For several years I’ve been wanting to bake hot cross buns. But Easter is a hectic time when it comes to food. This year I was baking well in advance. I have the perfect sourdough hot cross buns recipe & the buns are in the freezer ready to be heated fresh on Easter weekend.
First, I want to say that I fell in love with these classic buns. And that is A LOT SAID from a Nordic who’s been basically baptized in the coffee and bun culture! I simply enjoyed pulling a hot piece of spiced bun and dipping it in the butter. Oh my, that’s how soft and tender these sourdough hot cross buns are!
Recipe comparison journey
Brioche is brioche is brioche. Or is it? When looking for THE recipe for enriched dough with sourdough, I read through and compared a multitude of recipes. Choosing a sourdough hot cross buns recipe was impossible so I made my own. What I was looking for was a good balance with butter and eggs. I don’t want my buns to be too heavy nor dry.
At the same time, I’m also in the understanding that hot cross buns are slightly denser and tender than the fluffy bun cousins from the North. I’m very specific about buns and tender is different from fluffy. Both can be scrumptious, though!
Whenever possible, I want to bake slow to build flavor. Normally when making shrove buns and cinnamon buns, I use a sponge. With sourdough, I preferably wanted to have a cold overnight bulk.
Making the Dough | Details
After the comparison, I chose to adapt Natasa’s scrumptious Hot Cross Buns. What is different? Slightly bigger dough, less egg, and less butter, less sugar. My main focus of making my own sourdough hot cross buns recipe was the right kind of texture.
Also, I used my normal wheat starter which I fed mild in room temperature over a 3-day active feeding schedule. I fed the starter twice a day. If your starter hasn’t been in use for a while, it might be that getting it mild takes a longer time. Start to build the milder levain with a small amount of starter. Use the discard for bread, pancakes, and whatnot.
When making the dough, I kept a keen eye on the dough consistency and slowly kneaded the dough shiny and elastic. It’s better to knead the dough with a stand mixer but be sharp about not kneading it too far.
I baked with organic wheat flour. My sultanas went through a quickened soaking process: I poured hot water on top of the raisins, liqueur, and spices. I left them to soak for an overnight before I made the dough in the afternoon.
I know! It’s not the perfect way of soaking decadent flavors. I’m semi-sad about this pure oblivion but I made the Cointreau and spices water really strong so that the raisins would bring enough flavor. Take this as an encouragement that it’s possible to make delicious hot cross buns despite you forget to soak the dried raisins/fruits or berries well in advance.
Choosing the right sized oven dish
Overall, this dough is really nice to work with as the refrigeration stiffens it. I baked the buns in this ceramic IKEA365 oven dish (12 ½x7 ¾ “| 20cm x 27cm) which I was afraid would be too small for the buns. Turns out the oven dish was made exactly for this bake: the buns rose & baked beautifully.
I’ll admit that I’m Instagram biased when it comes to hot cross buns since I especially like them baked side by side in an oven dish instead of as separate buns on a baking tray. How do you like them best?
Overnight Sourdough Hot Cross Buns | Recipe
The recipe yields almost one kilo of dough. My raw buns were 12 x 82g and it took 4,5 hours (23°C) to double their size before the bake.
Making the dough 80g dry sultanas + 30g hot water (soaked overnight in a spiced Cointreau water mixture, then drained) 165g bubbly wheat starter (I built my starter mild with an active 3-day feeding schedule in room temperature) Hot cross paste Vanilla sugar glaze THE NIGHT BEFORE PREP IN THE MORNING / LUNCH TIME PREP AFTERNOON / MAKING THE DOUGH IN THE MORNING / SHAPE OVEN BAKE Enjoy hot cross buns warm with butter. Store the buns in an air-tight container or freeze when cooled. Depending on the grind and freshness of your wheat flour, you might need to adjust the hydration. Choose the spices and liqueur to soak the fruits to your liking. I had a small cinnamon stick, star anise.
70 g wheat flour
20 g oil (camelina oil or rapeseed oil)
60 g water
1 tbsp brown sugar & 1 tsp dark syrup
1,5 tbsp boiling hot water
pinch of vanilla sugar
Making the dough
80g dry sultanas + 30g hot water (soaked overnight in a spiced Cointreau water mixture, then drained)
165g bubbly wheat starter (I built my starter mild with an active 3-day feeding schedule in room temperature)
Hot cross paste
Vanilla sugar glaze
THE NIGHT BEFORE PREP
IN THE MORNING / LUNCH TIME PREP
AFTERNOON / MAKING THE DOUGH
IN THE MORNING / SHAPE
Enjoy hot cross buns warm with butter. Store the buns in an air-tight container or freeze when cooled.
Depending on the grind and freshness of your wheat flour, you might need to adjust the hydration. Choose the spices and liqueur to soak the fruits to your liking. I had a small cinnamon stick, star anise.
Hot Cross Buns, History & Me
Hot cross buns date back to 12th century England but it took me to be well in my twenties to know about their existence as a millennial in Finland. I read that Queen Elizabeth I saw hot cross buns so special that they should not be sold on any day except for Good Friday, Christmas, or burials. I’m so glad I waited baking this classic treat! It is not acceptable to simply make these any other summer or autumn day! Except that it is what is widely normal these days, hot cross buns are available 365.
As I confessed, I’m a hot cross buns fan now. The texture was perfect with this dough composition but as a first-timer, I need to ask how would I bake these next time? I want to add a mix of dried fruits (currants, cranberries in addition to sultanas). Also, I have to remember to soak the fruits well in advance. Adding more fruits up to 100 grams is in my plans, too. Next time I’ll be more careful when cutting the tip of the piping bag and aim for the finer cross pattern.
We got only 5 buns left in the freezer, oops! Chances are that I’m making these buns again for Easter weekend.
What does hot cross buns mean to you? How do you enjoy them these days? Have you made them with sourdough?
These were really lovely! And my first try of sweet baking with sourdough.
Due to our fairly large family, I doubled the recipe for 24 buns. They are so satisfying and quite rich, so half have gone into the freezer. I made and added some candied orange peel as I didn’t have any ground bitter orange and that reminded me of how my mother used to make them.
So lovely to hear Andrew! And candied orange peel is the perfect kick for these, thank you for the tip! I will also add them next. Happy Easter :)