Orange and Cranberry Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

sourdough orange cranberry hot cross buns
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This is my newest addition to the Hot Cross collection. Orange and cranberries remind you of Thanksgiving and Holidays but that didn’t stop me from throwing them in my Hot cross buns. For me a hot cross bun is not complete without a big dollop of butter. As these are far from the traditional, I decided to pair the bun with an Orange flavored cream cheese spread. This light, fluffy and mildly sweet spread is packed full of Orange flavor. The bun is studded with tangy dried cranberries that were soaked in orange juice. And guess what? the pink color soaking orange juice is then used to make the paste for the cross. Otherwise bland white cross, tastes like a cranberry fruit strip in this case! I kid you not!!

Okay, after reading the paragraph above, if you are still like… Thanks but ..No Thanks, I’ll stick with the traditional flavors? No problem at all. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I’ve got you covered. Check my Traditional Hot Cross buns recipe or if you are into chocolate, the Chocolate Hot Cross buns. They are both sourdough recipes as well.

sourdough Orange cranberry hot cross buns

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Soaking the cranberries in Orange juice

Use organic dried cranberries (sweetened is fine). Soaking them in freshly squeezed Orange juice does two things. One, this helps moisten them so they won’t draw moisture out of the dough. Two, they’ll be infused with orange flavor, which is exactly what we want. Roughly chopping the cranberries will help evenly spreading them across the dough. Warm the Orange juice slightly for better absorption. 15 seconds in the microwave will do. Let the cranberries soak for at least an hours, then squeeze out the excess juice. The cranberries will stain the Orange juice. Save this pink soaking juice for later. We will be using that to make the paste for the cross to go on top.


Make the starter sponge (stiff levain) and let it mature. Use fed, mature sourdough starter to make the stiff levain.

Mix everything, place in a jar and cover loosely. Place in a slightly warm place until it reaches peak. Usually takes about 8-10 hours at 25°C.

I usually build this overnight. It’s cooler in the night so when I make this around 10 pm it is usually ready by 6-7am in the morning. It’s okay to let it sit for an extra hour or two.


Roughly chop the cranberries. Use either unsweetened or sweetened.

Roughly chopping them will help better incorporate the pieces.

soak cranberries

Squeeze half an orange (this will give you roughly about 1/4 cup juice)
Slightly warm up the juice ( 15 seconds in microwave)
Add the cranberries and let it soak for at least an hour.

Let it soak overnight in the fridge if you like

Once soaked, squeeze excess juice (no need to remove all the juice) and place cranberries in a separate bowl

Save the soaking juice to make the paste later

zest or two oranges

Use zest of two large Oranges. I used both Cara Cara and Navel Oranges.

Any orange type works but avoid Seville as their peel could be slightly bitter than the rest!

make the dough

Place flour, sugar, Orange zest, salt in a bowl of stand mixer. Mix the milk and egg together and dissolve the starter in the same liquid. Add the liquid to the flour along with softened butter and mix on low speed. Add water gradually and continue to mix. Scrape the bowl down before adding all the water. If the dough is dry, add a 1-2 tbsp. of extra water.

Once the dough is fully hydrated, mix on medium speed for about a minute.

add cranberry

Then add the soaked cranberries and mix on low speed just until everything is incorporated. Do not overmix.

Once cranberries are distributed, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for about 15-30 minutes.

In the mean time, clean up the work area and lightly grease a glass/plastic bowl.


Take the dough out onto a surface, using wet hands, do a few slap and folds to bring the dough together. The dough will be slightly sticky. After the folds, it will become less sticky.

Place this dough in the prepared bowl, cover and place in a warm area to bulk(until doubled in size).

This will take roughly about 4-5 hours at 27 °C and longer if the room temperature is low. Keep an eye.

I place mine in the oven(switched off) with a steaming cup of water. Replace the water every 1 – 1.5 hours

bulked dough

When the dough is nearly doubled, we can move on to the next step.

Retarding the dough
If you want, this dough can be refrigerated for several hours and you can continue the rest later or next day.
In that case, let the cold dough come to room temperature before continuing.
It won’t develop sour flavor, so don’t worry. We are using a stiff starter and all the sugar, cranberries and the orange will overpower any sourness if at all.

sourdough Orange cranberry hot cross buns
divide the dough

Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces

Weight of one dough will be anywhere between 90-100g


Preshape them into balls and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Prepare a tray lined with a parchment

dough balls

Shape them in to tight smooth dough balls and place on the tray. I like to arrange them in packs of 6. Leave a gap around for the buns as they will expand.

shaping video here.

Cover and place in a warm place until doubled in size.

This will take roughly 4-5 hours at 27 °C and longer if the room temperature is low. Keep an eye.


Make the paste for the cross in the meantime. Use the cranberry soaking juice for the color and flavor. If the color is not vibrant enough, add a drop of edible natural food coloring (red or pink) or you can use a bit of cranberry juice (cordial)

The constancy should be thick yet runny. If it is too runny fix by adding a pinch of flour. Do not over mix this paste or it will turn out too rubbery.

Mix, cover and let sit until the buns are ready. Use a piping bag fitted with a small tip (5mm)

proofed buns

These are the proofed buns. They will be wobbly, almost doubled in size and be very soft and delicate.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (200°C) wait until a thermometer placed inside read the correct temperature.

pipe the cross

When the oven is ready, pipe the cross on the buns and place in the oven.

After 5 minutes, reduce the temp to 350°F and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown

Syrup in a jar

Make the orange syrup while the buns are baking. Mix everything, bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer for a minute just until the syrup becomes slightly sticky.

Over cooking the syrup will make it too thick. If this happens, simply add more juice and bring to the correct consistency.

baked buns

Baked buns! Once they are equally golden brown, remove from the oven and place on rack.

brush with syrup

As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the prepared Orange syrup. Leave to cool completely.

sourdough orange cranberry hot cross buns
Orange cream cheese

Make the Orange cream cheese spread, by simply whipping, soft butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and orange zest until light and creamy

prick the buns

When the buns are cool enough to handle, prick the bottom.

fill with cream cheese

Pipe a generous amount of the cream cheese filling

fill the buns

Fill only the once you plan to serve and leave the rest plain. The cream cheese filling can be refrigerated!

Don’t want to fill the buns? Serve the spread on the side with toasted buns. Equally delicious!!

soft buns

The soft, cream filled interior!

sourdough Orange cranberry hot cross buns

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  1. For the cranberry orange and the cinnamon raisin cross buns, I tried piping the cross part once, but found that I did not need it. Nor did I need the cream cheese filling. I’ve found that the sugar syrup is all you need for the cross buns. In this recipe I used the cranberry soaking liquid with sugar for the sugar syrup (I had to add a little more orange juice to have enough)
    I’ve been getting rave reviews on the cranberry orange buns and the cinnamon raisin buns without the crosses and/or filling. Thank you so much for these recipes.I cannot wait to try more of your recipes. I’ve been off commercial yeast for several years, and have about 3 starters. You have given me many reasons to keep them going! I hope you are still baking. You have inspired me.

    1. Thank you and welcome! You are absolutely right, hot cross buns don’t need much. they are super delicious on their own with a simple syrup.

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