26 March 2024

Canberra's favourite hot cross buns contain a 'secret ingredient'

| James Coleman
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Hot-cross buns from Danny’s Bakery, Narrabundah, are a clear winner with customers. Photo: Danny’s Bakery, Facebook.

Every time Region polls its readers on where to find Canberra’s best hot cross buns, one clear winner rises up like … well … a bun in the oven.

Danny’s Bakery has been located in Narrabundah for 26 years now and, in the lead up to Easter, it shifts about 60 trays of its famous hot cross buns each day.

It’s all to do with the man, the myth, the legend behind it – Danny Collins.

Danny grew up in Nelligen, the son of the postmaster. But he’s been working dough since he got his first job in a local bakery in Batemans Bay, aged 17. It was there he learnt the magic of sourdough.

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“Once he started using sourdough, he didn’t want to go back,” his daughter Katie Collins says.

“And people would refute this, but I know it’s true – Dad basically brought sourdough to the Canberra/Queanbeyan region.”

Danny – together with his then new bride – started their own shop in Queanbeyan in 1984. When the Riverside Plaza came along, they moved inside but that was “disastrous” so Danny’s Bakery hopped over the border to its current home at 6 Iluka Street, Narrabundah.

His love for sourdough moved with him, to the point the only exception on today’s menu is the standard white loaf.

Danny’s Bakery began as Danny’s Hot Breads in Queanbeyan in 1984. Photo: Danny’s Bakery.

Aged 77, his hands are riddled with arthritis like the doctor has never seen. In 2016, he underwent an operation and 16 weeks of chemotherapy for Stage-4 prostate cancer, followed by two operations for kidney cancer (the first one failed and “nearly killed him”).

Last year Katie pressured him to visit a doctor about a lump on his nose, which turned out to be an extremely rare and potentially fatal form of cancer, only documented on 200 other people across the the world. He basically had to have his nose reconstructed to remove it.

So now he’s taken more of a backseat – Katie’s sons Justin and Travis prepare the produce from 5 am each day, and her older brother Jesse works overnight. But every day from about 9 am to 3 pm, Danny will still haul himself in to make sure everything is being done correctly.

Danny has passed the skills on to his grandsons, Justin (pictured) and Travis. Photo: Danny’s Bakery, Facebook.

“He’ll never give up,” Katie says.

“He’s got that mentality that if he stops moving, he’ll die. And he’s probably right.”

Danny normally doesn’t agree to make hot cross buns until March, but his family pressured him to go early this year due to demand.

“We’re going through about 60 trays a day, and Thursday will be the really big one for us. We’ll have people coming from all over Canberra for them, as well as lot of people from Sydney and the coast.”

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The buns are made throughout the day, and Katie will often receive calls and messages from customers wondering when the next batch will be ready, so they can immediately rush over and eat them in-store, straight out of the oven.

“The hot ones are really, really special – they never taste like that again.”

She says the secret to success lies in their size and affordability – at $15 for a one-kilogram packet of six. The thicker sourdough also allows for experimentation with orange peels and apricot pieces, as well as Danny’s favourite of sultanas.

“They are better suited for fruit. Normal bread is too light to pour too much into it.”

Danny’s favourite are the sultanas. Photo: Danny’s Bakery, Facebook.

But there are also “little extra things”.

“There is a secret ingredient in there that does make them different and gives them a real unique kind of a flavour, and people love it.”

Keep doing what you’re doing, Danny. Whatever it is, it’s working.

Danny’s Bakery, at 6 Iluka Street, Narrabundah, is open from 4 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday and 4 am to 2 pm, Saturday (closed on Sunday).

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OMG extraordinary Hot Cross buns.

Cut in half. 6 minutes 280 degree oven and a little too much butter. Delicious!!!!!!

Danny and Jesse not only bake their famous fare, but make Narrabundah Shops a welcoming place. My 5-year-old granddaughter loves to pull me along there late in the day for a happy chat.

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