Sweet, soft, and full of flavor, these Sourdough Hot Cross Buns are a delicious way to enjoy a traditional treat for Good Friday or Easter.
In this post you will learn about how to make this recipe, time planning, and watch a how-to video.
What are Sourdough Hot Cross Buns?
These sourdough hot cross buns are a delicious and traditional favorite for Easter and Holy Week.
These buns are filled with spices and aromatic ingredients and topped with a cross because on Good Friday we remember when Jesus died on the cross and typically the burial rituals involved anointing with herbs, spices, and oils.
They are traditionally eaten during the Easter season, especially on Good Friday when we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
What makes the sourdough version different?
Sourdough makes these hot cross buns softer, more flavorful, and more digestible.
It also makes the process longer than using quick or instant yeast.
I love how sourdough enhances the flavor of my breads, but especially having breads that don’t make me feel “crummy” (pun intended).
Timing for Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
- Activating starter 6-12 hours
- Bulk Fermentation 3-5 hours
- Proofing 1.5-3 hours
- Baking 20-24 minutes
Sourdough Levain for the Starter
This recipe uses a specially prepared starter called a levain.
A levain takes a portion of your sourdough and combines it with a specific ratio of flour and water.
This levain also incorporates sugar.
Usually a levain is only prepared for a certain recipe and is not continued from batch to batch like your sourdough starter base that you took a portion from.
Different flavors in the dough
This recipe uses cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove as the spices in this recipe.
Other sweet spices can be substituted or you may add more nutmeg or clove in place of cinnamon.
There is also orange juice and orange zest which can be substituted for lemon or use 1 T. vanilla and 35-40g milk for a citrus free version.
Good Friday was not a day of a murder or a martyr… it was Jesus coming as the willing sacrifice, the final Passover lamb. So that every person in the history of time and in the future could receive his gift and the all-covering forgiveness to become God’s children.
Just like how on the other side of the crosses on your Sourdough Hot Cross Buns, there is a sweet, rich, full flavor of the bun. On the other side of the grisly Good Friday Cross is the empty tomb of Sunday morning.
If Jesus only died, His story would have been forgotten and His disciples would have gone back to their old lives. But because He triumphed over sin and death with resurrection, it means that He is who He claimed to be–God incarnate, and that we can receive resurrection through Him.
Happy Easter! He is risen!
Need more help?
I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
Along with my Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course, I also have a Intro. To Sourdough online course if you are ready to gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, to learn all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread.
This recipe originally appeared in my book, Everyday Bread Baking but unfortunately had a publishing error on the ingredients. This is the correct version as I intended it.
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Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
- Food Scale
- large bowl
- plastic dough scraper
- citrus zester
- Parchment Paper
- baking sheet
- Pastry brush
- steam pan
- Water spray bottle
- piping bag or use a ziplock bag as a substitute
For the sweet starter
- 30 grams sourdough starter (active or discard) 2 tablespoons
- 15 grams white sugar 1 tablespoon
- 50 grams water 3 ½ tablespoons
- 100 grams all-purpose flour 2/3 cup
For the dough filling preparation
- 50 grams dried sweetened cranberries, roughly chopped ¼ cup
- 1 orange zested and juiced
For the dough
- 165 grams warm milk (75-85 degrees, preferably whole) ¾ cup minus a teaspoon
- 30 grams brown sugar 2 tablespoons
- 180 grams nearly all of the mixture of the activated sweet starter
- 400 grams all-purpose flour or 300g all-purpose
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon clove
- Zest of one orange
- 7 grams salt 1 teaspoon
- 1 egg
- 50 grams freshly squeezed orange juice about ¼ cup
- 28 grams unsalted butter, softened 2 tablespoons
For the crosses
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons water
For the glaze
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon water
For the vanilla icing, optional
- 65 grams powdered sugar about ½ cup
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 to 3 teaspoons milk or orange juice
- Make the sweet starter: Mix ingredients for the sweet starter in a medium sized bowl. It’s a thick mixture so you may have to use your hands to get all the ingredients combined into a thick dough. If it is too dry after mixing by hand, add a sprinkle of water then knead together until there’s no dry flour left. Cover and leave at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours. It will double in size and become puffy and full of air.
- Chop cranberries: Roughly chop up cranberries and set aside.
- Prepare the orange: Zest one orange and set the zest aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside to add later.
- Warm milk: Add 175 grams milk (add extra since some will evaporate) to a small saucepan or pot. Warm until steaming and about 110 to 120º F.
- Mix: Tare a bowl so that the weight shows zero. Add 165 grams of the warmed milk, the brown sugar, and the active sweet starter. Give it 3 to 5 stirs to begin breaking the starter apart. Add the flour, spices, and orange zest. Mix dough until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the salt, egg, and orange juice. Mix until dough is nearly smooth
- Fold in butter and cranberries: Add the softened butter, fold in until dough is smooth. Continue kneading for 5 to 10 minutes (in a stand mixer on lowest two speeds, knead 3 to 6 minutes). Add the cranberries and fold the dough until they are dispersed throughout the dough. Once dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl or work surface cleanly it has been mixed and kneaded enough.
- Bulk fermentation: Cover the dough and allow to ferment 3 to 5 hours, until doubled in size.*
- Stretch and fold: During bulk fermentation, stretch and fold the dough. Recover dough.
- Divide dough: Divide dough into 12 pieces (about 77 to 78 grams each) to make medium-sized buns.
- Prepare baking sheet: Cut a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet (if you don’t have parchment, liberally grease the baking sheet or a rectangular casserole dish).
- Shaping: Flatten a piece of divided dough with your hand, then gather edges into the middle. Turn over and roll dough against the work surface to tighten the dough into a smooth ball. Transfer shaped bun onto baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces dough. Arrange buns in baking dish to be spaced evenly apart, about 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Proof: Cover shaped buns and proof in a warm place 1 ½ to 3 hours* until nearly doubled in size. Test proofing with a moistened finger gently pressed on surface. If finger leaves an indentation, go to the next step.
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 400º F with a metal pan filled halfway with water on lowest rack.
- Make crosses: Mix together flour and water for crosses. (If you are sensitive to gluten, but tolerate sourdough, skip this step and opt for iced crosses instead) Whisk flour and water well. Add to a piping bag or a plastic ziplock bag. Snip a tiny corner off the bag and pipe crosses on the buns from the bottom of one side across the top and down to the bottom of the other side.
- Bake: Place rolls into oven and generously spray walls of oven. Close oven door and bake 20 to 24 minutes (start glaze—step 16), time will vary depending on size of buns and baking dish used. The rolls should expand and have a deep golden-brown color on top with the baked crosses standing out.
- Make glaze: While buns are baking, melt the butter in a small pot or saucepan. Add the honey and water. Stir frequently until mixture is beginning to bubble.
- Glaze: Right after buns come out of oven, generously glaze the buns all over until all the glaze has been used.
- Cool: Cool until you can handle them safely and enjoy or allow to cool down until barely warm if you would like to add vanilla icing over the crosses.
- Prepare vanilla icing: Sift powdered sugar and add remaining icing ingredients. Whisk until smooth and thick for piping. Place in a pastry bag with a thin round tip (substitute with a plastic ziplock bag with a very small corner snipped off) and pipe crossed on the tops of the buns with vertical and horizontal lines going through the middle of the buns.