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!)
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 with lots of fruit
- 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)
- 30g flour
- 32g water (may vary – start with a bit less)
- 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.