Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

To me, the smell of hot cross buns signifies the arrival of Spring, and all of its blissful wonders.

Daffodils, tulips, lukewarm sunshine, hotter sunshine, lambs, chicks, seedlings, promise… and hot cross buns!

I wanted to create a sourdough version of the standard hot cross bun, because the shops are currently out of yeast, but also because, there’s such an enjoyable education that comes with sourdough. It’s a relationship.

It needs nurture, and you have to build up your trust… you learn its needs. You learn how it thrives. You need to understand how it functions. Once there it’s a whole world of fun.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Equipment Needed

  • Mixing Bowl (I use my trusty casserole pan, as the lid makes it a perfect proving vessel!)
  • Cover for your mixing bowl.
  • Dough Scraper (optional, but HELPFUL)
  • Baking Tray
  • Piping Bag OR Sandwich Bag with corner cut off.


Dough Ingredients
  • 1 Cup Active Sourdough Starter
  • 2 – 3 Cups Warm Milk (I used Oat)
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 5 Cups Strong White Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Diastatic Malt (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Rock Salt
  • 4 Tbsp Caster Sugar


  • 4 Tbsp Plain Flour for Cross Icing

Flavour Variations

Standard Hot Cross Bun

  • 1.5 Cups Sultanas
  • 1/2 Cup Candied Peel
  • Zest of 2 Oranges
  • 1.5 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • 0.5 Tbsp Nutmeg
  • Apricot Jam (for glazing)

Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns

  • 1.5 Cups Sultanas
  • Zest of 2 Oranges
  • 1.5 Cups of Dark Chocolate (Chips or Cut into Chunks)
  • 1.5 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • Marmalade (for glazing)

Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

  • 1.5 Cups Sultanas
  • 2 Small Apples (peeled, cored and cut into very small chunks.)
  • 2.5 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • Apricot Jam (for Glazing)

Lemon & Marzipan Hot Cross Buns

  • 1.5 Cups Sultanas
  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1.5 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • 0.5 Tbsp Nutmeg
  • 1 Cup of Golden Marzipan (cut into chunks)
  • Lemon Curd (for glazing)


At around 3pm…

– Mix together the starter, butter, sugar, flour, salt and Diastatic malt powder (if using), and then gradually add the warm milk until you have a wet, but not too sticky, dough.

– Use your hands to ‘whisk’ it together. It should eventually look like a shaggy dough.

Once mixed, the dough will look shaggy (bottom pan).

– Cover, and leave for an hour.

Around an hour later…

– Perform the first stretch and fold on your dough. Pull up from the edge, stretch upwards, and then fold the dough back into the centre.

A stretch & fold (snippet from a different video!)

– Replace your cover, and leave for another hour.

After another hour…

– Repeat the stretch & fold process again, and re-cover.

Repeat the stretch and fold process every hour until you’ve done 4 stretch and folds.

Around 8pm…

– Choose which flavour you’re going to follow. (You can opt to cut your dough in half and make 2 different flavours at this point, just make sure to half the flavour ingredients!) DON’T ADD THE GLAZE JAMS/CURDS AT THIS POINT.

– Split your flavour ingredients into 4 (this doesn’t need to be a perfect science at all, it’s just to help with distribution!).

– Flatten your dough slightly, and lay 1 of the 4 piles of flavour ingredients on top of it.

Lay the ingredients on top of your dough, then fold them in!

– Perform a stretch and fold, so you’re covering the flavour additions.

– Add another of the piles of flavour, then stretch and fold over the top of them.

– Repeat until all of the flavour ingredients have been added.

– Continue to knead your dough, until there appears to be a relatively even distribution of everything. The hardest thing to distribute evenly at this point are the spices. Just do your best.

– Shape your dough into a rough ball shape, then cut in half.

– Working with one half, cut it into 4, and then each of those into 4 (you should end up with 16 pieces of dough.)

