Christine Tran of Falco Bakery, Melbourne
The new Collingwood bakery, risen from the metaphorical ashes of Rockwell & Sons, is kicking Easter butt with the baking skills of Christine Tran, who has worked at San Francisco’s storied Tartine and as head baker at Melbourne’s Tivoli Road.
Tip: “For accuracy and consistency, always work with weights. Avoid recipes that use half teaspoons and cups of ingredients – it should be in grams and nothing else.”
Trick: “Watch the proving. Because there’s so much fruit and sugar, it can break down pretty quickly. A good way to test it is to give the tray a gentle shake and see if the dough moves around – that means they have air inside, so they’ll be nice and light.”
Riff: “I’m a big believer in lots of extra fruit. It’s pretty simple but effective.”
Laura Gonzalez and Anu Haran of Flour Shop, Sydney
In January, Flour Shop was getting its plumbing, ventilation, and electricity installed. Yet, in a few short months, the Turramurra site has gone from an empty shopfront to one of Sydney’s best bakeries. Laura Gonzalez and Anu Haran roll their pastry at midnight, so by the time they open their doors at 6.30 am, the counter is filled with fresh-baked Swedish kanelbullar (cinnamon-cardamom buns), sticky caramel croissants, spiced plum turnovers and Jerusalem bagels stuffed with goat’s cheese or topped with a cracked egg.
Their semi-sourdough hot cross buns might be one of the cities best takes on the Easter staple. Each serve is loaded with citrus zest, peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, so freshly ground, you can taste the granular pop of flavor from each crushed spice. Combined with the gloriously sticky topcoat of apricot-marmalade glaze, each mouthful of Flour Shop’s buns is a citrus-rich highlight.
Tip: While it can be tempting to swap ingredients, Flour Shop’s Haran advises against experimenting this way, especially when tackling a recipe for the first time. “In my early baking days, I often tried tinkering with recipes – like drinking chocolate instead of cocoa,” she says. But cocoa has different acidity levels to drinking chocolate, which meant her cake became a dense baking fail instead of a light, fluffy triumph.
Trick: “We give our buns a good water spray before loading them in the oven. This moistens the skin of the buns and allows them to rise more in the oven, leading to a fluffier bun. After the first 10 minutes, vent the steam out by opening the oven door,” says Haran. “Then bake another 10 minutes to get a nice brown crust.”
Riff: The sweet brushstrokes of apricot-marmalade glaze make Flour Shop’s versions a standout. Haran has kindly shared the recipe so you can replicate this at home. Combine one part apricot jam, one part marmalade (with rind), a couple of cinnamon sticks, and a generous splash of water in a pot. Bring to a boil until the jam dissolves in the water and the mixture reaches a syrupy consistency. Once cool, transfer it to a glass or plastic container. “This glaze can last at room temperature for up to a week,” says Haran. The buns should be glazed as soon as they leave the oven.
Kate Reid of Lune, Melbourne
The croissanterie to rule them all, Lune, is a shrine of pastry worship thanks to the secret recipe of aeronautical engineer turned patisserie, Kate Reid. Easter sees Lune pivot to the dark arts of the hot cross cruffin.
Tip: “Invest in a good set of digital scales. Not only does it mean you can be super accurate with your measurements, but you can also save on cleaning up… for example, weigh all your dry ingredients into the same bowl, one at a time, taking the scales back to zero after each addition.”
Trick: “Place the buns close enough on the baking tray that during proving and baking, they ‘grow’ into each other, and to eat them, you have to tear them apart. That soft bit where they were touching each other develops a beautiful light crust when you toast the buns; it’s the textural equivalent of heaven.”
Riff: “I won’t expect anyone to make hot cross cruffins at home, but if you have leftover plain croissants, make a hot cross bun-inspired bread and butter pudding with them. Soak torn croissant pieces in a spiced egg and milk mixture (my go-to spice mix is cinnamon, allspice, and grated nutmeg), then mix through currants, sultanas, and candied peel before baking.”
Sift all dry ingredients, except yeast, and add to a mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Add fruit. Warm milk to 30C, remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast until dissolved. Melt butter and add to milk with eggs, whisking well.
Add liquids to the electric mixer bowl containing the flour and spices, and using a dough hook, mix for 12 minutes on a low to medium speed. The dough should be smooth but still quite wet and sticky.
Transfer to a container, greased with a little tray spray or oil, and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 180C 30 minutes before you need it.
Turn the dough onto a floured bench and cover it with a damp tea towel. Weigh the buns at 80g per bun. Roll into balls (you will need extra flour as it’s a sticky dough) and place in a greased and baking paper-lined large baking tin or roasting pan. Allow about 2cm between each bun.
Cover and place in a warm place to prove until doubled in size. Test to see if the buns are established enough, but gently press a finger into one. If the indentation rebounds slowly but returns to the same place, it is ready to bake. If it is firm and springs back suddenly, it is under-proved and needs more time. If it collapses under your gentle pressure, then it is overpriced. The buns will take about 1-1 1/2 hours to prove.
Whisk flour and water for cross-paste together in a bowl until smooth.
Pipe crosses on the buns (a squeezy bottle works best) and bakes for 20 minutes or until dark golden and cooked.
Brush them with plenty of hot jam when they come from the oven. If your spot is too thick, thin it with a tablespoon of water.