We love hot cross buns, but after tasting a heavy spelt-flour bun last year, I’ve not been able to return to run-of-the-mill ‘soft’ cross buns. We recently kicked off the season’s ‘bun-run’ with a couple of spicy specimens from Flour Power, a small bake-house a short stroll up the hill from us which makes an exquisite range of sourdough bread. Inspired, and with a rare early start to my weekend, I wondered if I could give my much-neglected sourdough starter mix a run while trying my hand at a hot cross bun.
After searching for sourdough ‘HCB’ recipes online, which called for different methods than my usual Tassajara sourdough recipe, I settled on a blend of recipes/techniques from the Tassajara Bread Book. The result was a heavy, wholesome, sour fruit bun. I’ve got a few tweaks in mind though for next time (more spice, a bit of sweetener, some fresh zested citrus and ginger, and a smaller bun as they are very filling!). Oh – and since I’m not much of a traditional gal, I left off the crosses. So I like to think of these as non-denominational fruit buns – the kind that can be made (and eaten) any time of year!
The recipe below includes sweetening*, which I omitted but will definitely include next time. I also found the sourness overwhelmed the spiciness, so will be more liberal with the spices next time (you may wish to increase the quantities shown below). I used wholemeal plain flour and rye flour, but you could make these with only wholemeal flour, or try supplementing the wholemeal with other flours – a pan-roasted barley flour perhaps? Also I soaked the chopped dried fruit in water overnight – you could soak the fruit in port instead, or in rosewater with cardamom and star anise. I’d love to hear if anyone tries any of these tweaks. Refer to the instructions for making your own starter mix, and techniques for folding in and kneading in the original Tassajara sourdough post. And make sure you’ve got extra flour on hand for kneading, as it’s quite a sticky mix!
the night before
4.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup starter mixture
3.5 cups lukewarm water, plus extra for soaking the fruit
1.5 cups dried fruit (sultantas, raisins, currants, dates, apricots)
in the morning
1/2 cup milk (heated to just below boiling and cooled to luke-warm)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbspn salt
3-4 cups rye flour and 2 cups wholemeal flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
*2 tbspn honey or blackstrap molasses
1 tbspn honey and 1 tbspn water for the glaze
the night before
Add starter to flour without mixing. Then mix together while adding water a cup at a time. Mix well to form a thick batter. Cover and leave in a warm place overnight to sour. This mixture is called the sponge. Place dried fruit in a separate bowl, cover with water (or a splash of port or rosewater) and place in fridge overnight to soak.
in the morning
Stir sponge and replenish your starter mixture with 1 cup of the sponge. Heat milk to just below boiling and remove from heat to cool. When you add the milk to the sponge, it should be neither hot nor cold on the wrist. Fold in the milk, beaten egg, honey or molasses, salt, spices, dried fruit and flour, turning the spoon around the outer edge of the mixture and folding in to the centre to combine the ingredients (without ‘cutting’ the mixture) until you have a rough blob of dough. Turn dough onto a well-floured board and knead for five minutes, adding more flour as needed. When the dough becomes solid, roll it into a log shape, cut into individual buns and place on baking paper lined pans. Brush with water and sit in a warm place (covered with a damp teatowel) for an hour to rise.
Place honey and water in a pan and bring to a simmer, stirring. Remove from heat and brush tops of buns with glaze. Place buns in 220 degree celcius oven for 10 minutes, then bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees celcius or until cooked through. Cool slightly and serve with organic butter. Makes 12 heavy buns.