Friday, April 22, 2011

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit: Hot Cross Beery Buns

A while ago I had this fantastic idea - I decided to make my own Hot Cross Buns for Easter. I’ve never made them before, and to make the task even more adventurous I decided to make them using beer. If you can make bread with beer, it follows that you can make other yeasty baked goods, yes? The obvious beer choice for Easter was a White Rabbit Dark Ale. Rabbits…Easter bunny…too perfect, right? What about the White Rabbit White Ale though? Could it be better for my buns? So I decided to make two batches of buns – a traditional fruity bun with the White Ale, and a decadent chocolate chip bun with the Dark Ale. If nothing else, you can’t deny I can be one ambitious lady.

For those who don’t know, the White Rabbit Brewery is located up in the hills of Healesville. A child company of Little Creatures, they brew just the two styles – the Dark and the White – both using an open fermentation technique. The Dark Ale is just that – dark…but not thick like a porter or stout. It’s quite light, which makes it a bit more sessionable, but still with typically dark beer flavours. The White Ale was inspired by old school brews by the Belgians and includes some spice, citrus and honey in the brew. This makes for a very easy drinking, refreshing beverage.

Notably, both White Rabbit beers recieved Top 100 ratings in the recently released "Critic's Choice - Australia's Best Beers" book. The White Ale came in at #90, whilst the Dark Ale was rated as Australia's 7th best beer by a respected collective of beer critics.

Bun #1: Fruity White Rabbit White Ale Buns

The good stuff (enough for six large buns or 12 mini ones):

2 cups plain flour
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
1/8 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon of grated lemon rind
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit
20g butter
150ml white rabbit – white ale
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the crosses:

1/4 cup plain flour
3-4 tablespoons white rabbit

And for the Glaze:

1/4 cup white rabbit
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Getting it together:

In a large bowl (or if you are using a mixer with dough hooks, in your mixer bowl) combine the flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and dried fruit. Mix on a low speed, or just give a stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside.

Chop your butter and place in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the beer and turn the heat off. Stir to combine the butter and beer, and to warm the mixture through.

If you are using a mixer, have it on low speed while you add the warm beer mixture and the egg to the dry ingredients. As it comes together, turn the speed up a few notches. You will need to scrape down anything that gets left on the side of the bowl and push it towards the clump of dough on the mixers. Or, if you are doing it by hand, use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Finish the mixing off with your clean hands to form a soft dough. (I used my mixer for this batch, and found the dough really sticky. I added an extra quarter cup of flour or so and it became much easier to work with.)

The process is very similar to bread at this point, so apologies if this sounds a bit familiar. Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. Form into a nice little ball and put into a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling wrap. Put somewhere warm for at least one hour or until dough doubles in size. If you have the time and patience, leave it for two to three hours.

When enough time has passed, prepare your baking tray with non-stick paper. Knock down your dough and turn out onto your floured surface again. Knead again until smooth. Shape into a long sausage, and cut into six pieces of about the same size. Shape each portion into a ball and place onto your tray about one centimetre apart. Cover again with plastic wrap and place back in your warm spot to prove again for another half an hour, or until they double in size.

Preheat oven to 190°C. While you wait for the buns to prove and the oven to heat, make the flour paste. Mix the flour and beer together in a small bowl until smooth. Add more beer if paste is too thick. Spoon the mix into a small piping bag, or if you don’t have one of those, a small plastic snap-lock bag. When the buns have risen enough, snip off the corner of bag and squeeze the flour paste over the tops of your buns to form crosses.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are nicely browned and make a hollow sound when tapped.

When the buns have been in the oven 15 to 20 minutes, make your glaze. Put the beer and sugar into a small saucepan with a low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil. Boil for five minutes to reduce and thicken. Once you take the buns out of the oven, brush the warm glaze over them.

Serve warm with butter, and a glass of beer – more White Ale goes really well with them!

Bun #2: Chocolatey White Rabbit Dark Ale Buns

Mostly the same good stuff, except:

Leave out the lemon rind
Replace the dried fruit with 3/4 cup choc chips
Replace the White Ale with 150ml white rabbit – dark ale

In the paste and the glaze, also replace the White Ale with Dark Ale.

Getting it together and things I learned this time around…

I followed the same process to make these buns as with the White Ale buns, thinking it would be fine. Mostly it is…except that I use the oven on the lowest setting to prove my dough, and this is too hot for the chocolate chips. As soon as I started to knead the proved dough, the chocolate disintegrated (and I got my hands and the bench covered in chocolate – messy!). It became incorporated into the dough in a kind of marbled effect. Not an absolute disaster – they just became "Chocolate Hot Cross Buns" instead of just choc-chip. The chocolate is still in there, just not in chip form.

Looks fine after proving...

...but very different once kneaded. Oops!

What I would do next time is add the chocolate chips after the proving process. Make the dough as normal, without the chocolate in the dry mix. Once you knock the dough down, add the chocolate chips as you knead and work them in. Also, store your chocolate chips in the fridge, so they’re cold when you add them. Once you have the chips in, follow the recipe again and hopefully the chips will stay in chip form.

Good thing they still tasted delicious!

These go well with coffee, or a beer that compliments the chocolate flavours – a porter or stout works well, especially the chocolate flavoured ones. (We were lucky enough to have a bottle of Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel as a special Easter treat…and what a treat it was!)

This turned out to be a learning experience on a couple of levels. I learned from my mistake, but I also learned from my success. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but the White Ale buns were better than any I have bought. This might just be because they were fresh, but they are also light, soft and delicious. So, don’t be afraid to try new things or think that something might be too hard. The worst that might happen is your chocolate chips melt!

The end!


  1. Hi Jenn,

    Just saw the link to this from the Crafty Pint page (glad to see the all-female brewing day went well, and looking forward to the launch), and being a beer blogger, like your other half (I won't say better half), was extremely intrigued to find this blog.

    I have been trying to perfect a beef and guinness pie, but also tried to make a chocolate cake including a chocolate stout I home brewed. Not found much success as yet...Anyway, thanks for putting up the recipes on choc stout cupcakes and the ale pie (yes, a scotch ale would be interesting to try with pie). As for this specific post, I am sure your hubby told you about Murray's brewing an easter beer this year, that was meant to taste like hot cross buns. I was pretty impressed when I found it at The Local Taphouse during Good Beer Week. Glad you went the other way with it.

    It is funny, a friend of mine found a book from the 70's called cooking with beer which is hilarious, as it is basically a brewery (not longer with us) trying to appeal the masses by endorsing cooking with their beers. I will have to show it to you both at some stage.

    Well done on the blog, and I look forward trying out a few of your recipes.


    John 'Beefy' Bogan

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for following Crafty's link. My arm may have been a little twisted to start the blog, but its a bit of fun. Just wish I had more time to update!

    I managed to get a small taste of the Murray's Easter beer at Beer Delux on the last day of the Easter weekend - we got the last half-glass out of the keg. I really wished that some of these special beers were bottled, so I could take them home to enjoy at my leisure(and, yes, to cook with them!). From memory it was quite similar to the Emerson's Taieri George, which I used in the poached pear recipe.

    Would love to see the book! Love 70's kitsch, and it might actually give me a few ideas - bring back some retro classics. I'ma bit of an op-shop addict, so I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

    Good luck on your search for the perfect beef & Guinness pie, and your stout cake (which can be tricky - I had a complete cake failure with Guinness).

    Thanks :-)


  3. Following on from my recent success with White Rabbit dark ale steak & ale pie I wanted more White Rabbit based recipies. This is perfect. Thanks!