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)


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


  • 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


  • 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!

spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor

I’ve become picky about my sourdough usage in sweets as I usually don’t really like the tartness that sourdough brings to sweet breads. That, along with my laziness (or more accurately, mostly due to my laziness) has meant I’ve barely used sourdough in desserts at all as of late. But here, with the tartness of the apple filling, the sourdough is not out of place. It is perhaps even worth coaxing a starter back to semi-liveliness and a couple several hour rising times.

The dough itself somewhat heralds from The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilson, but I’ve messed with it quite a bit since then – increased hydration, brioche-style butter incorporation, coarsely ground cardamom, a bit of whole wheat flour… and now sourdough. Though there is something to be said for the dense richness I tended to get from the original recipe, I’ve modified it for buns that it makes are softer and fluffier. I prefer this for semlor specifically as given the filling and fresh cream, they need to be stored chilled. This way the buns are not too hard, and retain a bit of chew even when eaten a bit cold… though they are always going to be best freshly made.

And for your semlor reading pleasure, the blog Swedish Spoon has a wonderfully detailed on semlor history, aesthetics and practices plus a classic recipe.

spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor

spiced apple semlor

spiced apple sourdough semlor

 Almond paste based on Wild Wild Whisk. Otherwise, semlor general guidance taken from Beatrice Ojakangas’s The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Baking Book.

cardamom buns


  • 50g lively sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 50g water


  • 75g warm milk
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom seeds (from about 8 green cardamom pods), coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 160g all-purpose flour
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 25g egg
  • 45g soft butter


  • beaten egg for egg wash

almond paste (egg-free version)

  • 45g ground almonds
  • 20g icing sugar
  • a few drops almond extract
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp heavy cream

apple compote

  • 200g chopped apple in small (0.5cm) dice (from about 1 1/2 large apples or in my case, 6 small orchard apples that need quite a bit of trimming)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  •  1 tbsp dark brown sugar or to taste if you’re using tart apples (the sugar is unnecessary if you’re using sweet apples)


  • 140g heavy cream
  • icing sugar

cardamom buns

In the evening, prepare the sponge by mixing together the 50g each of sourdough starter, water and flour. Cover and let ferment overnight or until doubled (if your starter is very active, less time will suffice!).

The next day, stir the coarsely crushed cardamom seeds into the warm milk.

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the warm milk, egg and sponge and then stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough is formed. Knead for a few minutes or until smooth – the dough will transition from a bit sticky to smoother and only tacky. 

To knead the butter into the dough, this dough is loose enough to use the slap and fold method. Spread part of the butter on the dough, fold the dough over onto itself to enclose the butter. Pick up the dough with both hands and slap it down onto the counter, stretching it towards you, then folding it over onto itself. Pick up the dough at a 90 degree angle so that when you slap it down again, it is rotated a quarter turn. Repeat the slap and fold (with a quarter turn) until the butter is incorporated, then add the next addition of butter. With this technique you don’t need to additional flour as you knead – it will be quite messy but eventually at the end the dough will come together as a very soft and stretchy ball.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, a time that will very much depend on the activity level of your starter – for me and the rather lethargic Bartholomew, it took about 6 hours. Meanwhile, line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and divide into eight pieces, each about 56g. Shape each piece into a tight ball. A useful technique to tighten the surface tension is to cup your hand over the ball of dough as it sits on the countertop and move your hand in a tight circle.

Evenly spread the buns on the prepared tray, cover and let rise until puffed, a duration that will vary depending on your starter, but for me was about 5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the buns with beaten egg. Place the tray in the oven and turn the temperature down to 375F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until browned. 

almond paste

Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the cream and almond extract and pulse until it clumps together (if it doesn’t, add another 1/2 tsp of cream as needed). Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic, and store in fridge.

apple compote

Place the diced apples in a small saucepan and along with 1 cm of water. Add in the spices and brown sugar if using. Bring to a simmer and cook until the water is mostly gone and the apples are tender.


To make the filling, grate the almond paste on the holes of a coarse grater and stir into the apple compote. 

Trim the top off of each bun and hollow out a cavity in the centre large enough to fit around 2 tbsp of filling. Fill each bun with 1/8th of the filling. 

Whip the cream (sweeten to taste with granulated sugar), then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe 1-2 swirls of cream overtop of each bun, put the trimmed bun lids on top and dust with powdered sugar.

Updated Nov 2022.

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.)

Continue reading “rosemary & gruyere sourdough brioche”

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.

Continue reading “my (current) favourite hands-off whole wheat sourdough”

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.

Continue reading “my sourdough starter is alive! (chive and wholewheat sourdough & 3 tartines)”

butternut, gruyere & 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.

Continue reading “butternut, gruyere & thyme sourdough brioche bread pudding”

spinach & egg breads

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


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.

Continue reading “spinach & egg breads”

four-ish 20% red fife breads (& experiments with la cloche)

When it comes to bread, I go in rather blind and haphazardly and emerge just about the same. So I thought that perhaps being a bit more systematic – i.e. making the same bread slightly differently, a number of times, might give me some insight.

Did it? Well, possibly. Yes, I used (errr sometimes…) the same formula, but even if I disregard deviations in ambient conditions and the liveliness of my starter and the rising times, there so many sources of inconsistency: irregular and poor boule shaping, lazy folding and turning of the dough, and ability to crush all the air out when I score.

I certainly wouldn’t claim that these are a set of well-controlled trials…and perhaps I shouldn’t even hope that my results are even the slightest bit comparable between loaves. I think the solution would be for me to do a lot a lot of trials. But I have no idea how all that bread would get eaten!

Continue reading “four-ish 20% red fife breads (& experiments with la cloche)”