Michael Klausen from Sydney’s notoriously innovative bakery Brasserie Bread is looking to Japan to set his hot cross buns apart this Easter.
Whether you’re a fan of glamming up these spice-laden buns with chocolate and dried cherries, experimenting with sourdough or just a stickler for tradition, hot cross buns are a shelf-staple in the lead up to Easter.
Fundamentally, hot cross buns are fairly easy to make and, for years, supermarket majors have latched on to the product for months at a time. The trend to now bring out hot cross buns the minute Christmas cakes are removed from the shelves continues to anger traditionalist consumers. Of course, it’s also a concern for bakers who rely on seasonal spikes in business.
This is why Brasserie Bread’s Michael Klausen says it’s now more important than ever to innovate and set your hot cross buns apart from the crowd.
“I have just developed a very soft bun and am using it for Easter hot cross buns. I’m using a Japanese technique to make the perfect soft dough. Adding to this, I make it a sourdough bun and only use freshly-ground spices,” he says.
Not being able to resist, Australian Baking Business headed out to Michael’s Banksmeadow kitchen to see the buns in action.
“Easter is always a great festive time, it seems to bring a very positive energy into the bakery,” Michael says as he readies the ingredients.
“Bakers have always been a little competitive about the numbers they can make and sell. Our staff love the pre-Easter time when we do test baking and sampling for the customers, because there are always leftovers for the staff!”
This year, Michael has experimented with Tangzhong – also known as ‘water roux’ – a bread-making method used to create soft and fluffy bread. Originated by the Japanese, the method is now popular throughout Asia and allows the bread to stay fresh for longer without needing to use artificial preservatives.
“I came across the method when I was looking at soft bread from Hokaido in Japan. The amazing part is the bread stays soft and fluffy even after a few days. Simply reheat the slice of bread or the bun in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and you’ll a have warm, soft and fluffy product – just like it’s fresh out of the oven,” he says.
“Basically the Tangzhong method is to mix one part bread flour with five parts of milk or water, and heat it up to 65°C to form a paste or a wet dough. At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and milk mixture would absorb the moisture and become leavened. Thus, when the Tangzhong is added into other ingredients of a bread dough, it will be heightened and produce fluffier bread.
“Of course, there is a lot of science behind it, involving starch granules, but a quick internet search can tell you a lot about this old Asian baking method. It’s very interesting.”
Quality ingredients and traditional methods, wherever they originate from, have always been integrate to Brasserie Bread. This Easter, Michael encourages his peers to settle for nothing less than first-rate hot cross buns.
“We are in competition with the supermarkets, but a hot cross bun from a supermarket tastes and feels like the price tag, cheap! The way supermarkets treat our food is a big problem in Australia, but it has to be consumers who change their behaviour… and then the supermarkets will take notice and change.”
TANGZHONG HOT CROSS BUNS
WHAT YOU NEED
“Ingredients are very important to us at Brasserie Bread. We use very high-quality fruit and the spice mix is ground just before use by Rozelle-based business Herbie’s Spice,” Michael says.
• 4 cups plain flour
• dried yeast
• caster sugar
• mixed spice
• pinch of salt
• 2 eggs lightly beaten
• plain flour
• 4-5 tablespoons water
• 2 tablespoons caster sugar
What to do
“We bake to order the night before selling the hot cross buns, so they are always fresh.”
1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and currants in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk. Heat for 1 minute, or until lukewarm. Add warm milk mixture and eggs to currant mixture. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Use clean hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough.
2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 to 11/2hours, or until dough doubles in size.
3. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C.
4. Make flour paste: Mix flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a small snap-lock bag. Snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through.
5. Make glaze: Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.