whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns

whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns
whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns
whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns

Goodness, you might be thinking, so glad to see that Bartholomew the sourdough starter is finally out and about and probably getting fed! And you would be right in that these buns are the latest leavening project he embarked upon. But, alas, as I am always slow to post things, I made these buns spring last year, so….

(One day, Bartholomew, one day. Hang tight until then!)

whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns
whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns

To get us started on the hot cross bun season, here is a tribute to the classic made with whole wheat, sourdough and plenty of dried fruit. They might sound a little austere but the butter, spices and dried fruit make sure it is anything but. Let’s tackle these one by one:

  • whole wheat – I think the flavour of whole wheat flour fits well with the spice and dried fruit! With a bit of extra hydration, the buns still bake up quite soft.
  • sourdough – I don’t always love the taste of sourdough in desserts, but in this case I find it goes rather nicely with the dried fruit. Building the dough in two steps allows an (understandably) lethargic sourdough starter to keep up and prevents the acidity from overwhelming the dough.
  • good dose of dried fruit – I actually first made these a couple of years ago, but they didn’t have nearly enough dried fruit in them (this may be personal opinion though as no recipe I’ve consulted seems to have enough for me!), so when I revisited last year, I made sure to bump up the fruit content. I also found that the dough itself doesn’t need any additional sugar as each bite has some dried fruit or candied peel to provide sufficient sweetness.
whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns

whole wheat sourdough hot cross buns with lots of fruit

Makes 9 buns in an 8×8″ pan. Bun recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour – though with each subsequent adaptation the resemblance decreases – and crosses from BBC Good Food

soaked fruits

  • 85g dried raisins and/or currants
  • 4 tbsp dark rum (or substitute tea, if you prefer)

sponge

  • 50g 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 50g water

dough

  • 180g whole wheat flour (to start – depending on the dough consistency, you may need to knead in more in at the end)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 20g brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 60mL milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 42g soft butter
  • 65g drained candied orange or other citrus peel, chopped (recipe here)

flour cross

  • 30g flour
  • 32g water (may vary – start with a bit less)

egg wash

  • beaten egg

glaze

  • 1 tbsp apricot jam

Day 1: Soak the fruit and make the sponge.

Combine the raisins and/or currants and rum in a small bowl. Cover and let sit overnight to plump the raisins. In a separate bowl, stir together the ingredients for the sponge. Cover and let sit overnight to ferment.

Day 2: Make the dough & first rise.

Place the flour, salt, sugar and spices for the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir together, the add the milk, egg and sponge. Mix the dough until smooth using the dough hook, scraping down the hook/sides of the bowl as needed. Knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten. Then add the butter a lump at a time and mix until the butter is incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter. If it is quite sticky, knead in some more flour (just a bit at a time) until the dough is on the slightly sticky-side of tacky. I often find the dough stiffens up a bit later with time.

Drain the dried fruit. Knead the fruit and peel into the dough – at first it will just keep falling out, but with patience it will work its way in. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth again – as you continue to knead, the fruit will continue to fall out, so occasionally add the fallen pieces back into the centre of the dough.

Place the dough in a container to rise (no need to oil it) until about doubled – how long it will take will depend on your starter, but mine took about 6 hours. At this point you can chill the dough overnight or keep going if you have another 6 hours left in your day.

Day 3 (or still day 2): 2nd rise and baking

Butter an 8×8″ square pan and line the bottom with a square of parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 9 pieces, each approximately 75g. Shape each into a ball. To tighten the form, place the ball on the counter (unfloured so the dough will grip onto the counter a bit) and cup your hand over top, and move your hand in small circles. Arrange the balls in the prepared pan. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until the buns are well puffed and touching each other. The duration will vary by sourdough starter activity again, but mine took around 4 hours. To tell when they are fully risen, the dough will spring back slowly when poked with a damp finger, and the dent will not quite completely fill in.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

To make the flour cross, whisk together the flour and water to form a thick, pipeable paste. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round tip – here I used a 2mm tip diametre round tip.

Brush the risen buns with egg wash and then pipe lines of dough overtop the buns. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and the internal temperature of the middle bun is at least 180-185F. Rotate halfway through baking for even browning.

