Hot cross buns are classic for Easter time, but have you tried a Sourdough Hot Cross Wreath bread? This soft, beautiful, and delicious bread will be your new favorite way to enjoy this traditional bread.
This post will help you make this incredible bread with some tips, time planning, and, of course, the recipe.
What are hot cross buns?
In case you aren’t familiar with hot cross buns, they are traditionally enjoyed on Good Friday of Holy Week.
They are made with fruits and spices and topped with a cross, usually made with a flour paste or icing as a reminder of the death and burial of Jesus Christ.
My recipe for Sourdough Hot Cross Buns is a more traditional approach and has more details on what they are.
Benefits of using sourdough in this hot cross wreath bread
The two main reasons I use sourdough are more digestible breads and the unmatched flavor.
- Sourdough breaks down the gluten proteins into smaller pieces during the long fermentation which means less stomach and digestive irritation. Learn more about sourdough here or get my free sourdough quick start guide.
- Sourdough breads begin with a starter or levain which is a mixture of flour, water, and sourdough starter that ferments for 6-12 hours on average to develop an incredible intense flavor that enhances every ingredient in the bread! Which typically means less added sugar than breads made with conventional yeast.
These wonderful benefits also require extra time compared to breads made with quick yeast. So you will need to plan your time to make it accordingly.
How do you plan your bake?
Sourdough bread making, especially recipes like these requires special planning.
For your planning:
- 10-14 hours for starter preparation
- 8-10 hours bulk fermentation
- 4-6 hours proofing
If you need help picturing that planning for a real life holiday timeline:
- Thursday morning before Easter: prepare the starter and leave at room temp
- Thursday night before Good Friday: prepare the dough, cover, and leave at room temp overnight
- Good Friday morning: Divide and shape the dough, cover, and leave at room temp to proof
- Good Friday midday: Preheat oven, egg wash, and bake the bread for an afternoon luncheon or evening treat
Since this bread is enriched with lots of butter, eggs, and milk, the fermentation will take longer than lean sourdough recipes you may have used before.
7 important things to know when making this Sourdough Hot Cross Wreath Bread
- This recipe uses a 100% hydration starter. This style of starter is familiar to most sourdough bakers making it easier to attempt this recipe.
- This bread includes lemon zest and orange zest. If you’d prefer to only one type, just double whichever one you’d prefer, orange or lemon.
- You can substitute the raisins for cranberries and vice versa. If you choose to use neither, omit the 20g water.
- The texture of the bread is so smooth and fluffy! And the thorough kneading and fermentation makes the dough so easy to work with and shape.
- Don’t rush the timeline. Plan your time well and make sure it is fully fermented before shaping and that you wait until it is proofed before baking. The butter in the dough slows the fermentation down considerably. See these articles on bulk fermentation and proofing for helpful tips and indications of readiness.
- The glaze can have a thick, styled look if added with a piping bag or drizzled with a fork on a hot cross wreath bread that has cooled, or drizzle over warm bread and lightly spread with a spatula for a fully glazed look.
- Add a cross to the top of the wreath with a piping of glaze or a stencil of sprinkles over wet icing.
Share your bake with me
If you’re getting ready for Good Friday and Easter and want to bake alongside your sourdough besties, use the share button to make sure they have this recipe.
After you try it, send me a note, leave a review comment, or tag me on facebook or instagram @livingbreadbaker
I enjoy seeing how you share this bread for the holiday with your family and friends. I’m glad I can be a part of your special holiday in some small way.
Need more sourdough help?
A competent guide is the big difference from floundering in sourdough with information overwhelm to having confidence and ease in your sourdough baking.
If you are just getting started in sourdough, I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
My Intro. to Sourdough online course is comprehensive with video tutorials for each stage of the process to help new or aspiring sourdough home bakers 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. My teaching is straight forward and makes the whole process seem simple. I have helped launch hundreds of eager sourdough bakers onto their own inspiring sourdough journeys.
I also have a Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course, which is my strategy for busy weeks to have sourdough on hand ready to make into country bread, sandwich loaves, English muffins, pizza, bagels, and more! This course is great for absolute sourdough beginners to just get familiarity with sourdough or for veteran sourdough bakers who need to simplify their baking schedule.
