There’s a complexity to the flavours in Candied Bakery hot cross buns. With a robust but light texture, fresh spices and an absence of peel, the sourdough-based buns are regularly listed among Melbourne’s best. We catch up with Orlando and Toula to see the Easter magic in action.
With fruit or without fruit? Nutella-filled or classic? Sourdough-based or light and fluffy? Controversy is rife when it comes to hot cross buns. Nonetheless, there are a handful of artisan bakeries that rise above the rest every year; moulding, crossing and brushing thousands of buns for Easter feasting. Candied Bakery, the suburban Spotswood bakery with an American-European twist is one business cashing in on Australia’s love affair with the annual treat.
Easter is the busiest time of year for husband-and-wife-team, Orlando Artavilla and Toula Ploumidis. After opening in late 2013, they debuted Candied Bakery hot cross buns in The Age’s 2014 Easter baking special – and were listed among Melbourne’s elite. Since then, they’ve developed a strong reputation for buns with a strong whiff of cinnamon and a spongy texture that’s neither too light, nor too dense. They’re lightly glazed, include plenty of moist fruit – but no peel – and taste great toasted.
For Orlando, the secret is to stay away from gimmicky recipes. Rather, the key is to stick to tradition – albeit with a few kicks and punches along the way.
“Spices can make or break a hot cross bun recipe,” he says.
“Traditional recipes have different quantities of spices – some have more cinnamon, some have less cloves. Ours is more on the ‘clovier’ side, but what makes it is the freshness of the spices. People tend to forget about spices when it comes to using fresh, quality ingredients. But spices change everything.
“Where we can, we grind our own spices by hand, and get others fresh from our local grocer. It’s labour intensive, but it completely changes the hot cross bun.”
It’s a recipe that has evolved in time, with Orlando adding a bit here and taking a bit there to create what he’s proud to label “spot on”. Originally, when the duo operated Sugardough in Brunswick, the buns were yeast-based. Wanting more body than the light and pillowy supermarket varieties, he swapped to a sourdough starter. By slowing the process down, the buns now have the best of both worlds: they’re soft enough to satisfy the purists, yet have enough body to really sink your teeth into.
“I actually decided to change the recipe the day The Age was coming in to pick up the buns. I told Toula and she was freaking out, but I knew I wanted a slightly different end result, and I had enough confidence in my understanding of the process to do it,” Orlando says.
It’s the little differences that set Candied’s hot cross buns apart. Orlandodoesn’t like the taste of peel in any recipe, so he removed it entirely from his buns saying, “they’re full enough of fruit already”. He also adds a little extra sugar to boost the softness, along with a few subtle secrets he’s not yet willing to expose.
“You can change the entire profile of your hot cross buns by playing around with the quantities of fruit and the way you treat the fruit, such as how you treat peel and zest,” he says.
“You might find the process takes a little longer, but the results will speak for themselves.
“Easter is such a huge time for bakeries, and artisan bakeries are really coming into their own when it comes to hot cross buns. The supermarket buns just aren’t special anymore because they are sold for so many weeks, so it’s imperative bakeries do a fantastic hot cross bun come Easter-time.
“It’s the time of the year you get the most people through the door, and hot cross buns buns are the basis for a great following year round. The media attention we got for our buns back in 2014 really kick-started our business.
“Whether you’re making hot cross buns the traditional way, or doing something a little different, stamp your own personality on it, and give people a reason to come back year after year.”
WHAT YOU NEED
3.45kg organic flour
60g spice mix (2tbs cinnamon, 1tbs nutmeg, 1tbs clove, 1tbs ginger powder)}
1kg sourdough starter
300g butter (softened)
1.5ml water (around 25°C)
14 whole eggs
(55g whisked and strained)
1 zested orange
1kg plain flour
1.1l cold water
500 brown sugar
WHAT TO DO
- Place Group 1 in a mixing bowl and dry mix
- Add group 2 in stages. Mix until the flour is clear and add the butter slowly, as you would a brioche dough. Mix until dough comes off the bowl.
- Add fruit mixture on first speed until it is well combined. Rest for 1.5 hours.
- Cut and scale the mixture at 80-90g. Rest for a further 30 minutes.
- Mould, tray and space buns about 5cm apart. Cover and prove until the buns are almost double in size
- Before baking, create cross mixture and pipe on to buns (use a piping bag with a number 3 round nozzle)
- Place buns on trays and put in the oven at around 200°C for about 12-15 minutes. Once out, slide onto a wire rack.
- Boil glaze mixture and let reduce. Brush onto buns while they are hot.