For the apricot jam glaze, melt the tbsp of apricot jam with a scant tsp of water and press through a sieve to remove any chunks. Brush over the freshly baked buns.

spiced apple sourdough semlor

spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor

Shrove Tuesday has passed, but semlor are still in season! Semlor are Swedish buns (though analogues exist in other Nordic countries) typically filled with torn crumbs of bread and sticky almond paste, creamed with a bit of milk into a soft filling. Topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar, they’re just the sort of comforting and Scandinavian (cardamom-perfumed of course!) baked good I came to love after pouring through the pages of the classic The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.

I adore the classic filling of bread crumbs and almond paste, but in these ones I’ve combined the almond paste with spiced apples instead; it is just lovely – spiced and sweet and very moist and a bit less bread-y than the original. I actually first made these five years ago, but the recipe needed a bit of a spiff up. And perhaps more than that, I also just wanted to make apple semlor again!

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rosemary & gruyere sourdough brioche

rosemary gruyere sourdough brioche bun loaf
rosemary gruyere sourdough brioche bun loaf

If we were to try to summarize the state of my sourdough starter Bartholomew, “criminal neglect” would be an accurate term to use. But recently my sourdough starter has been the happiest and liveliest it has ever been. And no, it’s not because I have taken on the mantle of pandemic sourdough baking. Rather, my mum has. And she has also taken to the task of keeping Bartholomew fed and watered with gusto.

I feel a bit jealous sometimes – a companion I created in eighth grade, living up life under someone else’s care and seeming all the more happier for it. But sometimes if you love someone, you’ve got to let them go.

And more than I am jealous, I am lazy so all in all it’s a relief. The situation has been rather convenient – upon spontaneously deciding I want to do a bit of sourdough baking, I can borrow some bright and bubbly starter. (This, as opposed to opening the jar for the first time in months to find a layer of sludge laying below an inch of alcohol, necessitating a week-long pampered revival before Bartholomew deigns to leaven even the smallest bun.)

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my (current) favourite hands-off whole wheat sourdough

whole wheat sourdoughwhole wheat sourdough

this loaf in several words: 67% whole wheat, 80% hydration and minimal interaction

I had put together this post over the summer as I was getting very consistent results with my usual sourdough loaf (though not the loose craggy crumb I dream of!). And if I’m to continue following along current pandemic-baking trends, sourdough is up next, given that many have trouble finding yeast plus newfound time to nurse slow-growing loaves of bread.

But this is a, hmm, casual sourdough, shall we say? It was something I developed when facilitating my inattentiveness and impatience was a priority. The features: single rise and some cheating with the shaping. I really mean the “minimal interaction” part.

I titled this post, “my (current) favourite” back in the summer when I wrote it. I revived my sourdough starter recently (hello again Barty!), and the loaves that I’m making now are not this bread. I’m taking a slower pace, and a renewed interest in techniques that I generally avoided. Like practicing shaping without deflating. Oh and kneading, something I dumped as soon as I was able to in my rather tenuous and unimpressive bread-making journey.

So, my go-to loaf from a different time and a bit of a different world. Not ardently whole wheat (67%) and definitely not too serious.

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my sourdough starter is alive! (chive and wholewheat sourdough & 3 tartines)

I went hiking the other day and realized something, once I managed to move my thoughts beyond the majestic views and cute opportunistic fungi.

Though, rather than realizing, I confirmed something: I’m not very fit. Unfortunately. Or at least two hikes in two subsequent days is a bit much for me.

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butternut, gruyere and thyme sourdough brioche bread pudding

I had quite the accident with this sourdough brioche loaf. It was nearly risen, but it was already the early hours of the morning and I really wanted to go to sleep. I was anticipating at least another hour and half to let the loaf finish rising and then baking it which was enough to make me give up. I decided to put the loaf in the fridge (absolutely no rising ever seems to happen when I put sourdough in the fridge). The next morning, the loaf far exceeded my expectations of not rising–it loaf had completely shrivelled, turning wrinkled and sunken. I don’t know if I’ve ever put something mostly risen in the fridge before (no actually maybe I have!) but I probably should have anticipated this. I left it on the counter for the day but it never regained its height and remained stunted.

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spinach and egg breads

Did you know, it’s the hundredth Fiesta Friday right now? That’s right.

100!

The first Fiesta Friday I joined was Fiesta Friday #56, so I could say that I’ve been around (very off and on) for 44 Fiesta Fridays! Fiesta Friday was already well-established by the time I joined, so I need to thank all the Fiesta Friday partygoers who arrived at the very beginning, those who came before me, and those after me as well for helping such a lovely community to flourish and root itself.

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