Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

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I’m not a very patient person, especially when it comes to recipe testing. Once I have an idea, I want to try it out there and then. But sourdough bread is something I had wanted to try for a while and I kind of liked the idea that you could fit it around your life. And all of the best, real food takes time and care. Whilst on a mission (still) to perfect my sourdough loaf, I’ve been trying out other forms of sourdough along the way and these hot cross buns were a first-time experiment that just happened to go really well. 

The sourdough creates a denser texture than your average shop-bought buns, which makes them perfect for toasting. And none of that hard candied peel, thank you. I’m all about the zesty orange and warming mixed spices that infuse the juicy sultanas in this recipe. 

Although the number of stages in this recipe may seem daunting, I promise you it is actually really easy and apart from the amount of proving time you need to let the magic happen, these actually don’t take up many of your precious minutes at all. So stick with it and the reward will be well worth the wait! 

Here is the recipe that I used for my starter. You will need 5-7 days for it to become active enough to use in this recipe, depending on its conditions:

I’m currently trying sugar free and vegan versions of this recipe, but note the alternative options I give have not yet been tested. However, if you do test them I would love to know how they work!

3.0 from 1 reviews
Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I have tried dairy, almond and rice milk and all work fine)
  • 2.5 cups strong white flour, plus extra for kneading and the crosses
  • 1 cup active sourdough starter
  • ¾ cup + 1 tsp caster sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 large orange
  • 50g butter, melted (or coconut oil)
  • 4 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2.5 cups sultanas
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
  1. STAGE 1: 5 HOURS
  2. Gently heat the milk in the microwave to about 30 degrees celsius and place in a large bowl
  3. Add the starter, 1.5 cups of the flour and the tsp sugar and combine until smooth
  4. Cover with cling film and leave for at least 5 hours to ferment
  5. STAGE 2: 8 HOURS
  6. Gently melt the butter and add to the preferment mix
  7. Zest the orange and add the zest, along with 3 tsp of the mixed spice and the cinnamon and mix well
  8. Add the remaining sugar and the remaining cup of flour and mix lightly with a spoon and then use your hands to combine the dough, adding more flour if needed
  9. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 20 minutes until springy and elastic (when you pull the dough apart it should spread thin until it is almost see through without breaking)
  10. Once the dough is kneaded, place it into a floured bowl and cover with cling film, leaving either all day or overnight (a minimum of 8 hours)
  11. Place the sultanas in a bowl along with the other 1tsp of mixed spice
  12. Juice the orange and pour the juice over the sultanas, along with enough water to cover them and leave to soak whilst the dough is rising
  13. STAGE 3: 5 HOURS
  14. Once proved for at least 8 hours, turn out the dough onto a floured surface
  15. Make a hole in the middle of the dough and drain any remaining liquid from the fruit
  16. Place the fruit into the hole and knead into the dough until it is well combined and smooth again (this will take a bit of time and patience as the dough will become much wetter at first, keep adding more flour during kneading)
  17. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces with a knife and role into balls, then slightly flatten
  18. Place the balls into a tray with at least a cm edge lined with baking paper, so that they are almost touching but slightly apart
  19. Cover with cling film and leave for a minimum of 5 hours to prove
  21. Once proven for at least 5 hours, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
  22. Make the paste for the crosses by mixing 3 tbsp strong white flour with 6-7 tbsp water and combine until smooth
  23. Pour the paste into a piping bag and carefully pipe on the crosses
  24. In another bowl, beat the egg and honey, then carefully brush this mixture over the buns with a pastry brush
  25. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and slightly firm to touch
  26. Leave to cool before breaking the buns apart
  27. Cut in half and serve with butter or jam, toasted or not. The buns will keep for about 5 days and can also be frozen for a grab-and-go breakfast later on!



  1. Emma March 25, 2016

    HI! Could I sub the strong white flour for spelt or buckwheat? x

    • the clean diary March 26, 2016

      I haven’t tried either but I think spelt would work better than buckwheat because it still has some gluten! Buckwheat tends to be quite dry and crumbly! Good luck x


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