tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns
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These tender tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns are lightly sweetened and spiced with dried fruit, bright lemon zest, and an apricot jam glaze. You’ll love making this recipe in the spring or for the Easter season!

tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns recipe Pinterest image

Tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns are such a cute addition to the breakfast or brunch table!

A decent portion of the flour in this recipe is whole wheat for added flavor and nutrition.

Warming allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon play well alongside vanilla extract and fresh lemon zest in the sourdough hot cross buns.

You’ll be amazed how aromatic the dough is!

I decided to use sweetened dried cranberries this time, since I had some on hand. Dried currents or raisins would also compliment the flavors perfectly.

And to top these buns off, an apricot jam glaze ties all the flavors together and adds just a bit more sweetness.

What is Tangzhong?

Tangzhong is a simple milk and flour mixture that is cooked on the stove until it thickens and gelatinizes.

The tangzhong is then added to the final dough as a natural dough enhancer to soften the bread and extend its shelf life!

sourdough hot cross buns in a baking pan next to a bowl of apricot jam

Tangzhong can do wonders for a bread’s texture when whole wheat flour makes up a good percentage of the formula.

I use this method to soften my sourdough donuts and sourdough brioche and a similar method (yundane) to soften my sourdough hamburger buns.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns Recipe Notes

The dough is prepared in a mixer so no stretch-and-folds are necessary during the bulk rise.

I prefer to make the hot cross buns using a 2-day baking schedule. The chilled dough is less sticky when shaping the next day, and the dough develops a more complex flavor (though not sour).

You can definitely make the buns in 1 day, if you prefer. Just use a little more flour when shaping and expect the final proof to be shorter.

close up shot of a sourdough hot cross bun with apricot jam glaze

This recipe yields 9 pull-apart buns to fit in an 8-inch square baking pan.

You can double the recipe, if you would like, and bake in a 13×9-inch pan or bake on a half sheet pan to give the buns more space to spread out.

Tangzhong Hot Cross Buns Baking Schedule

*The strength of your starter and the temperature of the dough will affect how long each step will take. If your dough/kitchen is cooler than mine, expect rise times to take longer.

Feed your starter several hours prior to baking the recipe and allow it to peak.

Approximate timing:

  • Prepare and cool tangzhong: 20 minutes
  • Mix and knead dough (including 30-minute rest): 45 minutes
  • Bulk rise: 5 hours (assuming a 71°F final dough temp and 78°F ambient temp)
  • Retard in refrigerator: overnight (12 hours+)
  • Shape: 10 minutes
  • Proof: 6 hours, 15 minutes (assuming 78°F ambient temp)
  • Egg wash, cross design and bake: 25 minutes

Start the dough in the morning or early afternoon on day 1. Shape, proof and bake on day 2.

Buns can alternately be made with a 1-day schedule. The final proof will take only about 4.5 hours at 78°F.

Tips for Making Tangzhong Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

  • Use an active sourdough starter for the best results. Feed it ahead of time so it’s at its peak rise when you’re ready to mix the dough.
  • The ingredients are listed by weight for accuracy. There is a 30-minute rest after the initial mixing before the salt and butter are added. This rest kickstarts gluten development for quicker kneading.
a tray of tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns with dried cranberries

How to Make Tangzhong Sourdough Hot Cross Buns (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Step 1 – Prepare Tangzhong

First you’ll make the tangzhong. Start by whisking the flour and milk together in a small saucepan, and then cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

When it’s the consistency of mashed potatoes, remove the pan from the heat.

tangzhong in a small pan with a rubber spatula

Cover and set the mixture aside to cool.

Or to speed the cooling process, spread the tangzhong flat on a large dinner plate, cover the surface with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for a few minutes.

Step 2 – Mix Sourdough Hot Cross Bun Dough

I use my Bosch mixer fitted with the dough hook and dough hook extender for easy kneading.

First, add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, the cooled tangzhong mixture, ripe starter, whole milk, egg, and granulated sugar.

Also add in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and the spices: allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Mix the dough for a minute or two until everything comes together, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl if necessary.

Then cover the dough and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Next, add the salt and butter. Knead the dough on low speed for 8-10 minutes until the gluten is fully developed. The dough should look smooth and shiny and clean itself off the sides of the bowl.

It should stretch to a thin windowpane when pulled with damp fingers.

Finally, you’ll add in your dried fruit and mix just until it is incorporated.

Step 3 – Bulk Fermentation (With Optional Overnight Cold Fermentation)

Dampen your hands so you can form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a bowl or container for bulk fermentation.

The dough will need to double in volume (or nearly double if you’ll be refrigerating it overnight).

I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my Cambro 4-quart container.

I mark the dough’s starting point with a dry-erase marker (I’ll either press the dough flat or wait until it relaxes) so I can clearly see when the bulk rise is done.

the sourdough hot cross bun dough rising in a straight-sided container during bulk fermentation

Cover tightly and refrigerate at this point, or proceed to the next step.

Step 4 – Shape Tanzghong Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

After bulk fermentation (or the next day) turn out your dough onto a clean countertop. Divide it evenly into 9 pieces.

I like to weigh each piece out to 77 grams so they are exactly the same.

Grease a baking pan with softened butter. I love the straight sides on my USA pan.

Then you’ll want to degas each piece of dough (press out all the air bubbles), and form them into rounds.

There’s a quick way to form a piece of dough into a ball.

All you need to do is cup your hand around the dough and scoot it in a circle against the counter. The tension shapes the bun quickly and neatly.

Step 5 – Final Proof

Arrange all 9 buns evenly in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place. Proof until the buns are nice and puffy.

