One a penny, two a penny…my best hot cross buns yet…….

sourdough hot cross buns

I love baking bread, tinkering with the recipe slightly to create different tasting loaves….and while I’m happy to make a fruity loaf any old time of the year, I only make Hot Cross buns for Easter or Ostara weekend…..

When I was small my mum seemed to spend all day baking them, there were lots of hungry little mouths wanting “just one more”, and then my dad could eat 2 or 3 with a cup of tea no worries…..we’d eat them from Friday through to Sunday then that would be that for another year…and when I got older and left home I just started baking my own, something that has seemed as natural to do as any other seasonal eating like making jam or marmalade or gingerbread….

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to experiment a bit more with what I call our daily loaf, using natural starters and leavens to make the bread rise, the dough this makes is really good for pizzas and fruit topped breakfast breads (a bit like a German style Kuchen) and last year I wondered how an even longer time for the sponge to sit and the dough to prove would fit in with my daily routine so the buns would be ready for breakfast……..

It was a tiny bit pfaffy because you need to make a bread sponge (which is just some flour and water added to the starter) on Wednesday evening, but then you just cover it with a clean cloth til late afternoon the following day, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the dough to prove til you make a pre bedtime drink, shape the buns then put them on a tray into the fridge overnight, next day you’ll want to set the alarm early, take the buns out so they have about a couple of hours in the warm kitchen before you pop them in the oven and bake them……but the mmm’s and sighs of appreciation you’ll hear as your friends and family eat them are well worth any extra effort…

These really were the best buns I think I’ve ever made and while I like my other recipes for hot cross buns just fine, I certainly do think these are the most mmmm ones yet……

My best hot cross buns yet (as far as I’m concerned)…..


Wednesday Night


200g Bread Flour

160g Starter

300ml Tepid Water

A handful of currants

2 desertspoons of dark brown sugar

Now normally I use milk to make hot cross buns but as I knew this was going to be sitting out overnight I used water…..

In a medium sized bowl mix together the above ingredients, then cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight until late afternoon the next day…..the sponge will be lovely and light and airy and all hubbley bubbley….

Thursday afternoon

Making the Dough

100g bread flour plus as much as the dough will need

30g melted butter

1 large egg beaten

Spice mix*

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

*1 tsp of cinnamon, some nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ground clove and then 1/2 tsp of ground cumin

Add all the ingredients into the sponge and mix together with a silicon spatula (it’s going to be really sticky)…keep adding a small handful of bread flour at a time and once the dough stops being quite so sticky, empty it out onto a worktop and begin to knead it together…add more flour as and when the dough requires…once the dough becomes cool and silky, lightly oil a large bowl, place in the dough, turn it over so it’s lightly coated and again cover with a clean cloth….allow to prove for a few hours…..

sticky and still hot from the oven

Making the buns

Once the dough has been left to prove for a few hours, gently knock it back and then cut the dough in half, then half, then half and finally half again so you end up with 16 pieces of dough which you will want to roll in your hand to make a nice shape….

Place the buns onto a lined baking tray and then with a plastic spatula or fish slice, press down and then again at 90 degrees to make a cross in the top of the bun (I find dipping the spatula into flour every other time stops it from sticking in the dough)…then leave the buns in the fridge overnight.

The next morning

Egg Wash

1 egg

a splash of milk

Just whisk the two ingredients together….. Any left over can be put in the fridge and used for lunch in an omelette)

Flour Paste

3 or 4 heaped tablespoons of plain flour

2 teaspoons of castor sugar

2 or 3 tablespoons of water

Mix the paste well, you want it to be nice and thick, not runny or the cross will just slide right off

Sugar Syrup

A tablespoon of castor sugar

A tablespoon of just boiled water

Try to make this just before the buns come out of the oven, I tend to make it in a little cup and then as soon as the buns come out, I quickly smear them all with this……it makes them all glossy and completely irresistible to all and sundry…..


Take the buns out of the fridge and depending on how warm the kitchen is you’ll need to give them between one and a half – two and a half hours to come up to room temp….

Before they go into the oven, give them a light egg wash and then dribble over the paste to highlight the cross…..

Bake in a gas mark 6 oven for approx 17- 20 minutes ….it depends how hot and tempermental your oven is……

As soon as they are out of the oven, quickly daub over the hot sugar syrup and then prepare to watch them disappear at an alarming rate……

The extra time for the sponge to do it’s hubble bubbling and for the dough to prove means these buns become incredibly light and airy, and yet they aren’t all pappy like a lot of shop bought ones, but still have a nice bit of chew and have lots of depth to the flavour…..