Note: If you like BIG hot cross buns, only split into 12. I did this the first time, but ended up with a traybake instead of individual buns haha!

– Line a baking tray with baking paper.

– Fold each of your 16 pieces of dough up from the edges and pinch, until you form small, relatively uniform balls. Then space these out onto your baking tray.

(It will depend on the size of your trays, but I fit around 12 on a baking tray, so as the recipe makes 32 I’d suggest EITHER 3 trays or do as I do… Make 16 Hot Cross Buns and then a separate fruit loaf with the other half of dough. If you opt for a loaf, line your loaf pan with baking paper. If making a fruit loaf, I’ll pop extra instructions at the bottom.)

Half Hot Cross Buns & Half Hot Cross Fruit Loaf

– Repeat steps with second half of your dough OR do the fruit loaf edit at the end of the recipe.

– Once you’ve formed them all and spaced them out well, cover very loosely with a tea towel/muslin and pop them in the fridge overnight.

The next morning…

– Pre-Heat your oven to Gas Mark 4 (180°c).

– Take your buns/loaf out of the fridge, and mix up the 4 heaped TBSP of plain flour with cold water until it forms a THICK paste. It needs to be thick enough to pipe out. Think cake batter.

– Add flour paste to piping bag/sandwich bag with corner cut off, and pipe crosses on your buns/loaf.

– At this point you can glaze your buns/loaf with either a little milk or egg, but be careful to glaze around the piping. If you do the glaze first, the piping likes to slide off haha!

– Bake for 40mins – 60mins. (Once you get to 30 minutes, check on your buns and turn them around). Make sure to keep checking on them, as they can go from barely brown to burning very quickly because of the sugar content.

– Just before they come out, take your jam/marmalade/curd and the warm them for a short time in the microwave to make them easier to use as glaze.

– Take your hot cross buns out of the oven, and then glaze them with your chosen flavour! (We love lemon curd glazed ones most of all!) I use a pastry brush, but you can use a spoon too.


Hot Cross Loaf Edit

If you opted to make half of your dough into a loaf, follow the instructions below to shape…

– Once all of your flavour ingredients are evenly distributed, and you’ve split your dough into 2, take the second half and flatten it out into a long rectangle. (note: it won’t completely flatten, but you’re just trying to flatten and pull as much as you can in order to get space for a middle swirl.)

– Once in a long, rectangle shape, you may want to add some extra pizazz to your loaf. Here are some ideas…

  • Lemon & Marzipan Loaf – Thick Lemon Curd Layer.
  • Apple & Cinnamon Loaf – Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Layer:
  • Chocolate Orange Loaf – Chocolate Spread Layer

– Whatever you choose (or leave empty!) you want to start to roll up the rectangle from the short end. Try and keep it as tight as possible. Roll until you have a completely rolled up loaf.

– Pinch the ends of the loaf together, and then tuck them under the bottom of the loaf. This should give you a cute, little, Loaf shape.

– Pop this into your lined, loaf tin, and then cover loosely with a tea towel or muslin cloth and then put in the fridge overnight.

Loaf Bake Instructions

– Put in the oven with your hot cross buns at Gas Mark 4 (180°c).

– Bake with the buns for 40-60mins, and once you’ve removed the buns, turn up the temperature to Gas Mark 5 (190°c) and bake for another 15-20 mins. Make sure to keep an eye on this too!

– Glaze exactly the same way as the buns!

I hope these instructions are helpful! I know there’s a lot of steps from the adding of the flavours, but they’re well worth the work.

The fruit loaf works amazingly sliced and toasted. Just make sure you wait for it to cool down before you slice into it.

My personal favourite of the flavours/shapes I did so far is the apple and cinnamon made into a fruit loaf, with a brown sugar and cinnamon swirl. I ate almost the entire loaf to myself, toasted and slathered in butter.

I mention a few times through that the bake times are varied, but this is due to the difference in ingredients and reactions to the heat, but also your ovens will be completely different to mine!

L xxx