Spiced, a little bit sweet, and a lot fluffy. These sourdough hot cross buns are a creative use for sourdough starter.
These fluffy sourdough fruit buns are one of my favorite sourdough recipes. They are something I look forward to each year. They can be filled with all sorts of dried fruit, though usually raisins are involved.
They're super soft and fluffy and filled with warming spices. Easter Good Friday is the usual time to make traditional hot cross buns. However, they are so yummy you might want to make them all year round.
The dough in these sweet buns is an enriched one with egg and butter. It's a sticky dough, which when kneaded well and proved correctly becomes super fluffy. It's spiced with cinnamon, cloves,all-spice, ginger, and nutmeg.
There is also dried fruit and orange peel for texture and more flavour. If you've got spare lemon, a bit of lemon zest is wonderful in there too!
I like using raisins, or homemade dried apple pieces, cranberries, or whatever dried fruit I have.
If you're not a fan of fruit in your hot cross buns, try these chocolate chip sourdough hot cross buns instead!
These delicious sourdough treats can be made with OR without a mixer. It is a pretty sticky dough to work with, so mixing by hand is not easy. If you have a strong stand mixer, I would suggest using that.
However, if you're up for the challenge, I love to hand mix it! It takes a full 10 minutes, and at least 6 of those minutes are pretty sticky. It might seem like it won't all come together, but trust me it will!
Whatever you do, don't add more flour. After a while, you will feel the gluten develop and become smooth and elastic. It's pretty cool to feel and see it happen before your eyes.
For the spiced dough, a strong all-purpose flour is used, one with a protein level of at least 11%. The protein amount in all-purpose flour changes depending on the brand, and so does the name of the flour.
In New Zealand flour with a protein of around 11% is a high-grade flour and flour with a protein level of 10% is called plain flour. It's best to just check the protein level rather than the name of the flour.
A bread flour with protein of around 12% could also be used for a chewier bun. I have not tried this with whole wheat flour.
This recipe uses an active sourdough starter.
I feed my sourdough starter at a ratio of 1:3:3 (or even 1:4:4 if it's going to be a warm night). This means a ratio of 1 part starter, 3 parts flour, and 3 parts water measured in grams.
This feeding amount means it will be ready to use within 8-10 hours, depending on the warmth of the room overnight. If I'm using it sooner, within say 6 hours, I would feed it 1:2:2.
If your starter is fairly young, it will help to keep it in a warm space overnight when feeding it at a higher ratio.
A 1:3:3 feeding example would be 25g starter, 75g flour, and 75g water. This makes approximately 175g starter, of which 150g will be used in the recipe.
Heat the orange juice in a saucepan and add in the dried fruit and orange zest. Leave to sit for 20-30 minutes while the dough is kneaded.
First, it's the spices, flour, eggs, milk, brown sugar, salt, and starter that are mixed together in a large bowl. Use a fork to combine it into a shaggy dough first, then switch to using your hands.
If you have a stand mixer by all means use that. It makes it a lot easier!
However, it is possible to work the dough with elbow grease alone.
Kneading the dough by hand
The dough ball at the start, without the butter, is a little bit sticky but easy to work by hand. Once the butter gets incorporated, a few small pieces at a time, it becomes a whole lot stickier, so it helps to create some structure by kneading for 5 minutes prior to adding the butter.
Then it takes a good 5 minutes to work the butter in by hand, and a further 8-10 minutes to create the strong gluten structure needed in the hot cross buns. Put some music on and get into it. It can be fun!
Use butter that is at room temperature and slightly softened.
You can always take breaks throughout the kneading as this dough responds very well to resting time and it will actually become easier to knead.
Don't add more flour while you're kneading. Just keep pushing and pulling the dough to incorporate the butter. Then slowly feel it become more smooth and elastic.
Once it is a bit more elastic, lift the dough and slap it down on the bench, then fold it forward. Continue this slap and fold motion.
