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Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns for Easter |


Hot cross buns are traditionally served at Easter, but they’re also a Sunday-morning favorite in our house. If you’re still looking for inspiration for a Mother’s Day morning treat, these sourdough hot cross buns are sure to be a hit!

Using the weight measures listed provides the most consistent results, but if you don’t have a scale available, I’ve provided volume estimates as well.


500 g (~ 2 cups) sourdough starter
1.125 kg (2 1/2 lb or ~7 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour + extra for kneading
zest of 2 large oranges
zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 eggs
1/4 cup raw honey
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (currants, dried cherries, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped apricots, dried figs, etc) soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain
1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
50 g (~4 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

Flour, water, and olive oil for the crosses
Honey for glazing
juice of 1 orange for glazing


  1. Place the sourdough starter, flour, zests, sugar, and spices in a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Lightly beat the eggs with the raw honey, milk and water, then add to the sourdough/flour mixture. Mix until completely combined and a very sticky dough has formed. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Mix in the fruit and the salt. The dough will be a rather wet dough, but resist the urge to add more flour. Knead until the dough begins to look smooth and shiny, about 20 minutes by hand or 10 minutes with the mixer.
  3. Add in the cubes of butter, one at a time. The kneading action will incorporate it and create a gorgeous, rich dough. Knead until all the butter is fully incorporated, once again resisting the urge to add more flour. (You may add 2-3 tablespoons of flour ONLY if the dough at this point is super-sticky AND if you measured your flour by volume rather than weight. Remember: Too little flour is better than too much flour!) The final dough should be very soft, but not at all sticky.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it sit for 1 hour. After an hour, punch it down gently by folding it over on itself a number of times on a floured board, then place it back in the bowl to rise another hour.
  5. Divide dough into 24 pieces and shape each into a small roll. Place rolls in a buttered 9×13 baking dish, close but not quite touching. Leave at room temperature until doubled, about 2-4 hours.
  6. Mix the flour, water, and olive oil together to form a fairly stiff paste. Use a piping bag to pipe crossed across the top of each bun. Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20-30 minutes until the rolls are golden and at least 190 degrees inside.
  7. To glaze, heat the honey and the orange juice over medium heat until it begins to simmer rapidly. Remove from the heat and brush over the rolls as soon as they are removed from the oven.

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  1. Tamara says

    Just wondering about the paste for the crosses… Do you have an amount or ratio for how much water, oil and flour to use?

    • Kresha Faber says

      That’s a good question. No, I don’t, as I usually just start with a cup or so of flour in a bowl, drizzle in a bit of water (maybe a couple of tablespoons?) and a bit of olive oil (a teaspoon is a good guess), and then mix, adding more of any of the ingredients as I like until it has a texture that’s pipe-able. Perhaps next time I make the recipe I’ll do a more accurate measurement, but truly, the ratios don’t really matter – all it needs to be is pipe-able. You could even use powdered sugar instead of flour, if you wanted, but that’s a bit too sweet for me.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

      (See how to make homemade powdered sugar.)

  2. Allyson Matsoso says

    These are our new Easter Tradition…my husband is from South Africa and after tasting these he said they were just like the ones from back home. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Kresha Faber says

      You’re so welcome! It truly makes my day to hear that someone enjoys a recipe as much as I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Frederique says

    Hi! I loved those as a kid, but cannot have store-bought yeast leavened treats anymore. I am restricted to what i can make with my sourdough (which i digest properly without flare-ups).
    I was super happy to see this recipe, but was wondering if you had tried them with other types of milks? I am also lactose intolerant and cannot have any dairy. I was wanting to use earth balance instead of butter (which tends to work perfectly for recipes that require butter) and almond/coconut milk for the milk. Any advice?

    • Kresha Faber says

      I have not tried them with any of those substitutions, but I would imagine they would work just fine. The milk is merely for liquid, helping the crust brown, tenderizing the crumb, and sweetening the flavor, and the substitutions you suggest should likely do all of those as well. I wonder if the coconut milk might alter the flavor a bit too much, so I might just use almond milk, but I’m sure you’re more familiar with non-dairy substitutions than I am!


    • MG says

      Just made an “official” batch for Easter morning….this batch turned out even better than the last! Thanks again for the GREAT recipe!

  4. Koen says

    I’m not sure what happened to my dough, but it remained extremely sticky and too wet like a batter, although I followed this recipe to the letter. I made it in my food processor, making sure not to knead it too much in order for the gluten not to break down. What could have gone wrong?

    • Kresha Faber says

      You likely didn’t do anything wrong. Starters can vary in their hydration levels, as well as different climates vary, as well as different brands of flour can vary, so the actual amount of flour needed may vary a bit, even from batch to batch. Also, too little flour in this recipe is better than too much flour.

      Also, did you measure your flour by weight or by volume? If you measure by volume, the results can vary significantly from batch to batch, so I definitely recommend measuring by weight if at all possible, and all my instructions about resisting the urge to add more flour assume that you’ve added the full amount of flour (which you can know if you’ve measured by weight but you may not have if you measured by volume). So, if measuring by weight is simply not possible, then yes, you may add a small amount of flour to keep the dough from being sticky at the final mixing stage.

      So, I hope all that rambling helps – and I hope they were still yummy even if the dough was sticky! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Liz says

    Can you tell me about the starter? I maintain a 100% hydration mother starter. When I bake bread, I use a small amount to seed a levain for 6-8hrs before mixing. Shall I raise this sort of levain (500g) before mixing or use my mother starter straight? Thanks

    • Kresha Faber says

      I use the mother starter straight, but if you’re more comfortable with making a sponge, you can certainly adapt the recipe, time-wise. The thing is, when you make a levain, you’re essentially just making more starter for that specific recipe – not quite as potent because it’s a short rise time and the hydration is slightly different, but you’re going to get a similar lift and a more pronounced sourdough flavor by using a levain. (This can be very important when making loaves, but it’s not as crucial with buns.) Delicious either way, but I prefer just using the starter straight and that’s what I’ve assumed would be used when I wrote this recipe.

      I hope that helps!

  6. Tari says

    These are AWESOME! I’ve just started sourdough baking & these work perfectly even for a newbie like me. Thank you VERY much.

  7. Frederique says

    Well I made them for Easter!
    I used apricots and currants for dried fruit and glazed them with a mix of apple cider and earl grey tea gelรฉe. I ended up using real butter, but almond/coconut milk, and it worked really well. They were delicious! However, wanting to make them halfway in advance, i followed the steps all the way to the shaping part, and after shaping them i placed them in the fridge overnight. The next morning i took em out and left them temper and rise at room temp for 2.5hrs. Still, they had not risen enough. The result was amazing, but dense. I wanted them warm out of the oven for the brunch, but i know now that i should probably make them COMPLETELY in advance and worst case scenario, warm them slightly before serving!
    Still stoked though! thanks!

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