Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a delicious paschal tradition. When we were living in seminary, they were provided on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to break the severe fast. Although my fasts this year are not very food-related because of breastfeeding, I wanted to bring this tradition to our parish. On a whim, I soaked the fruits (I used raisins and cranberries) and spices overnight in brandy, and it did wonders for the flavor and moistness of the buns. I adapted a gluten-free muffin recipe for some of the buns, and for the others, I tweaked one of my sourdough recipes. Sourdough is highly beneficial to the gut, and I greatly prefer it to commercial yeast, although I do have some of that on hand that I use in a pinch. If you do not have sourdough starter, you can purchase it through a co-op, a health food store, or online, or if you have the patience to wait a week, you can make your own. Check out Sourdough Home for great tips and recipes.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

3/4 to 1 cup sourdough starter

4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled, or oil 

1 egg

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried blueberries are a good place to start)

1 teaspoon orange zest

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4-1/3 cup brandy

The night before, mix fruit, zest, spices, and brandy thoroughly in a glass bowl, and lid tightly to protect from snitching fingers.

{Update: in 2017, I started them a few days before, adding small amounts of brandy and stirring well each day}

In the morning, whisk fruit mixture together with sourdough, water, milk, butter or oil, salt, sugar, egg, and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the remaining flour. You may need to use your hands to incorporate the last bit. Your dough should be soft, but not sticky. Cover and let rest for 3-4 hours.

Dust dough with flour and divide into 16 portions. Shape each portion into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet or glass pan. Use a sharp knife to create a cross in the top of each bun. Cover and let rest 1-2 hours.

{Yes, I know, these are divided into sixths. I tripled the recipe in 2017 and had the dough rising in two bowls. It was easier to divide each bowl into 24 rather than 27. Forgive me? Also, as huge as the batch was…they lasted less than 24 hours. Cue the great sadness of my people.}

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. While still warm, ice with orange glaze along the cross cuts.

Orange Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 Tablespoons orange juice or milk

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Dash nutmeg

Mix all ingredients well. Add milk or orange juice as needed to obtain the proper consistency; you don’t want it too thin, as it will melt and thin quite a bit when put on the warm buns.

These very hot cross buns were hustled out to the car and away. Not a one of them returned. (There were some from the other pan that made it back, but even they did not last long). 


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