These sourdough hot cross buns are soft and light, loaded with fruit, spiced and lightly sweet. I call them hope on a plate.
In a large bowl stir together the sourdough starter, water and milk until well combined. Follow with the melted butter, egg and sugar. Stir until well incorporated then add the flour, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Use a dough whisk or spatula to combine, making sure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the mixture. You'll get a shaggy, somewhat moist dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for one hour.
Stretch and fold the dough every thirty minutes. Do this three times, covering the bowl with plastic wrap after each session. With each stretch and fold session you will begin to see and feel gluten development.
Thirty minutes after the third stretch and fold session add the lemon zest, raisins and diced pear to the bowl. Stretch and fold to incorporate the add-ins. You don't need to be gentle here--the fruit will need to be completely incorporated into the dough so take a piece of the dough and fold over the top, repeating until all the fruit has been evenly distributed throughout (refer to the video link in the post). You'll break the gluten strands and this is okay. If your dough is too wet sprinkle one tablespoon at a time of flour, up to three tablespoons but be careful not to make the dough too dry. It's okay for it to be a little wet. Cover again with plastic wrap to continue bulk fermentation until the dough has roughly doubled in size. In my 77ºF kitchen this took roughly 3 1/2 to 4 hours. It may take longer in a cooler environment.
Turn the dough out on a lightly-floured surface. The dough will be airy so you can pinch some of the largest bubbles to de-gas. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Flour your hands and the work surface, if necessary, to work with the dough. Take pieces of the dough and fold over the top, repeating until all the pieces meet in the middle, pinching to seal the ends together. Flip over so the seam is down on the counter and roll into a ball, cupping the round with the palm of your hand in a rolling motion (refer to the video link in the post).
Take each rolled dough and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Set them about a half-inch to one-inch apart. They need room to expand but should attach as a cluster as they proof. Cover the baking sheet with a towel and allow for final proof. The rounds will expand during this time to nearly double. In my warmer kitchen this took roughly 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
Combine the flour and water to make until you have a smooth paste. Transfer to a small piping bag or sandwich bag. Snip a small opening and pipe vertical and horizontal lines along the top of the rounds to form crosses.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking pan halfway through. Brush the tops of the buns with apricot jam or orange marmalade while they're still hot. Serve the buns warm with butter or toast them the next day.
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