Same day Hot Cross buns….these won’t be ready for breakfast but are nice to have in the afternoon or to have toasted over the weekend….this recipe also uses a natural starter….

If you don’t have a starter in the bottom of the fridge then fear not, you can still make a very nice bun with dry yeast….This is my recipe for regular hot cross buns…….





update for the hot cross bun experiment…..

sourdough hot cross buns

Thought I’d quickly just share the results of my  “hot cross buns/ sourdough overnight”experiment….what a success.  I can honestly say, hand on heart these are the best tasting hot cross buns I think I’ve ever made or ever tasted, they’re very light but still have a nice robustness about them, and because they’re home-made ones don’t taste all pappy and over sweet (which I always think is the trouble with shop bought ones unless you toast them)….

There was a little bit of fannying about making them but really that was more in the preparation, making the sponge on Wednesday night and then making the bread dough yesterday…but the taste was worth it……I shouldn’t really eat bread anymore as it makes me feel so wretched but one mouthful of these wasn’t enough so I ate a whole one,and I fully expect to spend this afternoon in a poorly bed on the sofa but for now I’m thinking it was worth it.

My weights and measures  are very sketchy as I’ve just adapted my regular bread recipe which changes from week to week but roughly I made a sponge using bread flour (about 200g) starter (about 160g) some tepid water, I used this rather than milk as I knew it was going to be sitting out (just under 300 ml) about a handful of currants and a couple of desert spoons of dark brown sugar…this was all stirred together and left in a big bowl overnight covered with a tea towel.

sticky and still hot from the oven

I made the sponge about 9.30 at night…and left it until about 5.00 in the afternoon the next day so it had plenty of time to bubble and do it’s thing (which sourdough breads really do benefit from)…to the bubbled sponge I added some more bread flour, about 100g, then some melted unsalted butter (about 30g), a beaten egg, a couple of teaspoons of spice (1 tsp of cinnamon, some nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ground clove and then 1/2 tsp of ground cumin) and  a teaspoon of sea salt.  This was mixed together with a silicone spatula as it’s pretty sticky and then I just kept adding more bread flour, once it’s coming together as a dough rather than a sticky mass, I emptied it out on the worktop and began kneading and adding flour as and when the dough wanted it…..then once the dough becomes cool and silky feeling, I popped it into a clean bowl which had a quick wipe of oil, covered it with a cloth and left it for a few hours……

Just before bed (about 9.30 ish) I took the dough out, gently knocked it back and cut it in half, and again and again and again….so you have 16 pieces of dough, roll them in your hands and place them onto a lined baking sheet.  Using a plastic spatula or fish slice, press down and then again at 90 degrees to make a cross in the top of the bun (I find dipping the spatula into flour every other time stops it from sticking in the dough)…then leave the buns in the fridge overnight.

I got up at 6 this morning, took the buns out and gave them about 2 1/2 hours to come to room temp before giving them an egg wash and dribbling a flour paste cross on top then popping them into a gas mark 6 oven….our oven has been getting a bit hot agian so I gave them 17 minutes….they’d really swelled up in the oven and tore apart very easily…..once they are out I coated them with a sticky sugar syrup….they’d barely cooled before one was split open and salty butter was smeared inside, quickly disappearing into the boyfriend’s mouth…now you see it, now you don’t.

Like I said, they are a bit of a fanny about but it just involved being a bit organized, and they taste so good so I think the extra trouble is worth it.

If you’ve got a starter in the fridge then you could begin these today and have them ready for breakfast on Sunday.  But if you don’t want to pfaff about, this is the recipe I used for years and years before I began using a natural starter, and which taste good as well.



Saffron and sourdough Ostara buns (or hot cross buns for hipsters)

sticky and sweet sourdough buns

(sweet and sticky sugar syrup drenched sourdough and saffron Ostara buns pretty much straight out of the oven)

For the past umpteen years, around this time in the calender I’ve made spiced fruited buns….even though I can’t really tolerate wheat and grains anymore I felt it would be a bit mean to the boyfriend to not make them and to be honest, I wanted to make them for myself.  Even though I’m not going to be eating them, the pleasure of making certain foods at particular points of the year is incredibly pleasurable.  Even though I could make these any old time of the year, I never do…it’s the same with gingerbread cake and biscuits, once it’s January then I want citrusy smells in the kitchen rather than the spiced warm aroma of sticky gingerbread.  (Unless it’s snowy then in that case a big tray of sticky ginger scented cake seems perfectly acceptable).

I thought I’d experiment a bit this year, normally I use a recipe adapted from an Elizabeth David one, but thought to try and make some using our sourdough starter.

