【CONFINEMENT】Sweet Potato Hot Cross Buns

A reinvention of a classic for an agnostic Asian vegan with too many sweet potatoes and no regular flour in her isolation pantry.



  1. In your Small Bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and maple syrup. Set it aside to sit until frothy (this should take about 5 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together all of your Large Bowl dry ingredients. Separately, combine your Medium Bowl wet ingredients. Set both aside.
  3. To your Small Bowl, mix in the flaxseed meal and set aside for a few more minutes.
  4. Pour the contents of the Small Bowl into the Large Bowl and mix well. Gradually stir in the Medium Bowl ingredientsThe resulting mixture will be a semi-sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist tea-towel and let it sit in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.
  5. Generously grease two 20cm/8in cake pans with coconut oil.
  6. Punch down your dough and knead for a minute. Cover your hands with coconut oil, and shape the dough into small balls (around 5cm/2in in diameter). Place them at 1.5cm/0.5 inch intervals around your cake pans. (You could also use a standard baking tray and line up the dough balls in a grid).
  7. Spray water on the balls and let them sit in a warm place for 10-15 minutes, lightly covered with one sheet of parchment paper per tray.
  8. While you wait, mix your remaining dough in with the ingredients for the Crosses until fully incorporated.
  9. Take a chopstick and careful make light cross indentations on top of each ball (no need to press down too hard). Work quickly, as the balls will continue to rise.
  10. Wash your hands then oil up with coconut oil again. Take a small section of the cacao dough and roll it a little between your palms until it becomes a tube that you can then stretch and pat down over the cross-shaped groves you’ve created on the balls.
  11. Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F, fan-forced.
  12. Drop a half teaspoon of coconut oil onto each ball. Lightly cover with the parchment paper again. Let them sit for another 10 – 15 minutes in a warm place. The balls should increase in size by about 50%.
  13. Move your pans to the oven. Keep the parchment paper resting on top (this will keep them moist). Bake for 23 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for another 2 minutes before removing and letting them sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, still covered with parchment paper.
  14. Remove them from their pans and serve hot. I like them spread with coconut butter or coconut yoghurt. They’re also delicious when brushed with butter-flavoured coconut oil.

I have successfully executed Steps 1-4 and saved half of the dough (if you feel like it’s too much) and saved it in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. When you want to bake them, let the dough sit out in room temperature to warm up, before shaping them into rolls and continuing with the remainder of the steps.

Alternatively, bake them all in one hit, and store the ones you don’t eat in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can take them out a few at a time, place them in a pan with a little oil and a splash of water around the edges of your pan. Turn on medium-high heat and cover to let the bun(s) steam (a bonus is that bottom crisps up a little). Serve as before.

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Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese filmmaker, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Zhang has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Zhang’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NOWNESS, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for four consecutive years. CNN has identified Zhang as a leading fashion photographer in Asia and ELLE named her the region’s most influential digital voice. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim. In 2018, co-curated the first annual FOREFRONT Summit focused on inter-industry problem-solving at all scales of business. From this king summit, Zhang developed FOREFRONT+ – a round table series of candid conversations covering subject matters of universal concern. In 2019, THE FACE Magazine engaged Zhang as Creative-Director-at-Large for Asia for its relaunch. Zhang is currently working on her first feature film.