Hands-Free Hot Cross Buns
These sourdough hot cross buns couldn't get any easier, this recipe is hands-off and with no folding or laminating it’s great for freeing up your schedule
So if you’re looking for the perfect Easter treat that is both easy to make and delicious, look no further!
You’re about to learn how to make the tastiest sourdough hot cross buns with perfectly balanced flavours of sweet, sour, and savoury.
Get ready to enjoy the aroma of malted barley, honey, and mixed spice while these little plump fruits burst with flavour.
The perfect start to the Easter weekend!
The vitals & baker’s percentages
This recipe makes 900g of enriched dough making 9 individual hot cross buns. The buns retain their moisture, and after glazing with honey syrup and cooling the buns weighed just under 100g each.
The dough relies purely on sourdough culture to levain the buns, no commercial yeast is used. These are completely sourdough-powered!
The dough is enriched with 20% butter and 12% sugar making a beautiful soft rich buns. The milk contributes to a super soft crumb.
At 80% hydration, the dough feels wet when you initially mix it. But after fermenting overnight the dough stiffens up perfectly making it straightforward to shape into buns. Make sure you use strong white bread flour for this recipe.
The baking timeline
You can expect the enriched dough to take up to twice as long to ferment than a standard straight sourdough. This makes the recipe perfect for leaving overnight and makes for a wonderful hands-off recipe.
08:00 Mix the levain
20:00 Mix the dough (leave it alone to ferment overnight)
08:00 Shape the dough into buns
11:00 Glaze with egg, pipe cross and bake
11:15 Glaze with honey syrup and cool
Total time: 27h 15m
Hands-on time: 45m-1hr
I’ve chosen to use a combination of honey, malted barley and sugar in this recipe. The honey brings some complexity to the sweet element and the malted barley pairs perfectly with the mixed spice.
Don't worry if you don’t want to buy additional ingredients. You can use just honey or sugar. Just make sure that the total of the combination you use totals 42g.
If you want to skip the butter and the cow's milk you can substitute with plant-based milk, and coconut oil and skip the egg wash. Just remember that the flavour profile will be slightly different.
The combination of dried cranberries, currant and raisins works really well together but you can use any combination you’d like. I’ve used dried cherries and plumbs with great success. Remember that these rolls are quite small so if your dried fruit is a little large, cut them with a knife.
The Equipment You’ll Need
A good set of digital scales is essential for weighing the ingredients accurately.
A bowl scraper and bench scraper aren’t essential but they are great for moving the dough around and cleaning up properly cutting down on wastage.
If you are baking in a cooler or warmer climate it may be advisable to monitor the temperature of the dough and the room with a Thermapen.
I love my large 42x31cm (16”x12”) Masterclass baking tray and it’s perfect for these hot cross buns.
I use a baking stone but you could use a baking steel if you have one. If you don’t have either I’ll leave some alternative baking instructions in the recipe.
Adjusting for Temperature
The higher your kitchen temperature the faster the fermentation process will happen for both the levain and the sourdough.
The dough will also be warmer which will make the dough feel softer, and in hot conditions, it may be stickier and possibly more difficult to handle.
To combat problems that may occur in warmer temperatures you can reduce the hydration a little to stiffen the dough.
You can mix your dough to a lower temperature, and use a cool box or cool bag with an ice brick to regulate the temperature during fermentation and slow the process down.
Decreasing the amount of sourdough starter you use to inoculate the levain, and the amount of levain you use to inoculate your dough will slow the process down.
The opposite may occur, your dough may feel stiffer and the fermentation process will take longer. I think this is easier to adjust for than a warmer scenario.
In really low temperatures the process can grind along at a snail's pace or stall. In these circumstances, you can mix your dough to a warmer temperature, and keep your dough somewhere warmer to ferment.
If your dough feels stiffer you may want to increase the hydration touch.
Increasing the amount of sourdough starter you use to inoculate the levain, and the amount of levain you use to inoculate your dough will speed the process up.
In either case, in a warm or cool kitchen, bake the recipe as detailed the first time, keep my suggestions in mind and make alterations on the second bake.
Don’t forget that there are several factors to consider when adjusting hydration. Using a sourdough calculator is the easiest and most accurate way to do it.
You are welcome to use my recipe calculator (it’s completely free).
Mixed spice recipe
This little spice mix packs a real punch and is a store cupboard staple when it comes to Easter and Christmas recipes.
Try to resist making a large quantity. This is best made fresh every 6-12 months. I use a coffee grinder but you can use a mortar and pestle (it just takes a little more muscle power!)
2 tsp allspice (whole)
2 tsp coriander seeds (whole)
1 tsp nutmeg (grated)
1 tsp cloves (whole)
1 tsp ginger (powder)
4 pieces of mace
Half a little finger of cinnamon stick (not your finger!)