They will pass the “poke test,” meaning the dough will bounce back slowly if you poke a bun with a damp finger. Don’t forget to preheat your oven to 375°F.

Step 6 – Egg Wash, Cross Design, and Bake

Before baking, whisk together an egg with a tablespoon of milk to make an egg wash. Brush a thin layer over the top of the proofed buns. The egg wash will add color and shine to the buns.

Then stir sourdough starter (or flour mixed with water) with oil to create a smooth flour paste for the cross design. This design will bake right into the tops of the rolls.

Pipe the paste in lines horizontally and vertically across the centers of the buns using a piping bag with the tip cut off (you can also use a metal tip in the bag or just cut the corner off a zipper bag).

I like to practice a little on a dinner plate before I get going since the flour paste never behaves quite as nicely as icing would.

piping the flour paste crosses onto the buns

Bake the buns on the center rack for 18-20 minutes until they are lightly golden and the centers register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Step 7 – Glaze with Apricot Jam

Heat apricot jam in the microwave or on the stove and stir it to thin the consistency (you can always add a splash of water if it still seems too thick).

Use a clean pastry brush to apply a thin layer to the tops of the buns right when they come out of the oven. Allow the buns to cool in the pan before serving them warm.

How to Store Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Because of the tangzhong, these buns will easily stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-5 days.

If you would like to store them longer to pull out for a quick breakfast or snack another time, you can wrap and freeze them for up to 3 months.

If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you would come back to leave a star rating and a comment. Your feedback is very appreciated!

Follow me on Instagram @aberlehome and tag me on your photo to show me what you made!

tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns

Tangzhong Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 9 buns
Hands-On Time: 37 minutes
Rise/Rest Time: 1 day
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 57 minutes

These tender tangzhong sourdough hot cross buns are lightly sweetened and spiced with dried fruit, bright lemon zest, and an apricot jam glaze. You'll love making this recipe in the spring or for the Easter season!


Tangzhong (Scald)

  • 150g whole milk
  • 30g unbleached all-purpose flour

Final Dough

  • 120g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • Cooled tangzhong from above
  • 100g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 37g whole milk
  • 52g egg (about 1 large egg)
  • 50g granulated sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest from one small lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6g kosher salt
  • 21g (1.5 Tablespoons) salted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 70g dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, or currents), plus extra to garnish, if desired

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon whole milk

Flour Paste for Cross Design

  • 55g sourdough starter or discard (or just mix 27g each of all-purpose flour and water)
  • 4g (1 teaspoon) neutral oil


  • 2 Tablespoons apricot jam, warmed and stirred


  1. Prepare tangzhong: In a small saucepan, whisk together milk and flour and set over medium heat. Continue cooking and stirring constantly until mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Spread mixture flat on a large dinner plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cooled.
  2. Mix dough: In a mixer fitted with a dough hook (with the dough hook extender if using a Bosch mixer), add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cooled tangzhong mixture, sourdough starter, milk, egg, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon. Mix for a minute or two until well-combined. Cover dough and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. After the rest, add salt and butter cubes. Knead on low speed for 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and shiny and pulls itself clean from the sides of the mixer. Dough should pass the windowpane test. If it isn't showing these signs, continue kneading for a couple more minutes and check again. Once the gluten structure is developed, add in dried fruit and mix on low speed until just combined.
  4. Bulk ferment: Using damp hands, form dough into a ball and place in a bowl or straight-sided container for bulk fermentation. Cover and set in a warm place to rise until it has nearly doubled in volume (about 5 hours with a final dough temp of 71°F and ambient temp of 78°F). Cover tightly and refrigerate dough overnight. (For a 1-day schedule, allow dough to double, then proceed directly to shaping--see notes.)
  5. Divide and shape: Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with softened butter. Turn out dough onto a clean surface and divide into 9 equal pieces (77g each). Degass dough by pressing each piece flat against the counter to pop any air bubbles, then shape each piece into a round ball. (I lightly flour my hands and surface as necessary, and scoot each piece in a circular motion with my hand cupped around the dough to form balls quickly. A flexible scraper is a helpful tool here.)
  6. Proof: Place dough balls evenly in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof until buns have doubled in size and the dough feels puffy and springs back slowly when poked with a damp finger (about 6 hours, 20 minutes at 78°F). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F with a rack set in the center.
  7. Egg wash and cross design: When the buns are nearly proofed, prepare egg wash by whisking together the egg and milk in a small bowl until frothy. Set aside. In another small bowl, stir together starter (or flour and water) with oil until smooth. Place in a plastic piping bag or zipper bag with the tip cut off.
  8. When bun are fully proofed, brush the surface of each bun with egg wash. Pipe horizontal and vertical lines across the buns to create a cross on the center of each one.
  9. Bake: Bake on the center rack for 18-20 minutes or until the buns are lightly golden and the internal temperature reads 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  10. Glaze: While buns are still hot in the pan, brush the tops with a thin layer of warm apricot jam. Set the pan on a cooling rack and allow buns to cool slightly before serving.


  • Doubling the recipe: The recipe can be doubled to make 18 pull-apart buns in a 13x9-inch pan. Alternately bake buns on a parchment-lined half sheet pan if you want buns to spread out more for a rounder shape.
  • 1-day baking schedule: If you choose to skip the overnight cold ferment, know the dough will be stickier to shape while warm. The buns will also proof more quickly.
  • How to store: Allow buns to cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-5 days. For longer storage, wrap and freeze buns for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 9 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 240Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 299mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 7g

*Nutrition information is not always accurate.