Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Sourdough Surprises - Hot Cross Buns

This month's Sourdough Surprises was something new for me. This month we were challenged to make hot cross buns. And when I say it was new to me, I don't just mean the sourdough variety - I'd never had a hot cross bun before - of any variety!

Now... I'm not overly familiar with the tradition or history regarding hot cross buns, but I know they're usually enriched, usually spiced in some way shape or form, usually have some kind of dried fruit in them, and are generally marked with a cross on the top.  Other than that, I had to just trust the recipes I was finding online.

They all looked and sounded interesting, but the one that spoke to me was this one, for chai spiced hot cross buns. The recipe looked flavorful and easy enough to follow, so I went for it!

It all starts with the starter... and quite a bit of it!

The starter is mixed with all of the dry ingredients. The recipe called for the chai flavoring to come in the form of the conttents of a chai tea bag. Me? I just added a bit of my chai masala.

Then the wet ingredients are combined in a separate bowl (or, you know... right in the measuring cup... always one to save a dish from  having to be washed...).

(and I love how you can see the egg yolk peeking through the other wet ingredients there... Yes... I whisked it all up right after that photo was taken, but I still thought it looked cool.)

The wet and dry ingredients are then kneaded together until it forms a beautiful, soft, sticky dough.

The dough then rises for a few hours, being gently folded a few times during the process, then gets popped into the fridge overnight to continue growing until it's...


The dough is still pretty sticky, though when it's cold from the fridge, it's a little easier to work with. Which is good, because the next step is to roll it out into bun-sized... um... buns.

While the buns rested for their final rise, it was time for the final step - the batter for the "crosses" on top. Now, I know that some recipes just put the crosses on top with some kind of icing after their baked, but I really did like the recipes that baked the crosses in.  And the batter is super quick and easy to whisk together.

And the fun part of making these yourself... is that you get to make any shape on them you want! As you can see, I took a few liberties...

Now, when I peeked into the oven about halfway through the baking time (a no-no, I know...), I was worried. The buns and the designs on top were exactly the same color. So I was worried I'd have to resort to the icing method after all.

But when they were fully baked...

...there they were! My designs!

All that was left was to baste them in honey...

...and eat!

I was so pleasantly surprised by how flavorful, light and fluffy these were, and they were delicious, to boot. The sourdough flavor, despite all that starter and all of that resting time, wasn't too strong, but that was totally okay with us. The kids loved them (probably because of the sticky honey goodness on the outside) and me? I had to share them with the neighbors to stop from eating them all.

And now I can't wait to see what everyone else made!  So link up!

Chai Spiced Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
(only slightly adapted from Rock Salt)

For the buns:
250g sourdough starter
400g plain flour
100g wholemeal bread flour
100g dried cranberries or Craisins
50g brown sugar
the contents of 1 spiced chai teabag (I used 1/2 teaspoon chai masala)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 egg
100ml warm water
100ml soy milk (I used coconut milk beverage)
1 tbsp honey

For the crosses:
75g plain flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
juice of 1/2 orange (I used a splash of coconut milk - just enough to make it the right consistency...)
(I also added a dash of chai masala to mirror the flavor in the buns)

To glaze:
1 tbsp honey

Combine the sourdough starter and all the dry ingredients in a bowl. I used the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer. Combine the remaining wet ingredients in a jug (I used my two cup liquid measure) and whisk together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix everything with a spatula to make a sticky dough.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead at a medium speed for 10 minutes. If you are so inclined, you can knead by hand for fifteen to twenty minutes, making sure to keep your hands slightly wet to stop the dough from sticking. Either way, you will end up with a wet, slightly sticky but smooth and shiny dough.
Oil a large tupperware box, and place the dough in the centre, turning it over once to coat it with oil, then cover and sit in a warm place for 90 minutes.
I took the lazy way and just sprayed the mixer bowl (lifting the dough as best I could) with cooking spray and covered it with plastic wrap to let it rest right in there. Works either way.
After 90 minutes, open the box (or remove the plastic wrap) and fold the dough, pulling the dough from each side of the bowl up and over the middle of the dough. I promise, it makes sense when you reach in the bowl and do it.
Cover again and rest for another 90 minutes.
Fold the dough again, as above, then cover once more.
At this point, place the bowl in the refrigerator to rest overnight (at least 8 hours).
In the morning, pull off chunks of the dough and shape into balls, as equally sized as you can make them. The recipe says that it makes 18. I made 12, so mine were undoubtedly bigger than they were supposed to be, but it worked out great. Slightly flatten out each ball and place them on a baking sheet which has been lined with parchment paper and sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Leave space between them to allow for rising.
Put the baking sheets in a warm place to rise for yet another 90 minutes.
In the last ten minutes of rising time, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees (F) and prepare the batter for the crosses.
To make the crosses, whisk all the ingredients in a jug to form a sticky, stiff paste. Fit a piping bag with a narrow round nozzle, and scrape the paste into the bag.  Pipe crosses (or whatever shape or design you choose!) on the buns.
Bake the buns for 15 minutes (mine took closer to 25 because I made them larger), then remove and place on a rack to cool. Heat the honey for glazing until it’s very runny – about 20 seconds in the microwave, and brush over the top of each bun before they cool.



  1. Haha I love the free-style designs!

  2. Chai + cranberries + honey glaze - these sound amazing Shelley!

  3. The crumb and texture are great. Love the funky designs.

  4. Awesome job! Love the chai masala! Good choice! :)

  5. So light and tender! And I love the sound of chai and cranberries!

  6. Chai-- brilliance. This really was a sourdough surprise I think for many of us hot-cross bun-virgins! Congratulations on your success!

  7. What an interesting combination. I bet they tasted great.

  8. Ha-ha, the free style you've used is wonderful! I love that tiny bit of crust on the outside and the lovely crumb on the inside.

  9. Thanks for sharing your process. The end results look really tasty.

  10. I love chai! And these look so yummy :)


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