Sourdough Surprises: Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns (Whole Wheat)


It was a happy coincidence that Sourdough Surprises picked hot cross buns this month as the challenge as I had already planned to make them for Easter!  I love hot cross buns, though not the buns of my youth that were squishy and sticky rolls filled with fluorescent candied fruit and decorated with a gooey lemon gel cross.  Truth be told, I think I mostly liked that gel and not the rolls!

As a grown up, I prefer hearty, whole grain breads and high quality dried fruits (and no chemicals) in my breakfast breads.  I’ve made the base recipe (from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking) several times but never in sourdough so it was a fun challenge to convert the recipe and make it my own.  I prefer dried cranberries to raisins any day and orange is a natural pairing with cranberry, so I made a whole wheat hot cross bun flavored with orange and cranberry and iced with an orange frosting cross.

I used my usual conversion method of creating an overnight sponge with 1 Tbsp. of sourdough starter added to the water from the recipe and an equal amount of the flour from the recipe.   I do this before I go to bed and it is usually bubbly and ready to use by the next morning.  Sourdough requires infinite patience, especially when the house is cold, so my buns were not baked until that night as my sourdough took all day to rise.  Breakfast for dinner!   The buns were a little bit dense, but we enjoyed them though my childhood self would not recognize them!

Sourdough Surprises: Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns (Whole Wheat)
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Easter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
Hearty whole wheat hot cross buns flavored with dried cranberries and orange zest, decorated with orange icing and leavened with a sourdough starter.
  • For the sponge:
  • 1 Tbsp. sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • ⅔ cup (5⅜ oz/ 52 g) lukewarm water
  • ⅔ cup (2.8 oz/79g) all-purpose flour
  • For the Dough:
  • 1 cup (6 oz/170g) dried cranberries, moistened in 1 Tbsp. orange juice
  • ⅓ cup (2⅝ oz/74.5g) orange juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (1 stick, 4 oz/113g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2 pieces
  • 2¼ cups (9 oz/255g) whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups (8.5oz/240g) all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (2½ oz/70g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (1 oz/28g) nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • zest from one orange
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • For the Icing:
  • 1½ cups (6 oz/170g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 - 5 tsp. orange juice (or milk or cream)
  1. Combine the sponge ingredients in a bowl. Cover and let sit overnight or for 8-10 hours until the mixture is bubbly.
  2. Combine the sponge with the remaining dough ingredients except the cranberries and mix and knead until the dough is soft and smooth. You may need a little extra flour to compensate for the extra moisture from the starter.
  3. Cover the dough and allow it to rise until it is puffy though not doubled in bulk. This took several hours in my chilly house.
  4. Grease two 9" round cake pans and set aside.
  5. Gently deflate the dough and gently knead in the cranberries. Divide the dough into 24 pieces and roll each into a round ball.
  6. Place 12 balls in each pan, about ¾ inch apart. Cover and let rise in a warm place until they are puffy and touching each other. This took another few hours even though I proofed it in an oven with the light on for warmth.
  7. Toward the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350F/177C.
  8. Uncover and bake the buns for 25 minutes, until they are light golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes so they are still warm but not so hot that the icing will run off.
  9. While the buns are cooling, make the icing by combining the sugar, vanilla, salt and orange juice together in a small bowl. Drizzle the icing over the warm buns in a cross over each bun. Serve warm.

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Zentangle Quilting in Color

Zentangle Quilting in Color |

I had such fun making Zentangle quilts last month that I decided to make a couple more.  This time I filled them in with color using a technique from Irena Bluhm’s book Quilts of a Different Color.  After stitching and coloring in the black areas with a Pigma pen, I used colored pencils to fill in areas of the quilt.  I then painted over the color with textile medium to blend and fix the colors.  This was even more fun than making the black and white Zentangles, though I like them both.

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We Should Cocoa: Hot Cocoa Bunnies

Hot  Chocolate Bunnies |

Easter weather is always a surprise around here – sunny summer temperatures one day and overcast and chilly day the next.  I’m pretty happy drinking hot chocolate on all but the hottest days though.  With that in mind, I made some little hot cocoa bunnies to use to make a decadent cup of Easter-themed hot chocolate.

Some of the best cups of hot chocolate I’ve ever had have been simply milk with a good quality chocolate melted into it.  Plain chocolate chunks don’t melt very smoothly though.  One of my co-workers used to melt my homemade truffles into her coffee to enjoy as a mocha, so I thought I’d try using ganache (the chocolate and cream filling for truffles) as my hot chocolate “mix”.  With a little cocoa powder added to temper the sweetness, the ganache makes an excellent hot chocolate and can be molded into any fun shape using a silicone mold.  I have a great little silicone bunny mold that I usually find hiding in my baking cabinet in the summer, so I’m pleased I remembered to use it before Easter this year!

I’m entering this recipe in April’s We Should Cocoa challenge which is hosted this month by Rachel Cotterill who picked Easter as her theme.   The We Should Cocoa challenge, managed by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog, is a great excuse to make a chocolate treat and to use our creativity.   The idea is to make something with chocolate each month.  We can use any sort of chocolate or cocoa substance and use any ingredient that we like, but we must include the special ingredient or theme selected by the host.


We Should Cocoa: Hot Cocoa Bunnies
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
Chocolate Ganache bunnies for melting into milk for a decadent, dark hot chocolate
  • For the Bunnies
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (do not use chocolate chips)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • For the hot chocolate
  • ⅔ cup hot milk
  • 1 bunny
  1. For the bunnies:
  2. In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the chopped chocolate, cream, powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Stir constantly until the mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Spoon chocolate into a silicone mold. Tap mold to release air bubbles. Refrigerate for an hour to firm up.
  4. Remove chocolate from the mold and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  5. To make hot chocolate:
  6. Heat ⅔ cup of milk to a simmer and pour it into your hot chocolate cup. Add one bunny and let sit for a minute to soften. Stir well until the chocolate is fully incorporated into the milk.
Molds come in many different sizes. You may need to experiment with the amount of milk per shape to get a ratio that you enjoy.

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Zentangle Quilting

Last month, I decided to try a fun technique from Pat Ferguson’s book Zen Quilting.  Prior to this book, I had never heard of Zentangles but am now fascinated with them.   A Zentangle is basically a structured version of doodling.  It starts with an outline, which may or may not be roughly square, drawn on a 3 1/2″ piece of paper (a Zentangle tile).  That shape is then filled with patterns.  The finished piece is meant to have no up or down and can be displayed in any orientation.

With her book, Pat Ferguson takes this Zentangle art form and transfers it into machine quilting by creating patterns with continuous lines and then reproducing them in a larger size on fabric with machine stitching.  The machine stitching can be enhanced by filling in areas or adding intricate decorative designs with a fine Pigma pen.  The designs may also be colored, though the black and white style is traditional.
Zentangle Quilt |

Zentangle Quilt |

I had so much fun making these two 8.5″ mini-quilts and I am planning to do more.  Not only does it help with creativity, it’s a very constructive way to practice free-motion quilting and helps with creating free motion quilting designs.   It took me about 10 drawings to really start to like what I was doing and feel comfortable with it.  I then chose the two Zentangles I liked most to turn into quilts.  I chose to stick with the traditional approach of black thread on a white background (scary quilting territory!), black pen stitching, and filling in the border with white on white machine quilting.  Next, I hope to try make a version where I color the fabric after I’ve stitched the design.

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