The dough will always be sticky but you should feel strength and elasticity form in the dough.
The video below is fast-forwarded, which is why it may look easier and less sticky. I find using quick hand movements also helps to stop the dough from sticking to my hands too much.
Kneading in a mixer
If using a mixer, add the spices, flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, and starter to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low speed to incorporate the ingredients, then turn it on medium.
Keep mixing on medium-high speed until the dough stops sticking to the sides and all the butter is incorporated. Then mix for a further 8-10 minutes until it's smooth, strong, and glossy.
When you lift the dough hook up, the entire dough should hold together without tearing and you will be able to pull it off the hook in one smooth motion.
Leave it to sit and rest for 5 minutes, then grab a piece of dough and see if you can stretch it super thin so it's almost see-through. This shows the gluten has been developed enough.
Adding the fruit
Once the dough has been worked, it's time to drain the fruit and add it in. Squeeze out some of the excess moisture in the fruit first by squishing it in your fists.
The fruit is going to make the dough even more sticky, and you'll need to carefully work them in. It's tricky, and the pieces will spill out at first, but keep rolling them in. Alternatively, just add them to the mixer if that's what you're using.
Again, don't add more flour.
A few gentle slaps and folds work too, but carefully because you might end up throwing fruit pieces all over the kitchen. Once the fruit is incorporated, shape the dough into a ball. I've got a video of this below.
Then the dough needs to be prooved in a greased bowl and covered bowl, in a warm spot for 3-4 hours, ideally at around 25°C/77°F. After this time the dough should bulk out by around 40-50%.
You can create a warm and humid spot by placing the dish into a lightly pre-heated (no more than 40°C/104°F), then turned-off oven alongside a large cup of boiled water.
After this, place the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Cold Proofing - Two Options
Now you have two options depending on when you would like to eat and serve the sourdough hot cross buns.
Option 1- Let the dough sit in the fridge for the rest of the day, then in the evening remove it and shape the buns. Cover them with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let them rise overnight at room temperature. They can be baked fresh in the morning.
Option 2 - The bowl of dough can be refrigerated overnight and in the morning the buns can be shaped and have their second rise. Then they can be baked for fresh buns at midday or in the afternoon.
Shaping hot cross buns
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it into 9 or 12 equal pieces.
Dust your hands with flour if needed and form each piece into a ball, tucking the edges underneath to create a smooth surface.
Place the dough balls into a baking paper-lined baking dish and let them proof overnight until doubled. If you're not proving overnight, let them rise during the day in a warm spot (ideally at 25°C/77°F) for 5-8 hours until doubled.
I fit mine in a smaller 23x23cm (9x9inch) square tray because I like them squished together, however you can use a larger tray.
Piping the crosses
Mix together the flour paste for the crosses until it makes a thick but pipeable paste.
Pipe crosses on the buns using a piping bag with a round tip.
Preheat the oven to 180 °C (356°F) fan-bake or 200°C (392°F) standard oven.
Place the buns in the oven and bake them for around 25 minutes until they are a deep golden brown colour.
While they are baking, mix together the sugar glaze ingredients. It's a simple syrup made of hot water and sugar. When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze.
Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before removing and cooling further on a wire rack.
Serve the sourdough hot cross buns fresh, with a pat of butter.
Leftover sourdough hot cross buns can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to three days.
Alternatively, the baked buns can also be frozen for up to three months.
This recipe is written using grams as the measurement to keep things consistent.
Using cups can very often lead to baking mishaps as cup sizes vary depending on where you are in the world and so does how people fill their cups. For example, a US cup is 236ml while an NZ/AU cup is 250ml.
Grams are easy to measure using a kitchen scale and everything can be measured with it! It also saves on washing up all the different-sized cups you'd otherwise be using.
Sourdough starter (This makes approximately 175g starter in total. 150g will be used in the recipe.)
