Friday, 19 April 2019

Overnight Sourdough Hot Cross Buns (no knead)

If the fates were kind this week, they might have offered a warm autumn night last night for rising hot cross bun dough.  I can't complain though, as we managed to spend a couple of days at the beach over the past week.  But warm weather does make a difference to sourdough rising.  And today being Good Friday, my sourdough starter has been doing amazing things with hot cross buns.

Given that I made overnight sourdough bread often, I am surprised it has taken me until this year to make overnight no knead sourdough hot cross buns.  Now there is no turning back.  This post is quite a long one with lots of comments about what I did to help me (and you) to make these buns.

This Easter season is particularly conducive to baking hot cross buns because it is so late this year.  I have been baking hot cross buns every year for a long time.  However, I usually find that by Good Friday I am just starting to hit my stride with hot cross buns.  This year we have had the school holidays before rather than after Easter.  So I have had some time to bake a few batches before Easter.

The first batch we tried had green crosses and were filled with grated apple, chopped hard toffee and grated apple.  The green crosses were fun but I realised I preferred the white crosses.  It was a shame as I had visions of dried blueberries with blue crosses.

I was very happy with the hot cross buns.  We took some to a friend when we picked up her daughter for a sleepover with Sylvia.  She was rather impressed.  However I wanted more traditional ones.  Sylvia is fixated on the dried apple and cinnamon buns from Bakers Delight.  I didn't want to buy dried apple while I still had so much dried fruit left from Christmas baking.  We made a deal that she could buy some apple buns while I made more traditional ones.

This second batch of dough was slightly less sticky but still very soft.  I found an old scraper in the drawers that has been great for cutting dough.  I think I have benefited from regularly baking bread rolls with the overnight sourdough dough.  Doing no knead bread means treating it very gently to keep as much air in as possible.  I have tried to give some instructions as well as step by step pictures below.

This second batch were amazing.  Soft and flavoursome and so so so so good.  I did as my mum had suggested and increased the spices.  My main problem with them was that the roasting dish makes them a little mishapen around the edges.  Rustic is ok with me but I want them approximating round rather than triangular.

Otherwise I was very proud of my buns.  They were adapted from a previous sourdough hot cross bun recipe I made a couple of years ago.  It seems I have been gradually simplifying my sourdough hot cross buns recipe until I just dump all the ingredients in and leave it overnight with no kneading.  Honestly I think I was perhaps too tired this year to knead with life being so busy.  I also was inspired by seeing Karen's no knead sourdough hot cross buns at Lavender and Lovage.

One of the changes I made was adding pumpkin.  It did not make much difference to the taste but I think it made the buns much softer.  I have made some suggestions in notes about other options if you don't have pumpkin.  As I just mashed mine with a knife, there were a few small pieces of pumpkin visible.  Sylvia hates pumpkin and was most displeased.  Of course, if anyone was going to find a tiny speck of pumpkin it was her.  Despite this she has managed to eat a few buns, mostly picking out the dried fruit.

I have also reduced the amount of glaze I was making.  I used to make a lot in a saucepan and brush the crosses over and over, based on a recipe I found years ago.  This year I reduce the glaze and then I burnt it in the saucepan.  I have never done this before.  So I made more quickly in the microwave which I find much easier.  My mum says this is what she does too.

We gave some hot cross buns to my neighbour and some to my mum and dad when we went to Geelong prior to a couple of days in Lorne.  I will tell you more about Lorne is some coming posts.  It was great to get some relaxing days at the seaside.  I came back for a busy day of work before Good Friday.  Today I made more hot cross buns.  It is a treat to have already made a few batches and know what I am doing.  And it is so wonderful to eat hot cross buns warm out of the oven with butter melting into them.

So with more time today I have taken some step by step photos to help me next year and to also explain to you if you have a sourdough starter and want to try this recipe.  I have also made some notes about how to make variations to suit what you have about your kitchen. 

You might notice that I made this third batch of buns on a large baking tray so they had a better shape and I could make 16 rather than 15.  The main problem I had with this was the when I went to turn the tray around halfway through baking, the last row of buns stuck to the back of the oven tray so I had to prise them off and get them back on the tray before turning.

I have also included the above collage to show a few things.

