Elephant’s Foot Buns and Alpacas

This last weekend saw the arrival here of two very special guests – Clarence and Charlotte, two adorable alpacas.  As much as I’d like it to be so, we don’t own them, just agisting them on a couple of our paddocks.  They are such peaceful creatures and love human company, unlike other alpacas I’ve come across.

All day long they amble around the paddocks, heads lowered to the ground contentedly grazing on the grass.   They come running over to meet you as you go down to the gate, so cute.

As an aside, their owner told me about delicious fruit pastries that he used to buy in South Australia – elephant’s foot buns. As a surprise for him, I thought I’d try making them for afternoon tea on Saturday when the alpacas were due to arrive.  No amount of research on the Internet that matched the description he’d given, so eventually I tracked down the bakery and rang them directly.  The ever-so-nice lady told me that they’d not made them in years but gave an idea of how to go about it.

They are essentially a type of brioche dough, baked with a stewed apple filling enclosed. Once they are cooked and cooled, they are covered with pink icing and topped with shards of dark chocolate.

They were pretty delicious I have to say – apparently the only thing that was different to the original was their size.  I’d made them as big as a human hand, whereas they are supposed to be as big as a dinner plate.  Never mind, back to the drawing board – it’s hardly a chore to make them and they can be afternoon tea for another day.

Here’s the recipe I put together.  I looked up a diagram for an elephant’s foot but some of them I admit ended up looking a bit like a troll’s feet with seriously strange hairy toes or maybe a malformed cow’s udder, but it didn’t affect the flavor and I’m sure with practice and maybe the larger size, they will improve in appearance.  In any case, the icing helped to hide the idiosyncrasies of the misshapen ones.

Elephant’s Foot Buns

This recipe is for the smaller buns. You could use the same recipe to make one large bun.**  The stewed apple needs to be quite thick so if need be, thicken while it’s hot with some cornflour mixed to a paste with a little cold water.

500g plain flour

5 teaspoons dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

60g melted butter

1 cup warm milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup cold stewed apple, lightly sweetened

1 egg, lightly beaten, extra

For the icing

2 cups icing sugar

2 teaspoons butter, softened

Few drops cochineal

120g dark chocolate, grated coarsely

Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre and pour in the butter and milk.  Mix well to form a soft dough, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until about doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface add cut into 8 pieces.  Take one piece and cut three small pieces off.  With the remaining part, roll out into a circle the size of a small saucer.  Brush the edges with a little of the extra beaten egg, then place 2 small tablespoons of the mixture in the centre.  Gather up the edges and press well together, then turn over with the (flattened) seams to the bottom, making in effect a small circular parcel.  Brush all over with beaten egg.    Roll the three small pieces of dough into balls and attach on one edge of the parcel.  Brush with egg.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Place four of the buns on baking trays covered with baking paper, loosely cover with a tea towel and leave to ride for 25 minutes.

Bake at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire racks.

To make the icing, mix together the icing sugar, butter and enough boiling water to make a smooth spreading consistency.  Add enough drops of cochineal to turn the icing sugar to a nice medium pink.  Spread over the cooled buns and sprinkle with the grated chocolate.

**  If you are making just the one large bun, follow the same principle, just cutting off the three pieces of dough to resemble elephant toes as for the small size.

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