Bath buns are an important bun, but curiously impossible to find in Bath. Elisabeth David’s wonderful version are an education and dangerously too good. If only buns such as these were still commercially available!
1lb/450g Shipton mill Traditional Organic White flour.
½ oz/15g fresh yeast or 7g dried organic yeast.
½ lb/225g best unsalted butter
½ pint/280g organic milk, raw if you can get it.
1 teaspoon sea salt
60g raw sugar or unrefined sugar.
Zest of 3 lemons and juice of ½ a lemon.
1 teaspoon vanilla essence.(not trad, but good with the lemon)
Honey for the glaze and chunky sugar if using.
Firstly, combine the yeast, 100g flour and most of the warm milk to form a batter. A whisk is helpful here to remove fine lumps. Place the bowl in a plastic bag and leave to activate for 30 minutes.
Combine the lemon zest, the juice of half a lemon, the vanilla and the sugar. Set aside to infuse.
Warm the flour.
Soften the butter but don’t melt it.
Add the salt and sugar-lemon mix to the flour, mix in the yeast and the rest of the warmed milk and mix well…then add the softened butter .Use a wooden spoon or a bakers scraper (slip)…I use hands which seem to thoroughly mix this as squeezing the mix seems to blend the butter easily…of course those less rustic can use their mixer which will do an admirable job, in any case, work this up into a smooth dough. Place the bowl in a plastic bag and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours.
It should be well risen at this stage.
Spoon the dough pieces onto an oiled or buttered or (I hate them) non-stick tray and try to maintain the round-ish shape. The dough is quite delicate, and although I hand-round them, this may be a little tricky. Leave plenty of room for them to spread a bit, this makes 12.
Cover with a tea-towel then a plastic sheet which is usually a cut up plastic bag in my kitchen. After20 mins they should be recovered enough to place in the centre of a hot-ish oven at 225o then turn the heat to 200o for 15-20minutes. I like to bake them for at least 20mins until golden and slightly crunch/crusty.
They should emerge having spread somewhat and kissing. At this stage, glaze them with strong heather honey (or any good local honey) applied to the hot buns with a pastry brush, and then (optionally) strew chunky sugar on top so it sticks to the honey, which glazes and becomes stable.
Enjoy them with good coffee/tea and listen to the strains of harmonious delight. The next day they toast beautifully.
They can be made with 100g of wholemeal flour and 350g of white for a change, or add 60g raisins currants or sultanas to the dough when its being put together.
To keep doughs warm, a heat pad is useful. These are used under seedlings in horticulture and are available from hardware stores and horticultural suppliers.