If you are just starting on your sourdough journey, you can get my free Quick Start Sourdough Guide to begin learning some of the key terms and concepts in sourdough. Learn the difference between the sourdough stages of active sourdough starter and sourdough discard as well as how to care for a starter.
Perfect for new or experienced bakers, I have a full Sourdough Time Planning Workbook with 8 templates ready to fill in and a baking journal. The 8 templates include 4 different ways to make classic sourdough country breads, 3 time planning worksheets for enriched sourdough bread depending on serving time target, and a blank template. The baking journal goes over baker’s percentages and how to take notes on your sourdough bakes.
Or check out more Easter recipes here.
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Sourdough Hot Cross Wreath Bread
- 20 g sourdough starter
- 100 g water
- 100 g all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 150 g whole milk warmed
- 60 g brown sugar
- 200 g starter
- 100 g whole wheat flour
- 400 g bread flour
- Zest of one lemon
- Zest of one orange
- 80 g orange juice
- 8 g salt
- 2 g ground cinnamon 1/2 t.
- 1 g ground nutmeg
- 1 g ground clove
- 1 egg
- 20 g water
- 60 g sweetened dried cranberries
- 30 g raisins
- 57 g unsalted butter softened (4 T.)
For the egg wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp water
For the icing glaze:
- 160 g Powdered Sugar
- 2-3 Tbsp Whole Milk
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter softened at room temperature
- Make the starter: 10-14 hours before mixing your dough, combine ingredients for the starter in a clean container. Cover and let activate. It will double in volume and become very bubbly.
- Warm milk: Measure out at least 165 grams of milk into a saucepan (some will evaporate while it is heated). Heat milk over medium heat until you begin to see steam rising off of it or reaches a temperature of 80 – 100º F.
- Scale: Add 150 grams of the warm milk to the mixing bowl, brown sugar, 200g starter, whole wheat flour, and bread flour. (Remember to use the scale’s tare function to remove the weight of the bowl and previous ingredients to only weigh the current item added)
- Mix: Mix ingredients until a shaggy dough is formed, then add lemon zest, orange zest, orange juice, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove powder, 1 egg, and 20g water. Continue mixing the dough until there is no dry flour left and the dough is beginning to have a smoother appearance. This will take some kneading. (Mixing and kneading steps can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook on lowest two speeds, if available.)
- Add dried fruit: After dough looks nearly smooth, add dried cranberries and raisins. Continue kneading.
- Butter add: Cut the 57g unsalted butter into 5 thin slices. Add one slice of butter at a time to the dough. Fold in and knead until the butter is incorporated and you no longer see obvious streaks of butter in the dough. Repeat until all the butter is incorporated.
- Knead: Knead dough 7-15 additional minutes or until dough is smooth, no longer sticky, and releases easily from the bowl or work surface. This thorough kneading will create a strong dough with a beautiful texture in the bread. (If using a stand mixer, the kneading time on lowest one to two speeds will take less time, approximately 3-7 minutes)
- Bulk fermentation: Cover the dough and allow to ferment until doubled in volume, about 8-10 hours.
- Prepare baking sheet: Cut a large piece of parchment. Place parchment on a flat baking sheet.
- Divide dough: Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 3 pieces.
- Shaping: Roll each piece of dough until it is a rope about 30 inches long and equally thick along the entire length. Gather the ends together then braid by crossing two ropes then put the third rope in between the previously crossed ropes, then pick up the rope that is more spaced from the others and braid between the two more tightly crossed ropes. Continue this pattern of braiding until the whole lengths are braided. Bring the ends together and connect the end pieces to form a braided wreath. Place a cup in the center of the wreath to prevent dough from expanding and closing off the wreath center. (This cup is removed before baking)
- Proof: Cover and proof 4 to 6 hours, until bread is about 1.5 to 2 times larger in volume. Dough should leave an indentation when tested with a fingertip.
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 375º F.
- Egg wash: Prepare egg wash and brush all over bread and in crevices.
- Bake: Place bread into oven and bake 25 – 30 minutes. The outside should be golden brown and inside the ring should be baked.
- Cool: Allow bread to cool at least 30-40 minutes. (If you want a full glaze that melts over the bread instead of a defined drizzle, you can add the glaze sooner and spread with a spatula)
- Prepare glaze: Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over your wreath in a zigzag pattern (or swirls--it's up to you). Optional: add a cross to the top of the wreath bread.
- Serving: Cut the bread into slices and serve.