A golden, swirled bun filled with a brown sugar filling

Sourdough breakfast buns

  • makes 12 buns
  • A little effort

Fragrant with citrus fruit, thyme and a sticky brown sugar filling, these pillowy soft buns are perfect with a morning coffee or afternoon brew – the recipe comes from The Gin Trap Inn, Norfolk


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.





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


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


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


  • 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.

From pancakes to tempura batter, find more sourdough starter recipes

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

Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 415
  • Fat 15.1g
  • Saturates 9.3g
  • Carbs 60.5g
  • Sugars 17.5g
  • Fibre 2.5g
  • Protein 8.1g
  • Salt 0.9g