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 any dried fruit, though usually raisins are involved.
They're super soft and fluffy and filled with warming spices, and made without commercial yeast. Easter Good Friday is the usual time to make traditional hot cross buns. However, they are so good, that you might just want to make them all year round.
Find the ingredient amounts for these sourdough hot cross buns in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post. For this sourdough hot cross buns recipe, you will need -
- Strong all-purpose flour with a protein level of at least 11%
- An active sourdough starter
- Whole milk
- Soft brown sugar
- An egg
- Ground spices - cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. These spices give the dough so much flavor! Similar to sourdough cinnamon raisin bread.
- Butter - slightly softened
- Granulated sugar for the topping glaze.
The hot cross bun crosses are made of equal parts water and flour, but you can also use your sourdough discard starter!
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 flavor. If you've got a spare lemon, a bit of lemon zest is wonderful in there too!
I like using raisins, 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 sourdough chocolate chip hot cross buns instead!
These delicious sourdough treats can be made with or without a mixer.
I used to knead the dough by hand, but this takes a lot of elbow grease. Simply stretching and folding the dough over itself is a much easier way to give it the strength it needs.
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. I use a strong all-purpose in many of my sourdough bread, like sourdough ciabatta and sourdough fougasse.
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.
If you have a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, by all means, use that. However, it is possible to work the dough by using a simple method of stretching and folding.
Heat the orange juice in a saucepan and pour it over raisins and orange zest.
Leave to sit for 20-30 minutes while the dough is kneaded.
In a large mixing bowl, add flour, spices, eggs, milk, brown sugar, salt, and starter.
Use a fork to combine it into a shaggy dough first, then switch to using your hands.
Stretches and folds
Add softened butter and the bowl of raisins, orange juice, and zest.
Use your hands to squish everything together until the butter is incorporated.
Once the butter has been mixed in, transfer the sticky dough to a clean and lightly greased bowl.
Over the next two hours, perform 4-5 sets of stretch and folds. One every 20 minutes or so.
A stretch and fold method stretches one side of the dough and pulls it over itself.
Kneading in a mixer
If using a mixer, add the spices, flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, sourdough starter, raisins, and orange juice 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 to medium.
Mix on medium-high speed, and add a few butter cubes at a time. Mix for 8-10 minutes until it's smooth 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.
Then the dough needs to be prooved in a greased bowl and covered bowl, in a warm spot for 4-5 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 for this bulk rise 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.
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 bit of surface tension.
Place the dough balls into a baking paper-lined baking dish. Let them rise in a warm spot (ideally at 25°C/77°F) for 5-8 hours until doubled.
Alternatively, if your kitchen isn't too warm you can let them rise overnight for 8-10 hours.
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 traditional cross
Mix the flour paste for the crosses until it makes a thick but pipeable paste. You can also use sourdough discard starter as the paste.
Pipe crosses on the buns using a piping bag with a round tip.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Place the buns in the oven and bake them for around 25-28 minutes until they are golden brown. There is no need for egg wash for these buns. They'll be glazed in sugar syrup after baking.
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 a pastry brush 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.
Want more buns? Try these sourdough chocolate chip hot cross buns, sourdough sticky buns or orange chocolate hot cross buns.
Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
Sweet and spiced hot cross buns buns leavened with sourdough starter.
Sourdough starter (makes approx 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.
- 60g 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 butter, room temperature, cubed.
- 50g all-purpose flour
- 50g water
- 50g granulated sugar
- 45g 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.
- Add raisins and orange zest to a small bowl. Heat the orange juice and pour it over it. Leave these to sit and hydrate for 20-30 minutes.
- Mix flour, sugar, spices, salt, eggs, milk, and sourdough starter in a large bowl. Use a fork to combine it into a shaggy dough.
- Add softened butter, raisins, orange juice, and zest. Use your hands to squish everything together until the butter is incorporated.
- Transfer the sticky dough to a clean, lightly greased bowl once the butter has been mixed in.
Stretch and folds*
- Perform 4-5 stretches and folds over the next two hours—one every 20 minutes.
- A stretch and fold method stretches one side of the dough and pulls it over itself. The bowl is then turned a quarter turn, repeated on the following side. Continue stretching, folding, and turning the bowl until all sides have been folded. You can do a few extra turns if needed. That is 'one set' of stretch and folds. (The dough can also be mixed in a stand mixer with a dough hook for 10 minutes.)
- After the dough has been kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot, ideally at around 77°F/25°C, until bulked out by about 50%.
- You can create a warm and humid spot for this bulk rise 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
- Option 1- The dough can be refrigerated overnight after the bulk rise. The next morning, let the cold dough sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then the buns can be shaped and rise 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 in size.
- Option 2 - The buns can rise overnight if your kitchen isn't too warm. 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 for 8-10 hours. They can be baked fresh in the morning.
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.) Let them rise until doubled.
Baking the Buns
- Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F.
- Mix the flour with enough water to make a thick paste, then add to a piping bag with a small round tip. Then pipe crosses over the buns.
- Place the buns into the oven and bake for 25-28 minutes until deep golden brown.
- While the buns are baking, mix 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.
* I used to hand knead the dough using a slap and fold method. This took around 10-15 minutes of kneading because it was such a sticky dough. Stretches and folds make things a lot easier.
Creating a warm space for rising - Place the bowl of dough in a turned-off oven, with a mug of boiled water next to it. This will create a warm and humid space. Replace the hot water as it cools down.
As an Amazon Associate, a Mighty Ape affiliate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 9 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
Heather Moot says
Made these today and they were sooooooo delicious! Pillow-like and so much easier than other hot x buns I’ve made in the past. My kids loved them. Recipe details were super helpful……especially warming an oven slightly, turning it off and putting the dough in to prove. I’ll definitely be making these again!
Heather Moot says
Have to say these are AMAZING!! We’ve made them twice this lockdown (Auckland) and we all absolutely LOVE them. They are so easy and to make and pillow like to eat! Thank you for all the details in the recipe. Especially use of the dough hook & mixer …..this made everything so easy!
Yay so happy to read you loved them! 😃
Made these as our first batch for the season - branching out from an old tried and true recipe to give the sourdough version a go, and I don’t think I will go back to the yeast-based ones. These are great - full of flavour, and I love the use of orange peel and juice for that classic citrus hit. Great recipe, thank you! Another one from your repertoire to make itself a permanent home in mine.
celia collins says
These look great, was looking for a sourdough "hot not crossed bun" recipe. Thanks for sharing. Mine are "not crossed" 'cos the flour paste thing just doesn't do it for me. I'm still figuring out a cross though. Am thinking a wire rack of some sort might be the trick - the indentations do the cross on the rise.
Kiwi in the Arctic
A friend of pine pipes a custard cross on hers! You might like that more than flour and water ☺️
Karen Hayman says
I've never been successful with hot cross buns and this year I wanted to try with my sourdough. They came out, I think, perfectly, though my ratio of sourdough may have been a little higher. I had some trouble with the stand mixer - I'm not used to it but also my dough formed only a loose ball but then got sticky again and extremely stringy . So I stopped there and set it to rise, hoping for the best. The dough had got warm so I wondered if the leaven had activated already? Any thoughts about that? Anyway, I'm happy with my test batch and will definitely keep the recipe. thanks!