Blitz in a spice grinder or pound and grind in a mortar and pestle. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
The recipe for the crosses
To create the crosses on the hot cross buns you’ll need to mix flour and water to create a piping consistency. I’ve tested using soft and strong flour and found that the crosses held up better using high-protein bread flour.
40g Strong white bread flour
Mix enough water with the flour to create a mixture that is the correct consistency to pipe. You can see this in the video.
You can use a piping bag to apply the crosses but I found a squeezy bottle worked really well for this job!
Hot Cross Bun Recipe
Mixing the levain
To schedule this recipe I use 10% of sourdough starter to inoculate the levain when I mix it. At 25C/77F it takes about 12 hours to ferment.
If you want to speed up or slow down the process you can increase or decrease the amount of sourdough starter you use.
I mix my levain at 8:00 in the morning so that it is ready to use at 20:00 in the evening. The recipe makes a little more levain than is needed which accounts for the weight lost during fermentation and any residue left inside the jar.
40g Strong white bread flour
40g Water (room temperature)
4g Sourdough starter
Mix all of the ingredients together to a rough paste in a jar. Make sure your jar is large enough to accommodate the mixture expanding by 3-4 times its original volume. Leave at 25C/77F to ferment.
Now is a good time to weigh 69g of unsalted butter and leave it at room temperature so it is ready to use when the dough is mixed in the evening.
Making the hot cross buns
At 20:00 in the evening, it’s time to mix the dough.
310g Strong white bread flour
241g Milk (3.5% fat content)
69g Sourdough levain
69g Unsalted butter (at room temperature)
14g White granulated sugar
14g Barley malt syrup
3g Vanilla essence
3g Mixed spice
52g Dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt for glazing
1 tbsp of honey mixed with a touch of boiling water for glazing
Mixing the dough
Weigh 100g of milk into a small saucepan and 141g of milk into the bowl you will use to mix the dough.
Weigh the following ingredients into the pan with the milk; 7g salt, 14g white granulated sugar, 14g honey, 14g barley malt syrup, 3g vanilla essence.
Heat the mixture gently on the stove until the ingredients have dissolved into the milk. Now tip the milk mixture from the pan into the mixing bowl with the reserved cold milk.
Baker’s tip: Dividing the milk into two and only heating half of it enables us to cool the warm milk mixture quickly by adding back to the cold milk.
Weigh 310g of strong white bread flour and 3g of mixed spice into a separate bowl and make sure it’s thoroughly mixed.
Add half this flour mixture into the bowl with the milk and mix to a porridgy consistency. Now add 69g of sourdough levain and mix well.
Bakers tip: Mixing half of the flour with the milk mixture before adding the levain matches the consistency of the two mixtures making it easy to mix thoroughly.
Now add the remainder of the flour to the dough and use a spoon to combine thoroughly. Add the softened 69g of unsalted butter and work into the dough. Using a large wooden spoon or a dough whisk will make this easier.
Remember, this is designed to be sticky so try not to use your hands to mix unless you need to.
Once the butter has been incorporated into the dough you can add 52g of currants, 52g of raisins and 52g of dried cranberries.
Make sure the dough is well mixed and the fruits are evenly distributed throughout the dough. Use a bowl scraper and clean down the sides of the bowl while forming the dough into a rough ball. Cover the dough and leave it out to ferment at 25C/77F
Shaping the buns
The next morning at 8:00 the dough should be properly fermented having risen between 75-100%. Lightly dust the top of the dough and turn it out onto your work surface.
The dried fruit will have absorbed the excess moisture and while still tacky, the dough should be easier to handle.
Divide the dough balls into 9 even pieces of dough. Dust each piece lightly with flour and shape it into a ball. Now you can place them onto a nonstick baking tray leaving a small gap between them.
Cover the dough balls and leave them at room temperature to proof for 3 hours.
Baking the hot cross buns
After 3 hours the dough balls will have expanded and will be touching each other. Use a brush to glaze the buns with an egg that’s been beaten with a pinch of salt.
Now pipe the crosses onto the buns using the water and flour mix from above. Watch the video to see how to do this easily.
The oven and baking stone should be preheated to 170C/340F using conventional bake mode heat from the top and bottom but NO fan)
Slide the baking tray with the buns onto the baking stone and immediately turn the oven up to 230C/445F. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
Baker’s tip: if you don’t have a baking stone you can bake these directly on the oven shelf. If you do this, make sure your oven has been pre-heated to 220C/430F before placing the buns in the oven. Do not turn the heat up, continue to bake at this temperature until the buns are golden brown.
Remove the buns from the oven and place them onto a wire rack to cool. Add a tablespoon of honey to a small jar or bowl and add a splash of boiling water to dilute it. Use a brush and glaze the buns with the honey syrup.
Leave to cool.