The Year of Bread Part Twelve: Cranberry Chai Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

An extra post for Easter! Had intended to have it up earlier today, Holy Saturday, but what can you do? Time gets away from us all sometimes… These hot cross buns take a reasonable amount of forethought, being sourdough, but I’m willing to bet you can convert them to commercial yeast pretty easily, you’d just miss out on the chewiness and extra flavourย that the sourdough brings to them.

I had real trouble on deciding what to call these hot cross buns. They are flavoured with spiced chai, citrus zest and cranberries. They are sourdough risen, they have brown sugar in them, and a honey glaze gives them their lovely shine. There are so many flavours that I’m not sure which ones to highlight. Cranberry Chai is all very well, but what about the citrus? Citrus Cranberry Chai Sourdough Hot Cross Buns seems too much of a mouthful. I do like the abbreviation HXB, but it’s a bit vague and futuristic. CCC HXB? No.

I stuck with the Cranberry Chai option, in the hope that it would sound interesting enough to draw people in, whereupon they could marvel at the full luxurious list of flavours in these little beauties. I started off with this sourdough hot cross bun recipe from Spice and More. I followed the method closely when it came to rising and folding the dough, but I made my own way with the flavours.

One of the key things I changed was to use orange, lemon and lime zest in the recipe – triple citrus! The smell was delicious in my kitchen, and I loved the colours, especially when they were mixed through the dough next to the big red cranberries and the speckles of tea and spices.

Here’s my recipe to make 18 buns:

  • 250g sourdough starter
  • 400g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal bread flour
  • 100g dried cranberries or Craisins
  • 50g brown sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lime
  • the contents of 1 spiced chai teabag
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml warm water
  • 100ml soy milk
  • 1 tbsp honey

Interlude: here’s a recent photo of Louie. He’s going strong! He’s been living on the worktop and getting fed at least every other day. I went back to warm water because it made him bubblier and happier. He eats plain, rye and wholemeal flour with no issues. It does add up though, so I’ve put him back in the fridge to live for a while.

For the crosses:

  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • juice of 1/2 orange

To glaze:

  • 1 tbsp honey

It’s quite a long ingredient list, but it’s worth it – besides, how often do you make HXBs? You may as well make them extra special. I did consider calling them Extra Special Hot Cross Buns but it wasn’t enough of a hook… I mean, *everyone* thinks their baking is extra special, right? Also that sounds a bit like I might have put drugs in them, which I haven’t.


  • Put the sourdough starter and all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put the remaining wet ingredients in a jug and whisk together.

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and mix everything with a spatula to make a sticky dough.
  • Put the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead at a medium speed for 10 minutes. You can also knead by hand for fifteen to twenty minutes, making sure to keep your hands slightly wet to stop the dough from sticking. 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.
  • Open the box and fold the dough. This is easier to do than to describe but I’ll do my best. The dough will have settled and expanded into a rectangle to fit the box. Sit the box with the long edge facing you, then lift the right hand edge of the dough up and over, until the edge is resting in the middle of the dough. Do the same with the left edge. The centre third of the dough will not have moved, you are just piling the rest up.
  • Cover again and rest for a further 9o minutes.
  • Fold the dough again, as above, then cover.

Dough ready for its overnight fridge adventure

  • Place the tupperware in the fridge overnight. This is what it should look like in the morning:
  • In the morning, pull off chunks of the dough and shape into balls, as equally sized as you can make them. Slightly flatten them out and place them on a baking sheet which has been lined with oiled greaseproof paper. Leave space between them to allow for rising.

Before rising

  • Put the baking sheets in a warm place to rise for *another* 90 minutes. This is a slow, gentle process.

After rising

  • In the last ten minutes of rising time, pre-heat your oven to 200C 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 on the buns.
  • Bake the HXBs for 15 minutes, 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. Your buns will magically transform into something beautifully shiny! Er… the hot cross buns, that is…

I’ve actually reserved half of the dough to try and make tiny HXBs on Monday to take into work on Tuesday, so we’ll see if the dough will survive in the fridge OK until then. I hope so, because these are a pretty special something, borne of much thought and time, and many ingredients. I’d hate to waste any of them, but it’ll be good to experiment and see if the baking can be delayed – it’s always a bonus to be able to prepare ahead of time.

Happy Easter, if you’re celebrating, and just a plain old Happy Sunday if you’re not.


About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

20 responses to “The Year of Bread Part Twelve: Cranberry Chai Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

  • Misky

    Those are beautiful! I made some also – from Dan Lepard’s recipe in the Guardian, and they were so delicious. Probably easier to make because they’re straight yeast dough. Happy Easter!

    • Rock Salt

      Thanks! They were time consuming but I’m so, so pleased with the end result. Especially the colours, those cranberries are really pretty. I am given to understand that Dan Leperd is very much the Man when it comes to bread, glad the recipe didn’t disappoint ๐Ÿ™‚

  • thekalechronicles

    These look so much more appealing to me than ordinary hot cross buns! I like the honey glaze, the cranberries, the chai. I have never tried the “folding” technique with sourdough, but your explanation seems clear to me — might have to get out the old starter soon.

    • Rock Salt

      Thank you! I was taking my cue from the recipe I linked to in terms of rising and folding, I suppose it helps with height and they certainly did rise beautifully even after a night in the fridge.

  • For Bella and Will

    Oh, these look lovely. Just found your blog by wandering lost on Twitter in the search for other Herman hosts ๐Ÿ™‚ Time for my bed but looking forward to re-visiting your blog for more yummy recipes x

    • Rock Salt

      Well I’m glad you got here! Herman is still growing in my kitchen but I’ll be baking him in a few days, one of the recipes I got with him was for ginger cake, I like the sound of that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ChgoJohn

    These sound pretty special and I’ll be anxious to see how they dough holds up in the fridge. 18 buns, no matter how good, are too many for me. If I can hold onto the dough for few days, these suddenly become far more accessible. Good luck & happy Easter!

    • Rock Salt

      I’m looking forward to trying them tomorrow, though a little apprehensive, too… 18 is too many for me on my own, but I work in a department of about 25 people so I usually bake in big batches! Will post an update afterwards.

  • Bam's Kitchen

    I like the addition of cranberries and Chai flavorings adds a little zip the traditional hot cross buns. Happy Easter, BAM

  • bitsandbreadcrumbs

    I love all these flavors in your hot cross buns and they look so delectable. I’ve never made these and all the recipes I see this year involve piping the flour cross on the top…I’ve always seen them with a sugar icing cross on top…guess they’re done differently in different parts of the world. Yours may win the best sounding prize though! Happy Easter!

    • Rock Salt

      Thanks! I think the flour cross is more traditional in Britain, and if you don’t want the buns to be too sweet then it’s a good way to go. Also I am delighted to accept the Best Sounding prize, and will prepare my speech forthwith ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Kristy

    Oh these look fantastic! And look at your sourdough starter! I’m afraid mine has seen better days. I can just imagine how wonderful these taste – and so creative too!

  • Just A Smidgen

    I love your version of Hot Cross Buns.. I think they are perfectly named.. I’ll be trying these next Easter!! xoxo

    • Rock Salt

      Ah, I’m sure by next Easter your ‘things to try’ list will be so long that you’ll have a hard time choosing among it! I really must get into the way of posting recipe ideas ahead of time…

  • steph (whisk/spoon)

    what a good take on HXB! i love the sound of that combo.

  • The Modern Home Economist

    These look fantastic. I wish I had some on Easter morning… Bet they were a hit!

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