Little balls of soft milk bun dough are baked on
a bed of tangy rhubarb and strawberries, soaking up the bubbling
juices while the fruit becomes luscious and jammy. A warm vanilla
custard adds just the right note of creaminess.
900 gmrhubarb, cut into rough 1.5cm pieces250 gmstrawberries, hulled and halved80 gmbrown sugar80 gmcaster sugar1½ tbspplain flour1 tspvanilla bean extractJuice of ½ orange and ½ lemonIcing sugar, for dustingMilk bun dough500 gm (3⅓ cups)plain flour100 gmcaster sugar21 gm (3 sachets)dried yeast250 mllukewarm pouring cream, plus extra for brushing1egg, at room temperature125 gmsoftened butter, plus extra for greasingVanilla custard3egg yolks60 gmcaster sugar350 mlpouring cream150 mlmilk1vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
For milk bun dough, pulse flour, sugar, yeast and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine. Mix in cream and egg, then add butter a little at a time, kneading until incorporated between additions. Knead until smooth and silky (3-4 minutes), then place in a buttered bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size (1½-2 hours).
Preheat oven to 180C and butter a 4-litre round baking dish (about 26cm diameter) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, flour, vanilla and juices in a bowl, toss to combine, then spread evenly in prepared baking dish.
Knock back bun dough and pinch off 20 even-sized pieces, roll each into a smooth ball and arrange closely in concentric circles over fruit mixture. Cover and stand in a warm place until buns rise by about a quarter (1-1¼ hours). Brush tops with extra cream and bake until buns are golden brown and fruit mixture is bubbling (1-1¼ hours). Stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, for vanilla custard, whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale (2-3 minutes). Bring cream, milk, and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a saucepan, then, whisking continuously, add to yolk mixture. Return to pan and whisk continuously over medium-high heat until thick and just simmering (2-3 minutes). Strain into a jug or bowl (discard vanilla bean).
Dust pudding with icing sugar and serve hot with warm vanilla custard.