As I’m really only making them for the beloved one, I’m just making a small amount but I’m sure you could easily tinker with this recipe to make a larger batch…….if reading through you think, what a complete and utter palaver and hoo-hah…..let me assure you that these really are very easy to make, mostly they are made up in stages, so you can potter about in the kitchen then leave the dough to do whatever then come back and potter a bit more….

Saffron and Sourdough Ostara buns


For the buns

170 ml milk

100 g sourdough starter

40 g soft brown sugar

380 g bread flour

1/2 level teaspoon of dry yeast (barely even that to be honest)

1 egg (I used a large one)

45 g melted butter

50 g currents

25 g mixed peel

1 1/2 teaspoons of spice mix (I used a blend of ginger, star anise, mace and a pinch of freshly ground cumin)

For the egg wash

a little left of the egg from the bread mix

a dribble or so of milk

For the flour paint

a couple heaped tablespoons of plain flour

a teaspoon of castor sugar

couple of tablespoons of water

For the sugar glaze

a tablespoon of castor sugar

a tablespoon of just boiled water

sourdough buns after a night in the fridge

(sourdough buns after a night in the fridge…)


Weigh out the sourdough starter, cover with a clean tea towel, set it to one side and allow it to come to room temperature.

Using just a few strands of saffron, scatter them into some milk and gently warm it so that the saffron infuses the milk with both it’s colour and scent.  Allow to stand for half an hour or so.

In a large bowl, mix 100g of the bread flour with the starter.

Warm the milk through a little, and then pour into the starter and flour mix.  Sprinkle the dry yeast over the wet ingredients and then stir in the brown sugar.  Cover and leave to one side for about an hour.

Break and beat one egg, (save about a teaspoon or so of it and keep to one side for the egg wash) stir into the sponge, add the currents and fruit peel, melted butter, spice mix, salt and about 2/3rds of the remaining flour and then stir together before turning on to lightly floured work surface and kneed together, adding more flour as the dough requires it.

Once the dough is ready, place it into a large bowl that has been lightly oiled and then cover with a clean tea towel.

Allow to prove for at least 3 hours and then gently knock the risen dough back down.

Cut the dough into half and then half again, before dividing the dough into smaller walnut or clementine sized pieces.  (I found this was enough to make 16 small sized balls)

Roll out into small balls and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with baking parchment.

With the blunt edge of a plastic spatular, press across the centre of each ball of dough and then across ways, pressing down pretty firmly to make a “cross” pattern in the middle of the bun.  (you might find the spatula sticks a bit, so dabbing it in flour every few buns helps to stop this)…At this point the buns are about the size of flattened walnuts and somewhat doll sized….don’t worry, just let them do their thing.

Place in the fridge and leave overnight.

allow the buns to rise at room temp for about an hour and a half

(allow the sourdough buns to rise at room temp for about an hour and a half)

First thing in the morning, remove buns out of the fridge.  I know, they don’t look very impressive but they just need to wake up…. allow them to rise for about an hour and a half.

After about an hour and ten minutes turn on your oven to around gas 6 and let it heat up for about 20 minutes or so.

Beat the little bit of egg and a splash of milk to make the egg wash, coat the buns .

paint the buns with flour and sugar water crosses

(dribble over the flour and sugar water to highlight the cross pattern in the centre of the buns…)

Mix together the flour and caster sugar, add enough warm water to form a paste, try not to make it too runny.  Drizzle the paste over the buns so that you are high-lighting the cross quarters on top.  (you don’t have to do this, Elizabeth David calls it unnecessary fiddling, and I didn’t make up quite enough to mark all mine, so figure if Elizabeth David says not to worry then I’m not going to lose any sleep over 5 unmarked buns…I would suggest still giving the buns an egg wash and then basting with the sugar syrup when they come out of the oven though)

Place the tray in the oven and bake for between 17 and 20 minutes.

A few minutes before the buns are due to come out of the oven, mix the tablespoon of caster sugar with a little boiled water and stir well so that the sugar completely dissolves.

As soon as the buns come out of the oven, cover them with the sugar glaze.

Tear the buns open and spread with salty butter.

We’ve just had these for breakfast, they smelt amazing when I took them out of the oven, and the boyfriend said they were so light and delicious that I had to taste a little bit of one for myself (a complete lack of self control found me then eating one all to myself so expect I’ll have an achy tummy later…but it was worth it.)  They really are light, but not in that filled with airy insipidness that the supermarket ones seems to have. Not too sweet, just nice and spicy.

This ended up making 16 small sized buns.