9 April, 2020
Many of you will know I have shared a sourdough hot cross bun recipe here before (in March 2016) that includes roasted pumpkin for a lovely soft crumb. After several requests recently on how to make these without pumpkin (because going to the store for one ingredient is really not recommended), I spent the good part of last weekend in the kitchen testing and perfecting this recipe.
I wanted a recipe that can be made with different types of white flour as I know this is in limited supply. I have tested the recipe with spelt, high grade and standard white flour and it works with them all. The key is baking in a skillet (or cake tin) to hold the shape (rather than rely on gluten) resulting in a pull-apart style hot cross bun bread.
I didn’t get a chance to test these with gluten-free flour (there is only so many hot cross buns we can eat and fit in the freezer, plus due to lack of ingredients) but going from the comments on the pumpkin hot cross buns this could be an option. Although I haven’t made these myself I know from experience with gluten-free baking that a little extra liquid (milk) may be required.
This is another slow-rise bread in a similar style to the Homemade No-Knead Bread I shared a few weeks ago. I enjoy working with bread dough in this way, as it is not rushed, with the different stages short in duration. A slow rise means less kneading is required which, in my opinion, is a good thing. I am quite a lazy baker when it comes to drawn-out steps like kneading, so I’m always looking for ways to minimise my hands-on time.
The timing also means if you make the dough at Saturday dinner-time, you will have warm Easter buns for Sunday brunch. However, these can also be made over a whole day by starting in the morning, rising the dough on the bench for 7-8 hours until doubled (skipping the cold fridge rise), shaped while making dinner, leave to rise again then bake in the evening. Simply warm the bread in the oven in the morning for an earlier breakfast.
Sourdough Pro Tip
When making a heavier dough like this it is essential that the starter is VERY bubbly before use – at least double in size after a feed within 4-6 hours. Plus you want the (lactic) acid load of the starter to be very low – if your starter smells sour then you won’t get a good rise in a sweet heavy dough like this. Much to popular belief a healthy starter won’t smell very sour, more sweet and yeasty. This recipe is different from when making bread dough where there is more leeway due to higher moisture/water which will naturally speed up the yeast activity.
Timing with sourdough is always suggestive and if it is a cool day then the rise time may be longer (for both the pre-rise and bun rise). Go with the look of the dough over timing (take a photo when they are first rolled to compare). And when the risen buns are gently prodded they should slowly bounce back. The most important thing is to make sure the starter is super active AND not too sour when making this type of naturally leavened dough. Plus keeping the starter and dough in a warm position while rising will make a big difference.
Sourdough Hot Cross Bun Pull-Apart Bread
- 300 ml (1 cup + 4 tbsp) milk - (any milk can be used - I used oat milk)
- 30 g butter
- zest of 1 lemon, thinly peeled and finely chopped
- 75 g raisins
- 50 g currants
- 425 g (3 cups minus 2 tbsp) white flour - standard, high-grade or spelt can all be used
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 150 g (3/4 cup) bubbly sourdough starter (fed 6 hours prior)
- 2½ tbsp water
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp apricot jam or other light coloured jam
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- Around 6pm the evening before baking the bread, make the dough.
- Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest, raisins and currants. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes and plump up the dried fruit.
- Combine the flour, sugar, spices and salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour over the warm milk mixture and bubbly sourdough starter. Use a tablespoon to mix together into a shaggy dough. Cover with a plate and leave to hydrate for 30 minutes.
- After this time, use your hands to knead the dough directly in the bowl for 2 minutes until smooth, then form into a ball and cover with a plate. Leave to rise in a WARM place for 3-4 hours until it rises by about 30%, then put the bowl into the fridge overnight.
- The next morning, around 7-8am, remove the dough from the fridge, tip onto the bench and knead lightly for 20 seconds (if the dough is difficult to handle while cold leave for 30 minutes on the bench to soften). Use a dough scraper or butter knife to divide into four even pieces, then cut each piece into four again. You will now have 16 pieces in total. Roll each into a ball by cupping your hand over the dough and moving in a circular motion.
- Grease a 24cm-wide round ovenproof dish (I used a cast iron pan), or a similar sized cake tin. Snugly arrange the dough balls into the dish starting with one in the middle, five placed around this and then ten around the outside. See the photo above for placement as this will be important when it comes to piping on the crosses. Cover the pan/tin with a plastic bag so the dough doesn't dry out and leave to rise in a WARM place for about 2-3 hours until risen by about 30% (see pro tip above).
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (fan 200°C).
- Prepare the cross paste by combining the flour and water in a bowl and then spoon this into a small ziplock bag. Use scissors to snip off a corner about 3mm wide. Squeeze the flour mix onto the risen dough to make crosses (see the image above for the pattern). Place in the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden.
- Remove the bread from the oven. Make the glaze by combining the apricot jam and boiling water together in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to evenly brush over the hot bread. Cool a little in the pan/tin, then move the bread to a cooling rack. Serve warm with butter and jam.