Sourdough Saturday – Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a British Easter tradition, and although I am not British I am from New England. Thus, I have been making hot cross buns every spring for 25 years (ok – maybe a few more years than that, but who’s counting!). This particular recipe is special. All of the other recipes from past years, the ones with vanilla or citron or just a touch of cinnamon, faded into the background like Dorothy’s Kansas while these hot cross buns were the new, exciting, colorful Oz.

I started with this recipe from Joy of Baking and made a few changes. Since this is a sourdough series, I used ripe sourdough starter instead of making a straight dough with yeast. The recipe calls for plenty of warm spices, including nutmeg but I used ground mace instead. Mace is made from the lacy covering of the nutmeg and has a less pronounced, but just as unique, flavor. Instead of purchased candied fruit peel I made my own candied meyer lemon peel using this recipe. Candied orange peel would be good here too. And I used currents instead of raisins. Currents are sweet with just a touch of tartness. They taste like a cross between raisins and lingonberries. Unlike raisins, currents really come into their own once they are cooked. Save the raisins for another recipe – this one lets the currents shine. And to top the rolls off, the icing was made using orange juice instead of milk, for an added boost of flavor.


  • 2 cups of sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 5 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1/3 cup chopped, candied meyer lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup currents


  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice

In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine the sourdough starter, milk, egg, and melted butter until well mixed. Add the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices and knead until dough is combined. Add currents and candied lemon peel. Knead until dough has a satiny sheen; 8-10 minutes by hand, about 5 minutes when using a stand mixer.

Divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let the buns rise in a warm place 2 – 3 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of each bun with an egg wash made from 1 beaten egg and 1 Tbsp water. Snip the top of each bun with kitchen scissors if desired.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until well-browned.

Remove rolls from baking pan and let cool on a rack. When the rolls are completely cool, combine the powdered sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the rolls, forming a cross.

Note: These buns will make the whole kitchen smell wonderful while baking. They are best served the same day as they are baked, but can be also be frozen (before adding the icing) and served at a later date. Keep the dough as soft as possible and don’t over-knead it. Buns, rolls, etc. don’t require as much mixing as a loaf of bread.

Does your family have an Easter or Passover bread tradition? Do you make your own from an old family recipe or visit a favorite baker? Or if you are just starting your own tradition, check out some other Easter bread recipes at Yeastspotting on the Wild Yeast Blog. Always lots of yummy recipes to try!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

Comments (8)

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  1. Sinead says:

    Yum I love hot cross buns, so simple but so good. My mum always makes them on Good Friday, one of my favourite traditions 🙂

  2. herbs1 says:

    The Hot cross buns look very good. They are not common here in Germany, but they sound so delicious, especially because they made with sourdough!

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