Ray and Jill Johns took over the renowned Red Hill Bakery 15 years ago and have continued to churn out amazing bread, cakes and pastries ever since. Trading Plates spoke to their daughter, Lucy Johns, about their amazing hot cross buns – just in time for Easter!
Before the John’s took it over, the Red Hill Bakery had been operating as a simple country bakery for 10 years.
Ray and Jill had many years of hospitality experience between them and transformed the quaint bakehouse into a licenced bakery café with live music on Sunday afternoons, a provedore, wood fired pizza and other baked goods. Their hot cross bun are a favourite at Easter time with locals, and tourists visiting the Mornington Peninsula.
“The hot cross buns are made from high protein Australian flour, 60% dried fruit from northern Victoria (currents, sultanas and raisins), and natural spices together with traditional baking techniques,” explains Lucy.
“The buns are so popular we actually make them all year round, only we add the crosses at Easter time.”
This hot cross bun recipe has been perfected by Ray over many years of trial and error but Lucy says he is constantly on the lookout for the best ingredients or techniques, old or new.
She adds that the point of difference with their hot cross buns is, top quality ingredients, slow fermentation, traditional baking methods and no numbers (preservatives, anti-fungal, chemicals or pre mixes).
When you are buying a hot cross bun, Lucy says while personal preference is always the most obvious decider, looking for quality ingredients including a high percentage of real fruit, no nasties and that the buns are ‘baked out’ correctly (nice crusty dark tops) are some good starting points.
“Our bakers start work at 3:45am every day. Firstly, they remove the pre-ferments from fermentation and rest them at room temperature. They are then cut and hand moulded using traditional methods, before being baked in our oven that we had imported from France.
“Our doughs are slowly fermented for 24 hours. We use only the best Australian ingredients and never any prosperities, anti-fungal or chemical enhancers. All our bread has five main ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt and oil) and the quality of these ingredients determines the quality of the product.
“Dad’s motto is that ‘the quality of the milk makes the cheese, the quality of the grape makes the wine, so too, the quality of the flour makes the bread’.
“The bread baking finishes at 11 am and then the next day’s doughs are ‘put to bed’ ready for the next day.
“Then the pie making begins which is whole other long story but with the same constants of using only the best ingredients. Then the hard working bakers head home for a much needed nap!” says Lucy.
Five years ago, the business moved from Red Hill to neighbouring suburb Balnarring as they needed more space.
“This started as a family owned and operated business with Ray as the head baker and Jess his other daughter (qualified pastry chef) assisting him,” explains Lucy.
“Jill looks after pretty much everything else and I help in the office. We now have a large group of staff that help us operate the business, mostly our extended family, however Ray and Jill still work seven days a week, 364 days a year (we are only closed Christmas day).
“The Red Hill Bakery Balnarring is a unique designation, not only offering beautiful bakery products but also the best local and international gourmet food products. On Sunday afternoons the bakery comes alive with some of the best jazz musicians in Australia including the Baker, Ray, himself.”
3050 Frankston-Flinders Rd,
Balnarring VIC 3926