How does an elephant ask for a bun?

Elephant buns

with many thanks to Dan Lepard for teaching me how to make milk breads in the first place and for advice on UHT milk


15 g fresh yeast
500 ml  UHT milk – at room temperature or slightly warmer
320 g strong white bread flour


All of the above plus
a dessert spoon of golden caster sugar
40 g of melted butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 medium egg
13 g salt
175 g chocolate chunks and chips
350 g strong white flour

1463 g dough in total

Mix the sponge 2 – 4 hours or so before you want to make the dough. I am currently using a very strong flour which seems to absorb a lot of liquid, you may wish to reduce the amount of milk in the sponge if your flour is not so strong or add more flour to the final dough.

When the sponge has risen and flowed gently all over the worktop, while you were out walking the dogs, scrape it back into a bowl, take a deep breath and add the melted and cooled butter and the egg, vanilla essence and a spoonful of sugar.

Mix these well and then add the rest of the flour, leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Add the chocolate last to the dough; chips, chunks,  whatever you have, try and get them distributed evenly through the dough.

I don’t do intensive kneading if I can avoid it, only enough to make sure the dough is well mixed. Leave for half an hour, come back to it and give it another light knead, oiling the worktop lightly with oil if the dough is very sticky to make it easier to handle. You can do this again later if it makes you feel better, but I forget.

Total time for first prove is about one and a half hours.

Divide dough into 14 balls. You might need  a dusting of flour to help with this part.  Shape and place on baking parchment lined trays. Leave to rise for another hour. Cover the trays with either a plastic box or clingfilm or put them inside a carrier bag and prop it up with something.

Bake at 210 degrees C in an ordinary oven for 22 minutes till golden brown and sound good and hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack,  and brush the tops with a glaze of 2 spoons of boiling water, 2 spoons of sugar and a teaspoon of Fiori di Sicilia ! The air will fill with the glorious perfume  of orange and vanilla and make you think momentarily of Jacobs Club Biscuits and school trips. Actually it’s better than that and a little goes a long way.  Thanks Lynne for that inspiring gift!     Enterprising importers and artisan baking suppliers please note we want you to stock this, please please please! You’ve got until Christmas to sort it out.

To print the recipe click here

I really adore these buns, they look like traditional english bread rolls, but they are soft and rich tasting from the addition of the egg and the butter and have  just enough chocolate in them and a hint of panetonne taste as you take the first bite!

I tell myself they are less fattening than croissants or pain au chocolat with its layers of buttery pastry,  but are still yummy enough to please a fussy elephant!

Answer:  ‘May I have a bun please?’ (muttered coyly from underneath a flowering dandelion :) )

10 thoughts on “How does an elephant ask for a bun?

  1. Lynne

    Lovely looking ”pain chocolat’. Did you ever toast them ? They look as if they would make a v moreish sort of T cake to toast, but maybe they never get stale to need to be toasted !

  2. Lynne

    Re the elephant..I would guess he does not bother to ask and just reaches in with his trunk to help himself.

  3. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Hmmm…they look scrumptious!! I haven’t made sweet buns in a while, must put them back on my to do list. I use UHT milk as well – wonderful stuff, and so much easier than heating and cooling etc.

    One thing – nibs don’t seem to work well in bread. Alice Medrich said so, and I didn’t believe her, so I tried, and she was right. They end up tasting a bit like stale nuts…

    C xx

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I have taken the nibs out, I only suggested them, they weren’t actually in that bread, but I will take your word for it as I haven’t tried them in bread or anything else yet, they are still sitting on the shelf along with some other raw chocolate stuff…..everyone else please note NO NIBS in bread please! Thanks Celia :)

  4. Zoya

    I made them today and they are delicious, though I used raisins instead of chocolate and shaped them into the buns before one and a half hour rise as I didn’t have another hour for the second prove.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’m so glad you liked them Zoya! I think I made them with chocolate because I had had enough fruited buns over Easter, it’s a very easy going dough, you can make it into loaves too of course!

  5. Evidence Matters (@EvidenceMatters)

    Utterly charming and you’re spot on about Fiori di Sicilia – its perfume is extraordinary. As a cautionary note to that, in my experience it does need to be used up very quickly because it can become quite harsh after a while. That said, I’ve put Fiori di Sicilia in pretty much everything, from granola to flapjacks as well as cakes, mousse, ice-cream and even a sauce for chicken.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Heh :) I loved your Bevy of Buns post so much. The bit I can’t do on the blog is the bit where I hold my arm up with my shoulder pressed against my mouth and wave my arm at you in a trunk like way and mutter “May I have a bun please” (originally it is a visual joke of Tutak’s). There was also another one where you extend one arm sideways and tuck the other into your ribcage. The extended arm flaps as if flying and you look straight ahead, bobbing slightly. What is that? A seagull flying home from the library. We are easily pleased in my family with silly jokes….

      And in the time since I wrote this post, Bakery Bits has heeded our pleas and now has the Fiori in stock!

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