- 25g sourdough starter
- 75g all-purpose flour
- 75g water
- 100g raisins or other dried fruit.
- 60ml orange juice
- Zest of 1 orange
Hot cross bun dough
- 450g all purpose or bread flour (with a protein level of at least 11%)
- 75g soft brown sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 220g milk
- 1 large egg
- 150g active sourdough starter
- 60g room temperature butter, cubed.
- 50g all-purpose flour
- 50g water
- 50g granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon boiled water
The Night Before
- Combine the starter ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Tip it into a clean jar. Leave it on the bench to rise and cover the jar with a tea towel or loosely balanced lid.
- Heat the juice of the orange in a saucepan and add in the dried fruit and orange zest. Stir together and leave it to sit for 30 minutes.
- Add to a mixing bowl all the hot cross bun dough ingredients except for the butter and the soaked fruit. Mix together with a fork to create a shaggy dough.
- Mixing by hand: Tip the dough onto a clean bench. Knead for around 5 minutes to create some strength. Place a few of the butter cubes into the middle of the dough, work them in, then continue with the rest of the butter. The butter is going to make the dough very sticky. Spend at least 10-15 minutes kneading the dough to incorporate the butter and develop the gluten in the dough.
- It is a very sticky dough once the butter is incorporated, but don't be tempted to add more flour. Take a break in between kneading if you want to - the dough responds well to a bit of resting time. *, see notes and video in post. The dough will always be a bit sticky, even when kneaded, however, it should feel strong and elastic.
- Mixing in a stand-mixer. This can also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix the butter in a few cubes at a time, then continue mixing for 8-10 minutes until the dough is strong and smooth.
- Once the dough has been kneaded, drain the fruit. Squeeze out the extra moisture from the fruit with your fists.
- Add the fruit to the dough. This will be very sticky as the fruit will bring in more moisture. Keep rolling and folding it to incorporate the fruit. Then gather the dough into a ball. *, see notes and video in post.
- Place the dough ball in a greased bowl, cover the bowl with a plate or damp tea towel, and let the dough proof for 3-4 hours, ideally at around 25°C/77°F. After this time the dough should bulk out by around 40-50%.
- After this, place the dough in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Cold Proofing - Two Options
- Option 1- Let the dough sit in the fridge for the rest of the day, then in the evening remove it and shape the buns. Cover them with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and let them rise overnight at room temperature. They can be baked fresh in the morning.
- Option 2- The dough can be refrigerated overnight instead. The next morning, let the cold dough sit for 10 or so minutes at room temperature, then the buns can be shaped, risen until doubled ideally at around 25°C/77°F. This can take between 4-8 hours depending on temperature. Bake them once they're doubled.
Shaping The Buns
- Pull the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured bench and cut it into 9 or 12 even-sized pieces. Dust your hands with flour if needed and shape the pieces into balls, tucking in the bottom to create a smooth top. Place the balls, seam side down into a greased or parchment paper-lined dish, (I use a 23x23cm square, but you can also use a larger tray.) Le them rise until doubled.
Baking the Buns
- If the buns rose overnight, In the morning they should be baked as soon as possible. If you’re not baking them right away, place the proofed buns in the fridge to slow any further rise but don’t hold off from baking too long or they may over-proof and deflate.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 356 F fan-bake or 200 °C / 392F standard oven.
- Mix together the flour with enough water to make a thick paste, then add to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe crosses over the buns.
- Place the buns into the oven and bake for around 23-25 minutes until a deep brown on the top. If the buns are browning too quickly, you can place a sheet of aluminum foil over top.
- While the buns are baking, mix together the glaze ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Bush the hot bun tops with the sugar glaze once they come from the oven.
- Leave the buns to cool for about 20 minutes before eating.
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Serving Size:1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 6.3gSaturated Fat: 3.5gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 35mgCarbohydrates: 57.2gFiber: 2.3gSugar: 9.4gProtein: 8.1g