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Champion buns … Shane Hancox, left, head bread baker at Artisan by Rangiora Bakery, holds a freshly baked batch of hot cross buns alongside operations manager Marcus Braun, who is holding the trophy.

By ROBYN BRISTOW

A courier mess-up almost foiled Artisan by Rangiora Bakery’s winning entry in the Great New Zealand Hot Cross Bun competition reaching its destination.

But bakery staffer Tania Brown came to the rescue, offering to deliver the buns to Dunedin for judging on her way to Invercargill.

She arrived with 30 minutes to spare, gave the box a kiss, and continued on her journey.

The bakery then heard nothing, and thought the worst.

Operations manager Marcus Braun said they were surprised when a crew turned up late last week with the president of the Baking Industry Association of New Zealand, Kevin Gilbert, to announce the bakery had won.

Marcus says Tania’s effort in delivering the entry earned her a small award in recognition of her efforts, which allowed the bakery to take out the prize for the second year in a row.

Marcus, who developed the recipe, says it is a matter of getting the right balance of spices, dried fruits macerated in orange juice, and zest.

Bread baker Shane Hancox honed the recipe, and did a lot of test baking before suggesting the addition of some of the bakery’s secret glaze to the fruit, which gave the bun an edge.

Staff then gave them the taste test, which led to more refining, until, after three weeks, the buns were competition-ready.

Marcus says the win has given the production staff of 130 a shot in the arm, as after last year’s win, the country went into lockdown soon after, meaning the bakery was unable to reap the rewards.

People had been travelling from Timaru and Ashburton and buying a stash of buns, taking them home and divvying them up, says Marcus. But lockdown put the brakes on sales.

This year, the bakery can hardly keep up with demand. On the first day, 600 packets of six were baked and sold. Production was stepped up for the weekend.

“We have been inundated with messages and texts from people wanting to know how to get hold of some buns,” Marcus says.