This is the a cross-posting series following the food and literary blogger Stacey at A Literary Supper. It will follow her thoughts on books she has read, and some of the delicious food she has been inspired to make because of those books. Whether the meals appear in the books, or are simply inspired by them, they are included. The first article for this series is called “Google Buns – The Magical Faraway Tree“.
“Come on,” said Moon-Face. “Come and eat a Google Bun and see what you think of it.”
Soon they were all sitting on the broad branches outside Moon-Face’s house, eating Pop Biscuits and Google Buns. The buns were most peculiar. They each had a very large currant in the middle, and this was filled with sherbet. So when you got to the currant and bit it the sherbet frothed out and filled your mouth with fine bubbles that tasted delicious. The children got a real surprise when they bit their currants, and Moon-Face almost fell off the branch with laughing.”
– The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton.
Enid Blyton had a way with words – more specifically – a way with food. Her numerous books, while telling the stories of children having adventures in faraway lands or solving mysteries on a private island (a re-read of some of the Famous Five books has now revealed to me at an older age that these families must be loaded. I mean, a private island with its own ruins?!) always seemed to being about the imagery of picnics and fresh baked breads.
I grew up reading so many of her books, I’d think I’d finished the last one and then my dad would arrive home with five more to gift me – I’m pretty sure he was just raiding all of our local op shops. Growing up in rural Australia, more specifically in the middle of the bush with only two neighbours on my street, both at least a ten minute walk away, all of Enid Blyton’s books resonated with me quite a bit. I think I expected to have far more adventures than I actually did, looking back my childhood years were curiously absent of the troubles with smugglers and treasure hunters that I thought I would experience.
While I am aiming to have a Famous Five style picnic soon (I am confident in my ability to provide lashings of homemade gingerbeer), the first few recipes I wanted to tackle came from possibly the most famous of Enid Blyton’s books – The Faraway Tree. There are so many interesting takes on the magical foods that the children feast on when exploring the tree but I’ve yet to see an (what I think is) accurate portrayal of Google Buns.
There are a few versions and recipes online already, but I’ve kinda gone my own way with it, of course the general outline of how this was done can really be done with any particular bun recipe that you want. I used a hot cross bun recipe, I really wanted that fluffy texture that’s not quite so sweet, with the subtle spiced flavours to have as a direct comparison to the burst of sweet sherbet from the inside. I just used a recipe from delightful adventures that I use all the time – I’ve never had it not work. I generally kind of tweak the recipe each time I make it by adding different things so the recipe below will be similar but not identical to theirs.
While the original description of Google Buns are that they contain a large currant filled with sherbet, it was really hard to find any currants bigger than sultanas around my local area, so I cheated and used dried apricots. Also – I used my stand mixer for this and the dough hook so I didn’t have to knead it. It could be done without, you would just have to use your hands to work and knead the dough instead.
3 teaspoons dried active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup milk (I used coconut, but whatever you have will be fine) at room temp + 2 tablespoons for later
1/3 cup oil (vegetable preferably but I’ve definitely used olive before with no bad results)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 cup caster sugar
Zest from two oranges
Zest from one lemon
3 – 4 cups of plain flour
1 cup of sultanas
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter (I used Nuttelex but any you have is fine)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of milk (Again, I used coconut milk – but any would work)
1 1/2 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
2 tablespoons icing sugar
At least 12 dried apricots (be prepared to screw a few up when getting the sherbet in)
1. Place the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the lukewarm water in bowl for your stand mixer and leave to foam up for a few minutes.
2. Add the 3/4 cup of milk, oil, salt, ground spices, orange and lemon zests, and one cup of flour – mix with a spoon to combine.
3. Place the bowl onto your stand mixer with the dough hook and add two more cups of flour – gradually add another 1/2 cup of flour at a time fo your dough is super sticky.
4. Leave in the mixer for another 4-5 minutes, gradually adding in your sultanas at the end. I found I had to manually work the sultanas through at this stage to ensure they would be properly distributed.
5. Lightly oil a large bowl and place your dough inside. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it sit for about an hour in a warm spot – it should double in size.
6. Line a tin with baking paper and allow it to hang over the sides – this will allow you to pull the buns out easily after baking. I’m quite terrible with knowing the dimensions of my baking tins, so I have no idea what I used – find something that will fit roughly 9-12 hot cross buns in it. It’s hard to choose wrong.
7. While the dough is rising we can make our sherbet filled apricots! Mix together the bi-carb, citric acid and icing sugar – feel free to taste and adjust if you want it sweeter, more sour or more foamy. That’s it – sherbet is so easy to make and I’m only now feeling anger at all the packs of Whiz Fizz I bought as a small child.
8. Carefully use a small, sharp knife to slice open the bottoms of the dried apricots until it makes a sort of pouch – then, using a teaspoon, pack it with as much sherbet as you can and use the stickiness of the apricot to close it back up. It can be a bit tricky but it really doesn’t matter if they’re neat, the idea is to just get as much sherbet inside as possible.
9. Once an hour has passed and your dough has doubled in size, take it from the bowl and give it a quick knead before breaking it into roughly 12 equally sized pieces (first time I made this I got 9, second time 12, really depends how big you want your buns).
10. Roll each piece into a ball and place them together in the pan, they should be somewhat tight and touching. Cover again with a tea towel and leave for another 30 minutes in a warm place to rise again. Preheat your oven to 190C.
11. To make the ‘egg’ wash’ simply combine the 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and brush over the tops of the uncooked buns.
12. Bake buns for about 20-25 minutes – they should be a nice golden brown on top and slightly springy to the touch.
13. Remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before removing them from the pan by lifting the baking paper. Leave to cool while we make the glaze.
14. Making the glaze is super simple – combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and whisk till combined, alternatively you can whisk by hand, just be sure to get all lumps out.
15. When the buns have cooled, use the end of a spoon or even a chopstick to make a small insertion on the side, enough to press one of the sherbet filled apricots through, repeat until all buns have a surprise inside.
16. Spoon the glaze over the tops of the buns and either allow to sit and harden or eat them fresh and sticky. Enjoy!