1 2/3 cups (250g) strong (baker’s) flour
1/2 cup (50g) milk powder
1/4 tsp dried yeast
1/3 cup (80ml) maple syrup
150g dried pitted dates
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 1/3 cups (350g) strong (baker’s) flour, plus extra to dust
100g unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra to grease
1/4 firmly packed cup (60g) brown sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp finely grated star anise
200g dulce de leche (from good grocers – substitute caramel sauce)
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1 tbs caster sugar
- For the base, combine all ingredients with 200ml water in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a cool, dark place for 12 hours to double in size.
- For the cake, place dates, bicarb and 1 cup (250ml) boiling water in a heatproof bowl and set aside overnight to soak.
- The next day, grease a 22cm ring pan. Place date mixture in a fine sieve set over a bowl and stand for 5 minutes to drain well. Place ultimate bun base in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add flour, egg, butter, sugar, vanilla, star anise, drained dates and 2 tsp salt flakes, and knead for 8 minutes or until combined and mixture forms a ball. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface, divide into 8 even pieces and cover with a clean damp tea towel.
- Working with 1 piece at a time, roll with the palm of your hand to form a tight ball, adding extra flour to work surface if sticking. Place in prepared pan and repeat with remaining dough, pressing dough to fit the pan.
- Cover with a clean damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour to rise slightly.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- For the piping mixture, combine flour, sugar and 1/3 cup (80ml) water in a bowl until combined, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain 5mm nozzle. Pipe a ring around circumference of bun cake, then pipe stripes at regular intervals from the inside to the outside of the pan to create crosses on buns.
- Splash a little water into oven to create steam (this helps buns expand before forming a crust), then bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Reduce oven to 180°C and bake for a further 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into bun comes out clean.
- Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then transfer, top-side up, to a serving plate.
- Place dulce de leche and 1/4 cup (60ml) water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes until it comes to the boil. Pour over cake and serve immediately.