more sourdough: the perfect bun

Sourdough hot cross buns

As I mentioned in my previous post, sourdough ‘discard’ makes delicious bakes in its own right. The sour tang of the dough leads to great pizzas, pancakes, crumpets, crackers and of course buns. Hot cross buns are a revelation with an added dollop of sourdough starter and cinnamon buns are just divine.

I can’t claim to have created my own recipe for sourdough hot cross buns as I stumbled across one by Jacqueline Bellefontaine that works just perfectly. You can either just use the discard as the raising agent – in which case you’ll need to allow a much longer rising time and the whole process will take a full 24 hours from start to finish – or you can add yeast (now it’s available again!) for delicious hot cross buns, ready in a couple of hours – or for breakfast if you do as I do and prove the buns overnight, then bake in the morning when you get up. I follow the recipe in the link above pretty much to the letter, either making the dough in my breadmaker, or using the Kitchen Aid to do the kneading – either works well. I then prove in the fridge overnight and add the flour & water crosses in the morning. Equally, if you’re not making these at Easter and don’t want to make the crosses, just leave them off. I added edible borage flowers in the summer for pretty summer spiced buns instead.

borage buns

A recent discovery has been iced cinnamon buns. I hunted high and low for a recipe using sourdough discard to make these iconic Swedish delicacies, but drew a blank, so decided to cobble together my own – which works a treat. Many of the recipes I found used fed starter, but with an ever-growing mound of sourdough discard in the fridge, I was determined to make inroads into that. My starting point was the Cinnamon Raisin Loaf recipe (also very good) from King Arthur Baking, duly adapted to turn into buns. Do try them and see – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed… Oh, and if you fancy a twist on the original recipe, do check out the Iced Cardamom Bun variation at the very end of the post – very Scandinavian, but equally delicious.

Cinnamon raisin loaf

I like to make the basic dough in my breadmaker for ease, especially in the winter months as, to my profound regret, I don’t have an airing cupboard. Using a breadmaker solves the problem of finding somewhere warm enough to prove the dough. The conservatory works perfectly in summer, but if the heating is off during the day in the winter months, it can be tricky to maintain a high enough temperature for proving.

Iced Cinnamon Raisin Buns – makes 9

Cinnamon buns

115g sourdough starter (discard or fed if you prefer)
360g strong bread flour
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 heaped tsp salt
1 large egg
75 g softened butter
150g lukewarm water

For the filling:
60g soft light Muscovado sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp plain flour
75g raisins (or other dried fruit/nuts of your choice)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water


100g icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all the dough ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer and knead until your dough is soft and smooth. Alternatively you can use the dough mode on your breadmaker as described above. If not using the breadmaker, you’ll need to leave the dough to prove in a greased bowl in a warm place for about 2 hours.

Make the filling by mixing the sugar, cinnamon, raisins and flour in a small bowl. You could add other mixed fruit such as apricots or dried cranberries and nuts to vary the taste and texture sensation.

When the dough has proved, knock down on a floured surface and gently roll/pat out to a rectangle measuring approx. 45 cm x 20 cm (or 18″ x 8″ for those of you, like me, who are old enough to still prefer to visualise measurements in Imperial units!).

Brush with the egg & water mixture, then sprinkle over the filling, leaving a bare strip along one edge for ease of sealing. Then roll up from one long edge until you have a long, thin roll. Turn to face you and cut into 9 neat sections. I usually do this by eye, but if you’re aiming for Paul Hollywood perfection, you can measure each one. If you’ve managed to roll out a 45cm long roll, each section should measure 5 cm wide, but it really doesn’t matter if they’re not spot on!

Grease a 20cm square deep cake tin (I like to use a loose-bottomed one for ease of removal). Carefully place the buns in the tin in rows of three.  Cover with a cloth (or I use one of those large, re-usable plastic shower caps from Lakeland) and either prove in a warm place or prove in the fridge overnight for a long, slow rise. Perfect if you’re looking to serve them warm for breakfast – and why wouldn’t you?!

The following morning, leave to come to room temperature for 1/2 to 1 hour (counsel of perfection – I’ve cooked them sooner and they’re still delicious!). If you’ve any of the egg mix left over, you can brush all over the rolls to glaze at this stage. Heat the oven to 180°C and cook the buns on the middle shelf for 40-45 mins or until golden brown and shiny.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. Transfer to a wire rack and glaze haphazardly with a runny icing made using 100g sifted icing sugar and the juice of half a lemon. It should be stiff enough to pour thickly so it doesn’t all disappear when it hits the warm buns and still stays in visible stripes on the top. If too thick, add a few more drops of juice or water, and if too thin, add more sifted icing sugar – never an exact science!

Tear apart and serve lavishly buttered with a cup of steaming hot tea and a very satisfied smile.

Cinnamon buns open

Iced cardamom buns:

On a roll (sorry) with the success of this recipe, I decided to experiment with a variaton on a theme, adding cardamom to the mix for even more of a Scandinavian twist – with delicious results. This time, I added the crushed seeds from 15 cardamom pods to the dough and the same to the filling with just 1 tsp cinnamon rather than the 1 1/2 tsp in the original recipe. Then, instead of raisins, I topped the filling mix with 25g each of dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots and flaked almonds – not that you can tell from the outside. I also used the juice of half a tangerine in the icing rather than lemon juice. The end result? Divinely spiced and fluffy cardamom buns. Cardamom is an underused spice in sweet recipes here in the UK, but one I adore. They are just heavenly!

Cardamom buns

2 thoughts on “more sourdough: the perfect bun”

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