Super soft and fluffy sourdough brioche hot cross buns shaped into adorable bunnies for Easter. The dough is flavored with spices and loaded with soaked dried fruit. Decorate these bunny buns with lemon glaze, raisin features, flaked coconut whiskers and edible flower crowns for a fun Easter treat!
- 200g dried fruit (such as 100 g raisins + 100 g chopped dates or your preference)
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
- 200 g very active 100% hydration sourdough starter
- 182 g (3/4 cup) milk, warmed
- 70 g (4 1/2 tablespoons) honey
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 9 g (1 tablespoon) vanilla extract
- 8 g orange zest (from one 1 large orange)
- 500 g flour (either all bread flour or a mix of 300 g bread flour and 200 g soft/white whole wheat flour)
- 9 g (2 teaspoons) kosher salt
- 3 g (2 teaspoons) ground cinnamon
- 1 g (1/2 teaspoon) ground allspice
- 2 g (1/2 teaspoon) ground cardamom
- 56 g (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature cut into 16 pieces
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 200 g (1 1/2 cups) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 36 g (3 tablespoons) lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- Raisins cut in half
- Flaked coconut
- Edible flowers and leaves (such as violas, violets, pansies, clover, mint)
- Start by soaking the dried fruit in a bowl with orange juice and orange blossom water. Let the fruit sit while you prepare the dough.
- Measure out sourdough starter, warm milk, honey, eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if mixing by hand. Give it a quick mix with a dough whisk or a fork.
- Measure out the flour(s), salt, and spices into the same bowl and start kneading the mixture together on low speed with a dough hook attachment or by hand.
- After about 1 minute of kneading and when the dough has been mixed together well, add 1 piece of butter at a time and mix it in fully before adding the next piece. The dough should be kneaded at low to medium speed for a total of 15-20 minutes or until it reaches windowpane stage. To check this, wet your hands and stretch a bit of the dough out. Windowpane stage means the dough will be thin enough to let light through without tearing. If the dough rips apart, keep kneading it.
- Lightly flour your work surface and dump the dough onto the flour. Use a bowl scraper to help get the dough to release from the bowl.
- Press the dough with your hands into a large rectangle about 18″ x 12″.
- Drain the soaked fruit and add 1/4 of the fruit to the bottom half of the dough rectangle. Then fold the dough over and give it a quarter turn, then press it out again into a large rectangle. If the dough is sticking to the board use a bench scraper and flour your hands to help move it during the quarter turns. Repeat this process 3 more times to incorporate all of the fruit. Folding the fruit into the dough in steps like this helps keep the fruit encased in the dough without tearing it, and disperses it evenly throughout the dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place into an oiled or buttered mixing bowl, cover it tightly and allow it to bulk ferment in a warm spot until it has doubled in volume. This could take a few hours to overnight depending on the temperature and environment. The more active the starter and warmer the temperature the faster it will rise.
- After the dough has finished bulk fermenting, weigh it then divide it into 12 pieces for large rolls (pictured in this post) or 20 pieces for smaller rolls. Cover the portioned dough with a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out.
- Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Shape each piece of dough into roughly a 12″ long log. Twist one end over the other to create the simple bunny head and ears shape. Then transfer them to the sheet pans. Cover each sheet pan with a damp towel or proofing bag and proof the buns in a warm spot until they are puffy and slowly spring back when poked with a floured fingertip. This could take 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the temperature and environment. A tip to speed up the proofing time is to turn on your oven just to start warming it up, then turn it off before it gets too hot and proof them in the warm oven. 100-110˚F/37-43˚C is an ideal proofing temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Make sure to take the buns out first if you are proofing them in the oven.
- Brush the tops and sides of the buns with the beaten egg.
- Bake the buns at 375˚F/190˚C for 15-20 minutes for smaller buns or 25-30 minutes for larger buns or until they are golden brown and their internal temperature reaches 200˚F/93˚C.
- Transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely before glazing and decorating them. Or enjoy them warm from the oven if you like.
- To make the lemon glaze mix together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and salt, adding the lemon juice a little at a time, and mixing it in fully each time. The glaze should be thick enough to hold a figure-8 shape drizzled off the back of a spoon into the glaze for 30 seconds before dissolving back into itself.
- Dip the top of the buns into the glaze and use a spoon to help spread it onto the ears if needed.
- Add the decorations before the glaze has set. Use cut raisins for eyes and a nose and flaked coconut for whiskers. Use edible flowers and leaves to make flower crowns for the bunnies. Note: The edible flowers and leaves won’t last more than the day they are made, so leave them off if you are making these ahead of time.
- Unglazed buns will keep sealed in a bag at room temperature for up to 3 days before they get stale. They can also be frozen for up to six months and warmed in the oven before serving. Glazed buns are best eaten the day they are decorated, but will keep for up to 3 days sealed in a bag or container at room temperature.
- The day before you plan to mix the dough start feeding an offshoot of your starter every 4 hours or so to get it super active. This will help keep the bulk fermentation time short and in turn, reduce the chance of imparting a sour flavor into the dough. This isn’t a necessary step but will help if you live in a cool climate.
- 100% hydration starter means starter that is made with equal parts by weight of water and flour. Learn how to make your own starter from scratch in my free sourdough starter course.
- This dough can be made dairy-free by using plant milk and plant butter in equal amounts. I do not recommend removing or replacing the eggs as they are the key to producing a fluffy and soft dough. If you need vegan dough then try this vegan sweet sourdough dough from my recipe archives.
- The base of this dough can be used as a sourdough brioche dough for cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and sweet bread, rolls or buns. Follow the same steps but omit the ground spices and dried fruit.
- Honey can be replaced with any sugar or sweetener of your choice.
- I highly recommend using a scale to measure out ingredients in baked good recipes. Here is the scale I use.
- To make this dough using instant or active dry yeast instead of sourdough, omit the sourdough starter, add 7 g or 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast, and increase the milk to 232 g or 1 cup. This is the yeast I recommend for sweet or enriched doughs: LeSaffre Saf-Instant Yeast – Gold. Store it in the freezer for longevity. Follow the same steps. The dough will rise in about 1 hour for the first rise and about 30 minutes for the second proof, so it can be made from start to finish in the same day.
Keywords: hot cross buns, sourdough hot cross buns, bunny rolls, easter rolls