Sourdough, citrus flavored hot cross buns.

Growing up in South Africa, Easter was a big thing.  I went to an Anglican all-girls school that took religion very seriously.  We attended chapel every morning and observed all the Christian Holidays.  We were encouraged to give up something for Lent, forty days before Easter, which made Easter extra special, because not only were we celebrating Christ's resurrection, but we were also celebrating the end of Lent! Everyone had hot-cross buns for Easter Monday breakfast!  I actually didn't like them then, because they were always dry, highly refined with a sticky cross icing!  I decided to revisit the hot-cross bun and came up with a much improved, addictive, sourdough citrus flavored hot cross buns which incorporates sourdough and citrus.  Absolutely delicious warm with butter!  I've been adding citrus to my sourdough breads such as the walnut and citrus sourdough bread and the hint of citrus flavor is very floral and refreshing.

Tips to making sourdough citrus flavored hot cross buns.

Stand mixer

I love working with my hands, but this particular bread does require a stand mixer. The butter in the dough makes the dough extremely soft and very difficult to work by hand.  When using the stand mixer, the dough is ready when it passes the window pane test.

Mixed fruit

I like adding a combination of dried fruit to these hot cross buns.  Sometimes the raisins may seem extremely dry, especially if they were sitting in your cabinet for  too long.  Instead of tossing them, rehydrate them slightly by adding an additional 20% of the citrus juice to a container and allow them to soak for an hour.  They should be slightly plump and not dry and chalky!


What makes these hot cross buns different is the citrus flavor from both the zest and juice.  You can use oranges, tangerines, tangelos.  I would avoid the bitter and sour citrus fruits like lemons and grapefruits.  However, if you want to use them, add a little more sugar to the dough. Organic citrus is preferable.  However, if you are using store-bought citrus, sometimes a wax is sprayed onto the citrus to extend its shelf life, because the stores are assuming that no one is going to be eating the peel.  Since this recipe calls for the zest of the peel, wash the citrus peel well before zesting.


Save some whipped egg for the egg wash before adding the egg to the dough. This helps not having to use another egg for the egg wash.


The levain will not only be the leavening for the buns, but it will also be used to create the crosses on the sourdough citrus flavored hot cross buns. 

Using levain for the cross.

Using levain for the cross.


Besides the egg wash providing  smooth finish, the glaze not only makes the bun shiny, but also gives it a hint of sweetness.  As a result, I like using watered down marmalade to provide that sweet, citrusy flavor.  However, maple syrup or honey can be substituted.

If you tried this sourdough citrus hot-cross buns recipe, let me know in the comments!

Sourdough, citrus flavored hot cross buns.


Michelle Sam
These hot cross buns uses sourdough starter. Takes a little longer to make, but well worth the effort. Refreshing citrus flavor and aroma. Serve hot with butter.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Bulk fermentation 15 hours
Total Time 17 hours 38 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine British
Servings 12
Calories 205 kcal



  • 375 grams bread flour
  • 150 grams levain / active sourdough starter for the bun dough.
  • 2 large eggs beaten remove 2 Tbsp for egg wash.
  • 75 ml warm milk
  • 50 grams brown sugar
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • tsp all spice
  • 75 grams butter unsalted, softened
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 orange zested
  • 75 ml orange juice
  • 75 grams mixed dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries.
  • 15 ml orange juice Additional and optional if raisins are too dry.

Egg wash

  • 2 Tbsp whisked egg From the dough above.
  • 1 tsp water

Cross paste

  • 100 grams levain / active sourdough starter for the cross paste.


  • 2 Tbsp marmalade Honey or syrup can be substituted.
  • ½ tsp water


  • Make your levain.
    150 grams levain / active sourdough starter, 100 grams levain / active sourdough starter
  • Zest the orange.
    1 orange
  • Juice the orange after zesting.
  • Soak the dried fruits in the additional juice to soften IF the dried fruits are too dry.
    15 ml orange juice
  • Whisk egg.
  • Remove 2 Tbsps of egg for egg wash. Cover and refrigerate
  • Warm milk to 80℉.
  • Add milk to egg and stir to combine
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk-egg mixture, orange juice and levain.
    2 large eggs, 75 ml warm milk, 75 ml orange juice, 150 grams levain / active sourdough starter
  • Stir to combine.
  • Add bread flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, all spice, citrus zest, dried fruit.
    375 grams bread flour, 50 grams brown sugar, 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon, 1½ tsp all spice, 75 grams mixed dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries.
  • Mix until a scraggly dough forms.
  • Cover, let stand and allow to autolyse for 1 hour.
  • Cover and refrigerate the whisked egg for the egg wash.
  • Place extra levain (for crosses) into a plastic storage bag and refrigerate.
    100 grams levain / active sourdough starter
  • Cut butter up into small dices.
  • After the dough has autolysed for 1 hour, add salt and butter into dough mixture.
    75 grams butter, ¾ tsp salt
  • Knead in a stand mixer for 20 minutes until combined and dough develops strength. Should be able to pass the window pane test.
  • Form into a ball, cover and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour to allow the dough to firm up. This will make it easier to work with.
  • Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.
  • Cut dough into 12 equal pieces, weighing each piece is helpful.
  • Roll dough into circular buns.
  • Line a 8' x 12" pan with parchment paper or butter
  • Placed rolled buns into pan ¾" apart.
  • Place in plastic bag to prevent drying.
  • Refrigerate overnight to bulk ferment.

Next day

  • Allow the buns to come to room temperature and double in size for 3 hours.
  • Bring out the levain and allow it to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350℉ / 375℉ (180℃ / 200℃) with / without convection fan.
  • After the dough has doubled in size, add the 1 teaspoon of water to the remaining 2 Tbsp whisked egg and stir.
  • Brush the egg mixture onto the buns.
    2 Tbsp whisked egg, 1 tsp water
  • Cut the corner of the levain bag to make a piping bag.
    100 grams levain / active sourdough starter
  • Squeeze the levain down the buns in one direction and then the opposite direction to create a cross.
  • Bake for 18 minutes.
  • Remove and allow to cool.
  • Combine marmalade and water.
    2 Tbsp marmalade, ½ tsp water
  • Brush the glaze over the buns.
  • Enjoy warm with butter or store in an airtight container if not eaten the same day.



Serving: 12gCalories: 205kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 6gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.5gTrans Fat: 0.003gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 171mgPotassium: 160mgFiber: 2gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 109IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mgNet Carbohydrates: 39g
Keyword hot cross buns, Sourdough
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was or if you have any questions or suggestions!
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