June, 2017

  • Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    08 June, 2017 Winter entertaining with Gill Meller

    Gill Meller is in the country, his first time to Australia, showcasing his beautiful book Gather with a series of dinners and classes. We caught up with him to find out what's on the menu for his Aussie guests.
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May, 2017

April, 2017

February, 2017

January, 2017

December, 2016

October, 2016

September, 2016

August, 2016

July, 2016

June, 2016

May, 2016

April, 2016

March, 2016

February, 2016

January, 2016

December, 2015

November, 2015

  • Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    27 November, 2015 Christmas basics: the perfect custard

    We're looking at those staple recipes that can make or break your Christmas spread. First up, the much-misunderstood sweet seductress, custard.
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  • Halfway Home

    16 November, 2015 Halfway Home

    I’ve been sugar-free for a total of two weeks, and things are going surprisingly well...
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  • Bubbles or nothing

    11 November, 2015 Bubbles or nothing

    Out to impress this party season? To take your entertaining game to the next level, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Halliday Wine Companion to share tips on matching sparkling wines to a range of show-stopping canapes.
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  • The anatomy of the perfect burger

    11 November, 2015 The anatomy of the perfect burger

    Looking for your next weekend challenge? Why not have a crack at making your own cheeseburgers from scratch? Chef Daniel Wilson shares the secret recipe to recreating his famed Huxtaburger, from bun to patty and everything in between.
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  • No Sugar November

    04 November, 2015 No Sugar November

    This month while the boys are growing staches, I’ll be growing a conscience about all the confectionary I consume.
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October, 2015

September, 2015

May, 2015

April, 2015

March, 2015

February, 2015

January, 2015

December, 2014

November, 2014

October, 2014

September, 2014

August, 2014

July, 2014

June, 2014

May, 2014

April, 2014

March, 2014

February, 2014

  • Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    27 February, 2014 Margaret Fulton's expert guide to preserves

    Jams, pickles, chutneys, sauces, compotes and conserves are the best way to preserve abundant produce so you can enjoy your fruit and veg all year round. Margaret Fulton shares her guide to the art of preserving.
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  • Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    27 February, 2014 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014 | Our picks

    The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, running from February 28 to March 16, begins in just over a week. We’ve put together our picks of the fest.
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  • Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    24 February, 2014 Philippa Sibley's expert guide to sweet pastry

    Master of the dough Philippa Sibley shares her step-by-step guide to making sweet shortcrust pastry, taking you through everything you need to know to perfect the art of peerless pâte.
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  • In season | Eggplant

    21 February, 2014 In season | Eggplant

    The unsung hero of the nightshade family, eggplant is found in cuisines the world over. From Sicily to South East Asia, the Middle East to the Mediterranean, many signature dishes feature the versatile aubergine. We sing the praises of the humble eggplant.
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  • Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    17 February, 2014 Everything you need to know about cuts of pork

    Meat expert and chef Adrian Richardson explains the different cuts of pork, and what you should use them for.
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  • Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    14 February, 2014 Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

    Skewers, kebabs, shaslicks, yakitori … Whatever you call them, meat just tastes better when cooked on a stick. We share our tips to help you ace the skewers at your next barbecue.
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  • In season | Figs

    06 February, 2014 In season | Figs

    Figs evoke the flavours of exotic decadence. Sweet and visually striking, figs make for a decadent tart topper, a sumptuous sticky jam or a delightful savoury venture with cold meats. We share some of our favourite fig recipes.
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  • Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    05 February, 2014 Guide to styling handmade edible gifts

    There's nothing more thoughtful than a handmade edible gift. April Carter shares her tips and tricks for making beautiful and delicious treats for those you love.
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January, 2014

December, 2013

November, 2013

The joy of home-baked hot cross buns and the pursuit of perfection

By
Casey Warrener
Added
06 April, 2017

The crazed ramblings of a hot cross bun addict, as well as practical ramblings on how to make them at home.

Confession: I’m a hot cross bun addict. I know this isn’t particularly individual – in fact the opposite would be wildly more interesting, because there aren’t many folks who don’t enjoy a fruity, spice-laden parcel of bread. But I take enjoyment of The Bun’s golden goodness to the next level each and every year. While most complain that commercial bakers bring out this seasonal treat blasphemously early (which they do and they need not appear on New Year’s Day), I unabashedly tuck in at least a month before April. I’ve been known to spend entire weekends hopping from bakery to bakery in the lead up to Easter, on a quest for the best buns going round – six separate stops is not unusual. I also believe the ‘ye olde’ bun superstitions to be true (slash any excuse will do) and hold all of my loved ones to breaking hot crossed bread with me on Good Friday, to guarantee our friendship for the year ahead. Suffice it to say, I’ve eaten a few buns in my time and consider myself something of a connoisseur.

Something I’m reasonably new to, however, is baking my own hot cross buns. I took on the challenge for the first time a couple of years ago and found plating up freshly baked buns straight from the oven incomparably rewarding. It takes time; you’ll want to set aside at least half a day. But that’s part of the fun – making the dough and letting it rise gently over several hours, selecting the fruit and spice types (and the amount) to include, having your house filled with those fruit toast aromas and in my case, sipping a drink or two while I wait (which is what I like to call ‘boozed and baked’). Finally, you’ll find devouring your creation with a generous slick of salted butter worth every minute of kneading and waiting. Here, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned in my time as a fledgling home baker, plus the pro tips I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Do a trial run of your buns before you plan to show them off and share them round. Like most cooking efforts, tasting and adjusting is the best way to achieve the desired finish.
2. Soak your fruit overnight. This is really important to ensure not-at-all dry buns.
3. Use quality ingredients. Good white flour, butter, spices and fruit will take your buns up a notch.
4. Please, pick up the right utensils. In my first attempt I went rogue with the cross, painting it on with whatever was around. The result? A sticky mess, a lot of frustration, and a not-so-delicious outcome. In fact I found nailing the cross (no pun intended) to be the hardest part of the process. The pros say use a good choux pastry recipe rather than your basic flour/water combo and I’d tend to agree. You want tastiness from top to bottom, so choose the best for each element. And buy yourself a piping bag – it makes for a prettier finish and far less mess.
5. Play around! Use dates or sour cherries in addition to your regular currant-raisin mix; try exotic spices like saffron and cardamom or native spices like lemon myrtle; and maybe even change up the bread, using a sourdough or brioche recipe (at either end of the flavour spectrum) instead.
6. The right amount of spice is all-important, as is the amount, type, juiciness and distribution of fruit. Equally important is the overall texture and this is largely dependent on your dough. My feeling is that looks are less significant – you want a shiny top and a relatively neat cross, but the beauty of home-made is that they’ll be a bit more rustic in shape.
7. Go nuts with the glaze. As with the above, a sweet, sticky top adds to both the texture and flavour of your buns. That said, it needs to be a nice, shiny lacquer without dripping everywhere once it’s in your hands.
8. Finally, make sure you pick up a good cultured butter to spread on your bread. Pepe Saya, Myrtleford and Saint Omer are top choices.

So, why not give your own a go? You’ll be oh-so satisfied when you pull off the perfect fruit/spice ratio. Plus, it’s an excuse to invite everyone you know around for a cuppa to show off your artisanal wares. Pride, popularity and a tonne of buns to tuck into for weeks to come – what more motivation do you need?!

A classic to get you started – Margaret Fulton's hot cross buns

A herby Tuscan twist – Emiko Davies' Florentine-style buns

Not a fan of chocolate? Check out our Easter treats for chocolate avoiders

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