Like the crocuses or tulips, hot cross buns seem to sprout up at all the stores at the first sign of spring in London. The store-bought versions were always too stodgy and used icing for the crosses instead of actual dough baked into the buns. My version of these Easter buns is made with sourdough, stout, and dried currants. I used the tangzhong method to make them even fluffier and lowered the sweetness slightly. It’s a nontraditional twist, but a nod to the flavors I miss from my days in London.
Plan on this baking project taking two to three days depending on if you opt for an overnight proof. I’ve only included the amounts in grams, assuming that if you’re baking sourdough, you have a kitchen scale at home.
Sourdough Stout Hot Cross Buns
Yields 9 buns.
Prep time: 20 hours and 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
- 24g ripe sourdough starter
- 57g water
- 57g bread flour
- 11g brown sugar
- 106g dried currants
- 50g stout
- 26g bread flour
- 102g whole milk
- 426g bread flour
- 128g tangzhong
- 149g levain
- 32g brown sugar
- 10g sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 220g stout
- Zest of 1 orange
- 43g room temperature unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 75g all-purpose flour
- 75g water
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
Simple Syrup Glaze:
- 50g granulated sugar
- 50g water
1. Prepare the levain:
In a jar or a small bowl, combine the sourdough starter, water, bread flour, and brown sugar with a spatula until no dry spots of water remain. Cover loosely and let it rise overnight, about 12 hours.
2. Prepare the soaker:
Add the currants to a small bowl and pour in the stout. Stir with a spatula or a spoon to coat the currants. Cover the bowl and let it sit overnight to plump the currants.
3. Make the tangzhong:
The next morning, make the tangzhong. Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. The mixture should be slightly thicker than the texture of Cream of Wheat porridge. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly.
4. Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the bread flour, tangzhong, levain, brown sugar, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg, stout, and orange zest.
Mix on low speed (speed 1) until the dough comes together. Then increase to medium speed (speed 2) and continue kneading for 5 minutes.
5. Add the butter:
With the mixer still running, add the butter 1 piece at a time, waiting for each piece to incorporate completely into the dough before adding the next.
After all the butter has been added, continue to knead for 5 minutes. The dough should start to gather around the dough hook and release from the sides of the bowl. Listen for the dough to slap the sides of the bowl.
After 5 minutes, the dough will not be fully developed at this point. It will still be tacky and a bit scraggly. It will develop more with folds during bulk fermentation.
6. Bulk fermentation:
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover. Set it in a warm spot to rise. Bulk fermentation will take around 4 hours, with 3 sets of folding at 30-minute intervals.
7. Fold the dough and add the currants:
After 30 minutes, drain the currants and pat dry with some paper towels. Sprinkle 1/4 of the currants onto the surface of the dough. Take one side of the dough and fold it over the currants. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees, add 1/4 of the currants, and fold the dough over. Repeat 2 more times. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
8. Second and third sets of folds:
Perform two more sets of folds, 30 minutes apart.
9. Continue bulk fermentation:
Leave the dough to continue rising until it has risen noticeably, the top is domed, and there are bubbles around the edges where the dough meets the bowl, about 2 1/2 hours longer.
Transfer the dough to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Cold dough makes shaping the rolls easier.
11. Prepare the pan:
Liberally butter a 9x9in (23x23cm) square cake pan.
Divide the dough into 9 110g portions. To shape a roll, pull the outer edges of the dough into the center. Pinch the seam together and flip the dough ball over with the seam side down. Use a bench scraper to drag the dough ball across the work surface with a gentle rotation to round the bun and create surface tension on the top of the bun. Rotate and repeat this motion until the bun is evenly round. Use the bench scraper to gently transfer the shaped bun into the prepared pan. Continue shaping the rest of the buns.
Cover the top of the pan and set it in a warm spot to rise until the rolls reach the rim of the pan and they’re soft and fluffy like a heated marshmallow, 3 to 4 hours.
14. Preheat the oven:
About 30 minutes before the buns are done proofing, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
15. Make the egg wash:
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush a light coating of the egg wash on the tops of the buns.
16. Make the crosses:
In another small bowl, mix the all-purpose flour and water to form a paste. Transfer the paste to a piping bag. Pipe crosses onto the buns.
Once the oven has preheated, bake the buns for 35 minutes, or until they turn golden brown and the interior of the buns reach 88°C (190°F).
18. Make the simple syrup:
While the buns are baking, prepare the simple syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat.
As soon as the buns come out of the oven, use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the buns with an even coating of the simple syrup.
Let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the buns from the pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.