Sourdough Hot Cross Buns but Make Them Bunnies
One of the first recipes I shared here years ago was my vegan version of my mom’s Easter bunny sweet rolls. My siblings and I always loved them as kids and I thought it was time to revisit this recipe as a sourdough hot cross bun dough version. The dough is my sourdough take on traditional hot cross buns and is flavored with vanilla extract, orange zest, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, and ground cardamom. Studded with raisins and chopped dates that have been soaked in orange juice with a splash of orange blossom water this sweet dough is full of flavor.
Shaping the buns into bunny heads and ears is as easy as crossing one end of a log of dough over the other. These sweet bunny buns are decorated with a thick lemon glaze, raisin eyes and noses, flaked coconut whiskers, and for extra fun: edible flower crowns. Young and old will adore these super cute bunny buns.
Sourdough Sweet Brioche as a Base Dough
Hot cross buns tend to dry out and firm up by the next day so I wanted to start out with a very fluffy and soft base dough. Using a brioche-style dough that is enriched with eggs, milk and butter will ensure very fluffy and soft baked buns. Brioche dough is easy to make in a stand mixer as it needs to be kneaded for a long time to build up enough gluten strength to reach the “windowpane stage”. Windowpane stage simple means that the dough can be stretched out thin enough to let light through it (like a windowpane) without it tearing. Do not fret if you don’t have access to a stand mixer. The dough can always be kneaded by hand. It’s going to be on the sticky and wet side so use a bench scraper to help lift the dough off the board as you knead it.
I’ve also tested this recipe with commercial yeast for those of you who don’t bake with sourdough or want to make these from start to finish in one day. Check the recipe notes section below for details on how to make this recipe with instant or active dry yeast. I recommend using LeSaffre Saf-Instant Yeast – Gold for any enriched or sweet bread doughs such as the one in this post. This yeast is formulated to help enriched doughs rise faster, as ingredients such as milk, butter, eggs, and even spices can slow down the rise. It comes in a 1-pound package but can easily be stored in the freezer for longevity.
Very Active Sourdough Starter Is Key for Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
Getting your sourdough starter super active is key when using it in enriched or sweet doughs. We want the starter to work fast in enriched doughs so that it doesn’t impart a sour flavor into the final product. While a long rise and resulting sour flavor are great in artisan sourdough bread, it would take away from the sweetness and richness we want from sweet doughs like this hot cross bun dough for instance.
To give the starter a fighting chance against all of the added ingredients to this and other enriched doughs it helps to get the starter very active beforehand. To do this, start feeding an offshoot or a small portion of your starter about every 4 hours the day before and the day that you will mix the dough. This will get the starter very active and ready to work immediately once the dough is mixed. This is very helpful in cool climates, but if you live in a warmer climate may not be necessary.
How to Decorate the Bunny Buns
To create the cute bunny faces each bunny gets dipped in a thick lemon glaze. The eyes and nose are made from raisins that have been cut in half to make them smaller. Dried currants would also work great for this. To create the whiskers I used 6 long strands of flaked coconut. This was a medium flake size that I purchased at our local supermarket, specifically the supermarket’s own brand called Nature’s Promise Unsweetened Flaked Coconut.
Perhaps the most fun part is to add edible flower and leaf crowns to the bunnies. I used violas that we have growing in the garden and foraged some red clover leaves from our yard. When using edible flowers or foraging for edibles always make sure to identify the plant correctly and confirm it is edible. Do not use flowers from nurseries unless you know they have not been sprayed or given growth retardant, which is sadly common for potted annuals. Other edible flower varieties that would work well and are in season during spring include wild violets, pansies and primroses.
tips and tricks for successful sourdough hot cross buns
- use a very active sourdough starter that has been feed often to build up its activity, especially if you live in a cool climate
- fold the fruit into the dough like you would laminate butter in puff pastry dough to evenly disperse the fruit and help keep it from tearing the dough and in turn the gluten structure that was built up during kneading
- bulk ferment and proof the dough in a warm spot (100-110˚F/37-43˚C is perfect)
- use a scale to measure out ingredients (I’ve included volume measurement in the recipe but they are never as accurate as using a scale and are not standardized throughout the world.)
- make the dough at night and let it bulk ferment overnight to shape, proof, and bake the following morning if you live in a cool climate
- make the dough in the morning, bulk ferment, shape, and then proof in the fridge overnight, then take them out to come to room temperature in a warm spot before baking them if you live in a warm climate
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