The top two photos show that the buns don't rise much from when I shape them to when they have sat for about 2 hours.  The main rise where they get lots of air in them is overnight (as you can see in the step by step collage higher up).  But it does seem to help them to sit before going in the oven.

The middle photos are to show that my cross mixture is quite thick and not so smooth.  I use a silicone piping bag and a tip that is perhaps 0.5cm wide.  My crosses are pretty plain but work well between the bun and the glaze.  I suspect they are what one of the journalists in the age called wallpaper paste crosses.  But we love them a little thick and fight over the crosses.  In fact I have found one or two buns with the cross eaten off it by Sylvia because it is the best bit.

And the bottom two photos show that when the buns come out of the oven they can look a little dusty with flour but once they are brushed the flour dissolves and is no longer visible.

So today I cut up some fruit to have with our hot cross buns.  I like that the pumpkin and the fruit reflect us celebrating Easter in autumn down under.  The fruit came from a few different sources.  The plums were from the supermarket.  The grapes were leftover from a cheese platter at an evening meeting last night.  The apples came from my mum's backyard tree.  The fruit makes me feel a little healthier but honestly I could just eat these hot cross buns all day and not need any other food.  They are so good.

Five fun online articles about hot cross buns:

The history of the hot cross bun - Gourmet Traveller
History going back to pagans, monks and Queen Elizabeth I.  I like the idea the hot cross buns would protect the house from bad spirits

10 crazy ways to eat hot cross buns 2019 - Biffens Kitchen
We have all heard of hot cross buns in bread and butter pudding and french toast but who ever heard of it in treacle tart or with beetroot and feta.  Wow!

How to eat hot cross buns - The Guardian
A comprehensive article on different styles of eating HCBs.  I say no to marmite (or vegemite in Australia's case) but yes to a slice on cheese on the HCB.  I am surprised that they only give toasting or microwaving as reheating options.  Since I have been little I have had HCBs reaheated in the oven.

Hot cross buns get political at Ballarat Station - Power 103.1 FM
Clever union slogan on the napkins served with hot cross buns: "Liberal wage cuts make us hot and bothered".  Yes there is a federal election campaign in Australia right now and even hot cross buns are fair game!

Can eating hot cross buns put you over the drink driving limit? Criminal Defence Lawyers
Don't worry the police say there is little concern that hot cross buns will give you a drink driving conviction but this also means they wont take "I've just eaten a hot cross bun" as an excuse for a high blood alcohol test reading!

Ten fun variations on Hot Cross Buns on the internet:
No knead sourdough hot cross buns - Lavender and Lovage
Vegan chai hot cross buns - Seitan is my Motor
Hot cross pancakes - Tin and Thyme
Nutella swirl hot cross buns - Not Quite Nigella
Miffy hot cross buns - I am a Food Blog
Sultana, lemon and thyme hot cross buns - Only Crumbs Remain
Hot cross bun loaf - Bit of the Good Stuff
Orange blossom banana hot cross buns - Cardamom and Tea
Hot cross buns with marmalade glaze - Kitchen Sanctuary
Vanilla glazed choc chunk hot cross buns - Laws of the Kitchen

You can also read more of my Easter recipes.

Overnight sourdough hot cross buns
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 15-16

1 cup pumpkin puree (approx 325g unpeeled chunk of pumpkin)*
250g ripe starter (100% hydration)
3/4 cup soy milk, room temperature
1/2 cup aquafaba*
100g vegan margarine, room temperature
200g dried fruit
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
550g white bread flour

1 cup water
1 cup flour (or a little more)

2 tsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
good shake of mixed spice

Peel and dice pumpkin.  Microwave in a covered container until soft (about 4-6 minutes) and
roughly mash with a fork.

While the pumpkin cooks, measure out the starter (mine is best when it is rising and had lots of little bubbles and smells lovely and is still a bit thick in texture) and stir in the margarine.

Once pumpkin is cooked and still hot, stir in milk and aquafaba from the fridge and the mixture should be room temperature and ready to stir in.  (If not room temperature, cool or warm as needed.)

Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Leave for 30 minutes.  Knead in the bowl for 15 seconds.  It will be very soft still but you should be able to knead it and wipe most of the mixture off your hands.  Cover well with clingwrap or beeswax and leave overnight - about 8-10 hours until well risen.

