Bun Tales

Growing up in Singapore, we were exposed to a huge variety of food. At home, we ate the Kerala staples- rice, fish curry, vegetable thoran and other regional preparations that kept the ties with the home country strong. Mum was a fantastic cook, and willing to experiment with the local cuisines.

On Sundays, after church, Dad would take us out for lunch, sometimes to Chinese restaurants, sometimes for yummy Indian biriyani or nasi padang. Nasi padang is the Indonesian version of rice and curry.
We lived in a place called Bukit Panjang, those were the days when there were no supermarkets. Honestly, I have no idea where we got our provisions from but I do remember a little store down the road from home where I would be sent to get essentials like eggs and matches.

One thing I do remember was the bread man. An old Chinese man, I suspect he was also the baker. He carried his wares in a big red box strapped onto his cycle and would ride around the neighbourhood. He would ring his bell as he passed by our gate and Mum would send one of us to call him. Impatiently, we would wait for him to pedal up the driveway, hop off his bike, unstrap the fastenings and open the lid of his box.

The first thing that hit our noses would be the smell of freshly baked bread. The wheaten aroma, the slightly warm, moist air that rose from his box would send us into raptures. Then, the sight of loaves, rolls, baguettes, and buns nestling in the depths of his box would melt every last bit of resistance within us and we would plead with Mum to buy us some buns. She always did but we always had to go through the drama.

Mum would buy bread for breakfast and for us, plain buns. After paying the man, we would carry them to the kitchen in a triumphant procession.

Mum would place the buns on the counter and we would watch her while she got out her bread knife and sliced each bun into two. Then a flick of golden butter on one side, a spread of jam on the other. She'd join the halves back together and then pass it on to each waiting child.

Teeth meeting in a bite, a small tug and the piece in my mouth. The flavour of soft, warm bread, slightly salty, creamy butter and the sweetness of jam...

This is my recipe for plain buns but for a change, I scatter spring onion bits over them and shape them into rolls. Stuff a hot dog in them, spoon in some relish, squeeze some mustard paste and tomato ketchup and tuck in!

Spring onion rolls 

500 gm flour
2 tsp instant yeast
50 gm sugar
1 tsp gluten
50 gm soft butter
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
6 spring onions, use only green leaves
Egg for glazing
Extra butter for brushing

Warm the milk and water to blood heat.
Start by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl, add in yeast, sugar, gluten, butter and salt and combine.
Make a well in the centre and mix in milk and enough of the water to make a soft and slightly sticky dough.
Mix with hands till the dough comes into a ball, transfer to a worktop and knead till the dough becomes smooth and elastic, adding in a little more water if you feel it is dry. This will take about 10 minutes or so.
Put into a greased bowl, cover and leave until the dough has doubled in size.
Or, if you have a bread maker, just bung all the ingredients into it and switch it on.
After an hour or so, when the dough has risen and has doubled in size, punch it down. 
Knead briefly for a few moments, then slap it back onto your worktop, cover with the mixing bowl and leave it while you prepare the spring onions. 
Wash and towel dry the leaves, chop into 1/2 cm pieces.
Knead the dough briefly one more time, then divide into 14 pieces.
To shape, take one piece, cover the remaining dough with a bowl to prevent them from drying out.
Dust the worktop with very little flour, roll out into a 4" disc, then roll it up like a Swiss roll, from one end to the other. 
Dab a bit of water on the end to seal it, roll it gently between your palms to neaten it.
Place on a greased baking tin, shape the remaining buns.
Make a small slit on the top of each roll, then brush with egg glaze.
Sprinkle chopped spring onion over them and leave for the second proving.
When the rolls have risen well and have doubled in size, bake for 10-15 mins in a preheated 200°C oven.
Remove from oven when the rolls are golden brown, brush carefully with butter. 
Cool on a wire rack. 

Thyme buns
The thyme buns above are made with the same dough, just add leaves from 4 stalks of thyme or mix 1 teaspoon dried thyme into the ingredients and proceed with the recipe.


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