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Bake hot cross buns free from exploitation this Easter!

World Vision
2 April 2015 by Ruth Dearnley
Bake hot cross buns free from exploitation this Easter!

The delicious - and ethical - final product! Photo by Ruth Dearnley, World Vision

There is something so irresistible about the smell and look of hot cross buns. I wonder if they would be as tempting if we could get them all year round?

But I haven’t been able to indulge in them over the last few years, because I can’t seem to find any in stores that use ethically sourced ingredients. Look closely and sure enough there is palm oil lurking in a lot of those spicy buns – without any evidence that it comes from sustainable sources. Not only that, there is no way to tell where any of the other ingredients came from and whether workers who grew those crops were treated and paid fairly… and that makes me cross!

I love cooking, but baking hot cross buns was a little daunting, because they have to look like the real deal! But, I gave it a go. I took this recipe and selected ethically-sourced ingredients from a combination of local, organic suppliers and ethically-certified brands.

I’ll let you be the judge of what they looked like – but for taste, they were a huge hit in my house!

Yum - hot cross buns made free from exploitation!

Yum – hot cross buns made free from exploitation!

But most importantly, they get a 10 out of 10 for being ethically-sourced – just knowing that everyone who helped bring the ingredients to me were paid a fair wage, in good conditions, made them taste even better!

Happy Easter and happy baking! I’d love to hear what you think of the recipe.

Ingredients (click on the link for each item to see how products and brands are rated by the Ethical Shopping Guide)
4 cups of plain flour
2x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1.4 cup caster sugar
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
1 ½ cups currants
40g butter
300ml milk
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
Flour paste
½ cup plain flour
4-5 tbsp water
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp caster sugar

Tip: Download the Shop Ethical! app so you always have a list of the most ethical brands handy when you are doing your shopping.

Ruth's ethically-sourced hot cross buns before going in to the oven! Photo by Ruth Dearnley, World Vision

Ruth’s ethically-sourced hot cross buns before going in to the oven! Photo by Ruth Dearnley, World Vision

If you can’t find ethically-sourced alternatives for all the ingredients, don’t let that stop you from buying more ethically when you can. Start by choosing just a few ingredients and make a commitment to always seek out other ethically-sourced options. Over time you can increase the number of items that you purchase ethically.

1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and currants in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk. Heat for 1 minute, or until lukewarm. Add warm milk mixture and eggs to currant mixture. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough.
2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
3. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C or 170˚C fan-force.
4. Make flour paste: Mix flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small snap-lock bag. Snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through.
5. Make glaze: Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Original recipe available from

Looking for ethical chocolate this Easter? Sign up for World Vision’s Ethical Chocolate Guide today!

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


3 Responses

  • Val in Australia says:

    Sorry, but there is no such thing as ‘ethical’ butter or milk. Cows and goats’ milk is stolen from their babies, which are removed from their mothers so we can have the milk instead. The only ethical hot cross buns would be vegan ones, sorry. Plenty of recipes are available for vegan buns.

    • Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley says:

      Hi Val. Thanks for your comment. I have to say that personally I also am very concerned about some of the practices in the dairy industry and tend to opt for vegan dairy substitutes instead. In the context of this article though, I was looking primarily at the ethics of the companies in regards to how they address child rights and labour rights. However, I have made versions of this recipe using soy milk and vegan margarine instead – and can vouch for the fact that they were very delicious too!

  • Dale says:

    Fare enough…

Leave a Reply to Dale

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