When dough is risen, scrape out onto a well floured surface.  Cut into 15-16 pieces (depending on the size of your tin - 15 in a rectangle and 16 in a square tin).  I use a plastic cutter but a large sharp knife will do - and might need some flouring.  The dough will probably need some flour to make it easier to handle it.

Gently roll each piece into a ball.  Do this by putting the corners as tightly as possible around the bun (without squishing the bun) so the floured bottom of the bun is like a little blanket around the bun.  Toss in flour as though it is very fragile just using finger tips so it is not sticky.  Then use your hands to shape into a smooth ball. 

Line a large dish with baking paper (or grease) and arrange balls in it quite close to each other so they are just touching but not really snug against each other.  You can do this on a baking tray or in a roasting dish (about 13 x 9 inches).  Cover buns with beeswax or clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 to 2 hours.  Heat oven to 220 C while buns rise (or 30 minutes before you are ready to put in the oven).

Mix flour and water together to make the mixture for the crosses once buns ready for oven.  It should be thick enough to be almost stretchy and drop off the spoon in soft clumps.  Pipe crosses onto the buns.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped.

Five minutes before buns come out of oven or just as they come out, mix glaze ingredients together and microwave for about about 30 seconds on high or until the mixture boils.  Remove buns from oven.  Transfer to a wire rack.  I have found it this easier if the baking paper has some overhang so you can use it to pick the buns up (even easier with another person who can pick up the other two corners to help you lift it).

Brush buns with prepared glaze and see if you can wait for them to cool before you sample one.  They are good for 2 to 3 days or can be frozen.  I reheat my buns from room temperature for 10-12 minutes at 180 C.

  • This is not a quick recipe to put together.  It has taken me about 30 minutes to get the pumpkin cooked and organise all the ingredients for the dough.  Additionally there is shaping the dough, doing the crosses and glazing.
  • You could substitute all sorts of things for the pumpkin: tinned pumpkin puree, mashed potato, fruit puree, grated apple, mashed banana, applesauce, fruit mince etc.  It should be something to keep the dough moist.  Update - in 2021 I used a mixture of an egg and plain yoghurt instead of pumpkin.  Or you could use soy milk with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to sour it.
  • If you don't have aquafaba (water drained off a tin of chickpeas) then use more milk or some water.
  • These buns are vegan but you could easily use an egg instead of 1/4 cup of aquafaba and make up the difference in milk and use butter instead of margarine.
  • You could use your own spice preference - nutmeg, cloves or cardamon could all be in here, though not too much of any.  If you don't have mixed spice, pumpkin pie spice or your favourite spice mix could be substituted.
  • Use your own preference for dried fruit: apricot, apples, cranberries, figs etc.  Or use choc chips or jersey caramels if that is your thing!
  • The dough is really sticky and it seems it might be too sticky but it does become more cohesive after the overnight rise.  And it is the high ratio of liquid to flour that makes these so soft.  If the dough is too sticky, use a bit of flour to handle it.
  • This recipe can be quite flexible with timing and the rising dough and rising buns can wait til you are ready.
  • Don't worry if the cross mixture seems a little lumpy.  as long as you give it a good stir it should be fine.
  • Don't worry if the buns seem a little floury when they go in the oven and when they come out.  Once brushed with glaze the flouriness will go.
  • The glaze should be just enough to brush all the buns once.  Update 2021 - when I made them this year, I microwaved the glaze for 1 and a half minutes and it boiled down so much that it was sugary on the buns.  So next year I am going to heat the sugar and water in the microwave just until it boils to make a thinner the glaze.

On the Stereo:
The very best of Marianne Faithful


  1. HCB are my favourite Easter treat (because chocolate is enjoyed all year round). No knead sounds very doable!

  2. So interesting to add aquafaba and pumpkin! I want to try it even though Easter is finished

  3. This is the best HCB recipe I've come across, although I've changed it a bit and I don't do the vegan version. I use dates and apple and I add just a tad more milk than recommended. And double the spices. So soft and comforting. The overnight fermentation on the counter worked perfectly in the slightly cooler temperatures of fall. Where I live in South Africa, summer nights are normally too hot.


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)