked with a cross to honour Good Friday. However, there is an alternative theory that the baking of cross buns may in go back even further to Pagan times. when these buns were baked at the beginning of Spring to celebrate the goddess Eostre. Whatever the origin of the Hot Cross Bun the tradition of eating these sweet treats in Spring, and particularly on Good Friday, has survived because they are just so delicious.
How to make Hot Cross Shortbread Cookies
You will need softened butter, sugar, flour, mixed spice, raisins, and mixed peel to make your cookies. You need to chop the raisins and mixed peel as, otherwise, the pieces are too lumpy in the cookies. You will need an egg, white only, and an additional tablespoon of caster sugar for the glaze. You will also need an 8 cm plain edged round cookie cutter, baking parchment or a non-stick baking mat and two baking sheets.
Take the butter out of the fridge for a few hours to soften, then take the block and push it into the mixture of flour, sugar and mixed spice, the butter will gradually take up more of the dry mixture as you work it in.
Add the finely chopped raisins and mixed peel to the dough when it starts to cling together but has still not formed a ball, then keep working the ingredients together. Get in with both hands!
It only takes a few minutes of kneading the mixture and then suddenly you will find that the dough has come together. All the butter will have merged with the flour, sugar, and spice and you should have a nice even distribution of raisins and mixed peel too.
There is no need to chill the dough, in fact, chilling will make it more difficult to roll out. You can make your cookies straight away. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and press down the dough, then roll it out gently until it is about 1/2 cm thick.
I would usually transfer the cookies using a spatula, but I wanted to show you the depth of the cookie. You do need to press quite firmly with your cutter to make sure you don’t have too many little tags of raisin around the edges. This recipe makes about 16 x 8 cm cookies, I could get nine cookies on my baking sheet. If you use a smaller cutter you will get more cookies. Shortbread Cookies, don’t really spread so you can place them reasonably close together.
When I started to develop this recipe, I wondered how I was going to make the shortbread cookies look more like Hot Cross Buns. Normally, I would dust my shortbread cookies with caster (superfine) sugar, but that wasn’t going to look anything like a Hot Cross Bun. Then it came to me, I could brush them with a mixture of egg white and sugar. I separated the egg, and lightly whisked the egg white until it was broken up, then added the sugar and beat it a little more until it was just frothy. Then it was time to brush the tops of the cookies.
The Hot Cross Shortbread Cookies take between 8-10 minutes to bake to golden brown. The glaze keeps them shiny and the sugar in it carmelises and adds a little extra golden glow around the edges of the cookie. Lift the cookies off the baking sheet and let them cool on a wire cooling tray.
There are two options to create the crosses on the Hot Cross Shortbread Cookies, I chose to use white chocolate, but you can use royal icing which you could make yourself or, as you only need a little, you could buy it ready-made in a tube. I learned this trick for melting chocolate at a workshop I attended a few years ago. Place the chocolate buttons or chips into a disposable piping bag. Clip the open end to prevent any water from getting in, and place it in a bowl of just boiled water from the kettle. You can also microwave the piping bag but I like like the hot water method.
Once the chocolate has melted, snip the end of the piping bag and pipe the crosses. The chocolate comes out quite quickly, put your finger over the end of the piping bag between each cross and when moving between cookies. If your piping skills are a little rusty you might be better to try the royal icing as it is firmer and that will give you more control to create your crosses.
As you can see, some of the crosses are more even than others. If you do have any chocolate where it shouldn’t be, it is possible to scrape the stray bits of chocolate off with a knife once the chocolate has set firm, so don’t worry too much about a few stray bits from your piping bag.
The texture of the cookies is softer than traditional shortbread cookies because of the raisins and mixed peel. However, they melt in your mouth with the buttery taste you associate with good shortbread and the citrus and spice taste of a Hot Cross Bun.
More Easter Cookie Recipes
Easy Creme Egg Cookies – Fab Food 4 All
Carrot Cake Cookies – The Baking Explorer
How to make Easter Biscuits – My Boys Club
Easter Cookie Bar -Cooking with my Kids
Easter Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits with Mini Eggs – Jo’s Kitchen Larder
Traditional Easter Biscuits (Gluten Free) – Gluterama
Almond Easter Thumbprint Cookies – Tin & Thyme
Easter Baking Spring Biscuits – Thinly Spread
Hot Cross Shortbread Cookies
- 300 g 10oz plain flour
- 100 g 4oz caster sugar
- 200 g 8oz butter
- 30 g raisins finely chopped
- 30 g mixed peel finely chopped
- 2 tsp mixed spice
For the glaze
- 1 egg white lightly beaten (optional)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar optional
For the crosses
- 80 g white chocolate buttons
- Heat the oven to 170C.
- Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and mixed spice and mix well together.
- Work in the butter with your fingertips - keep it in one piece and gradually work in the dry ingredients.
- When the mixture starts to come together, add the finely chopped raisins and mixed peel.
- Knead the chopped raisins and mixed peel into the mixture until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Pat down on a work surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to about 1/2 cm (1/8 in) and cut out with a plain edged (8 cm) cookie cutter.
- As you cut the cookies place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a mat.
- Gather together the remaining dough and cut more cookies, repeating until all the dough has been used and all the cookies are on a baking sheet. I used two baking sheets.
- Mix together the lightly beaten egg white with a tablespoon of caster sugar, then brush the tops of the cookies with this glaze.
- Bake in the oven at 170C 8-10 minutes until firm and pale golden brown. Lift onto a cooling tray with a spatula.
To make the crosses
- Once the cookies are completely cool. Place the white chocolate buttons into a disposable piping bag, clip the end of the bag, The place the closed end into a bowl of boiled water and leave until the chocolate has melted.
- Carefully snip the end of the piping bag and pipe a cross on top of each cookie. This is quite tricky as the chocolate wants to run. As an alternative, you could use ready-made royal icing to pipe the crosses.
- Leave until the chocolate is firm, then pack carefully into an airtight container until ready to serve.