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Classic Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

by paddock2pixel

I have to confess, I’ve never heard of Hot Cross Buns until I moved to Australia. Yes, we had raisin bread in Germany when I grew up, but you can’t compare that to a wonderfully fresh hot cross bun. I was skeptical when I tried my first one some 10 years ago or so, but oh boy was I converted quickly! The chewiness and the sticky glaze were my absolute favourite. Funny enough, I was quite happy to just eat the store bought ones, until I had some leftover levain from bread-making a few days ago and I thought, why not use it for Hot Cross Buns as a classic Easter treat?

The levain was from a Tartine bread from my favourite baker on the web (Maurizio from www.theperfectloaf.com. Check it out, his instructions are amazing!). Most of his recipes make two loafs, which is too much for someone like me who likes to bake bread every weekend. I usually only use half the ingredients, but this time I didn’t so there I was with about 200g of levain that I didn’t want to throw out. Then it was just a bit of researching and experimenting to make it into some seriously delicious Hot Cross Buns.

These buns are a little different to the ones you buy at the store. A little fluffier, less yeasty and with a hint of a sour note. I like to use Rapadura sugar to make them less sweet, but that’s up to you of course.

I always find that with sourdough, proofing the dough in the fridge over night gives me the best results. This one proofed for two nights, so you have to plan ahead a little if you want them ready on the weekend for breakfast. But I reckon it’s worth it. Happy Easter or maybe just Happy Breakfast everyone!

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

The classic Easter treat, best served with butter. For anyone who prefers to use their sourdough starter over yeast as the leavening agent.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Resting Time1 day 6 hours
Total Time50 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Australian
Keyword: bread, buns, Easter, hot cross buns, sourdough
Servings: 12 buns



  • 25 g ripe sourdough starter 100% hydration
  • 90 g wholemeal flour
  • 90 ml water luke warm


  • 380 g white bread flour
  • 130 g wholemeal flour
  • 10 g salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground all spice
  • 230 ml milk at room temperature
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 60 g unsalted butter softened
  • 120 g raisins / sultanas / currents (whatever is preferred)
  • 50 ml Marsala
  • 50 ml hot water


  • 40 ml water
  • 40 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp icing sugar


  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • pinch of ground cinnamon


9:00pm (Thursday): Prepare the levain

  • In a small bowl, mix the ripe starter, water and wholemeal flour until combined.
  • Cover and let it rest on the kitchen counter until the next morning. Your levain is ready when it has formed lots of little bubbles. You can test its readiness by checking whether a teaspoon of the mix floats in a glass of water. If it does, it is active and ready to be used.

10:00am (Friday): Make the dough

  • The next morning, soak the raisins in the Marsala and hot water for 30 minutes until they have absorbed some of the liquid and are a little softer. Drain the liquid and set raisins aside.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flours, spices, salt and sugar and quickly mix together by hand.
  • Add the levain, milk, butter and eggs and mix on low speed using the dough hook for around 3 minutes or until the dough is starting to come together.
  • Add the sultanas and and keep kneading until the dough feels a little glutinous and less sticky. Around 5 minutes.
  • Cover and let it rest in a warm place. After 30 minutes, stretch and fold the dough (this is so much easier when your hands are wet) four times, rotating the bowl 90 degrees each time. Cover and let it rest another 30 minutes. Repeat the whole process four times.
  • Cover and let the dough rest in a warm place for 2-3 hours. It should double in size and look fluffy and bubbly. On a cold day, this might take up to 10 hours.
  • 3:00pm: Shape the dough
  • Lightly dust the bench and empty the dough onto the surface. Divide into 12 equal portions and shape every portion into a tight little ball.
  • Place the balls into a lined 20x30cm baking dish in a 3×4 formation. They should touch each other but not be super squeezed in.
  • Cover and rest in the fridge until the next morning.

8:00am (Saturday): Finish the buns

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (fan forced).
  • To make the crosses, mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. You might have to adjust the amount of flour or water. Fill into a piping bag with a 3mm round nozzle. Pipe onto the the buns so that each bun has a cross on it.
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
  • To make the glaze, mix the sugar, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan and simmer until it becomes slightly syrupy.
  • Once they are done, take them out of the oven and brush the glaze over the warm buns until evenly covered and shiny.
  • Let the buns cool a little, then serve slightly warm, with butter of course.
  • Bon appetit!

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