This recipe requires a sourdough starter. The buns also require poolish, a starter made with yeast that encourages a slower rise and stronger dough. For more sourdough discard recipes, check out our sourdough brownies, sourdough pancakes and sourdough cookies. Also read our guide on how to make sourdough and best sourdough recipes for a healthy gut.

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For more enriched dough recipes check out our Chelsea buns, cardamom buns and laminated milk bread.



  • 250g whole milk
  • 150g active sourdough starter, (it should float when a tsp is dropped into water)
  • 200g poolish, (see below)
  • 500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 5g dried fast-action yeast
  • 200g unsalted butter, plus extra for the tin


  • ⅛ tsp dried fast-action yeast
  • 100g strong white bread flour


  • 4 oranges, zested
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 150g soft light brown sugar


  • STEP 1

    The night before, mix the poolish ingredients with 100ml of warm water to a paste. Cover with a tea towel and leave overnight at room temp. It will be bubbly and foamy the next day.

  • STEP 2

    The next day, tip the milk, sourdough starter and poolish into a large bowl. Mix using a whisk, then add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Using a slightly dampened hand, mix all the ingredients together so everything is well combined and incorporated – this will take 2-3 minutes.

  • STEP 3

    Cover the mixture with a tea towel and leave for 30 minutes. After this time, stretch and fold the dough over itself with a wet hand to build up the dough’s strength without knocking out the air (about five folds will do). Cover, leave for another 30 minutes and repeat. Do this three times to really build up the strength of the dough during the fermentation process.

  • STEP 4

    Lightly dampen a worksurface. Tip out the dough and flatten into a large rectangle using your hands. Transfer to a lightly floured baking tray, cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours. At the same time, put the butter in the freezer.

  • STEP 5

    Remove the dough from the fridge and lightly flour the worksurface. Roll the dough out to a 20cm x 45cm rectangle, then grate over the frozen butter using a box grater. Fold the bottom third of the dough up towards the centre, then do the same with the top third and fold the whole thing in half. Turn the rectangle by 90 degrees and repeat. Cover and return to the fridge for 30 minutes. You can repeat this process up to four times for maximum layering, but twice is sufficient.

  • STEP 6

    Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into a large rectangle about 1cm thick (20cm x 45cm). Scatter with the citrus zests, thyme leaves and brown sugar, then roll into a long, tight sausage (as you would a yule log) and cut into 3cm-wide buns along the length.

  • STEP 7

    Butter a muffin tin and line with baking paper. Arrange the buns in the holes, cut-side up, and prove in a cool area for 1 hour 30 minutes. Bake at 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the sugar has melted.

  • STEP 8

    Carefully remove the buns from the tin while still hot and cool upside-down on a wire rack so all the syrup goes back into the buns. Serve.

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Three sourdough pancakes in a pan with a stack by the side

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