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Delicious buns


TO DISPEL THE GLOOM…or celebrate the summer!

Don’t wimper because the box scheme`s box seems to only contain kale in various forms…masquerading as Brussels sprouts/ cabbage and cauliflower…it’s a deconstruction of brassicas I know, but winters fare often seems so.

Winter is the time for baking heart warming breads and buns and ekeing out the preserves of summers bounty..where else to enjoy flame roasted preserved peppers than on a thick slice of wholemeal bread soaked in good butter with a slab of good ham or excellent cheese, and on the weekend, make some traditional buns with your own trusty ingredients and without the lack-of-reality of most store-bought buns and cakes.

Buns are best made with an overnight ferment, and as this only takes 5minutes before you go to bed, why not try?..or not and make the quick flying ferment with organic yeast 15 minutes before you begin baking! Either way, bun making is easy and cost effective both for your pocket and body/mind.

Buns can be savoury or sweet and wholemealish or white, so theres plenty of room to spread your creative wings.

When I fist made Elisabeth David`s Bath buns I was shocked to see how soft was the dough. Buns can be a standing domed creation most common in bakeries, but in times past were actually a spreading affair more like a thick pancake batter which doesn’t flow so much, but does flow when placed on the baking sheet. I thought the directions were a mistake until I persevered further and allowed the rise specified, baked the result and was very pleased with the texture and flavour…and eventually with the anarchic form.

Commercially, I was used to making a firmer dough with less enriching agents to allow hand shaping and placing of the buns close together (kissing) to push each other up while rising , create the glazed dome, and then be pleasurable to tear apart with the soft crumby edges which tore in layers to be peeled and eaten immediately discreetly before the whole of the bun succumbs to the teeth.

Elisabeth Davids buns do not give away to richness, the butter and sugar are in high proportion, but married with good wholesome flour, somehow seemed less rich in their wholesomeness than the commercial ones which are mostly just white sugar and bakers margarine. Real brown sugar (not the dyed-brown stuff)even whole sugar such as “Rapadura”, nutritionally complete, and with an actual sugar flavour, elevate a good bun to new heights, as does proper organic butter and of course good organic flour. You simply cant buy these, so making them at home is a culinary adventure which is rewarding to the pocket, to friends and your genius…everyone will want more, and being wholesome, and it being the winter of our discontent, are local/in season and fabulous.

Bath buns based on Elisabeth Davids recipe in “English Bread and Yeast Cookery”

1lb/450g Shipton`s 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

2 tablespoons sugar…pref real brown

Extras….a little milk and sugar for glazing and coarse brown sugar for strewing liberally..alternately heather honey for the glaze.

For perfection, make a preferment with half of the yeast and a little of the milk (it doesn’t need warming at this stage), and a few tablespoons of the flour to form a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap, or put in a plastic bag to seal (use oiled parchment if you are being obsessively authentic, im jesting)and leave overnight to hubble bubble.

Next morning…or now…mix the rest of the yeast with the overnight brew and a little of the warmed milk. Soften the butter, but don’t melt it, and stir through the flour, rubbing it in if you feel the need. Add the salt and sugar to the flour and mix in the yeast and the rest of the warmed milk and mix well…its best to use a wooden spoon or a bakers scraper (slip) to work this up into a smooth dough. Cover the bowl so its sealed and leave in a warmish place to rise for 1 ½ hours.

It should be well risen at this stage.

Spoon the dough onto an oiled or buttered or (I hate them) non-stick tray. Leave plenty of room for them to spead a bit, this should make about 12.

Cover them well so they don’t form a skin…do this by lightly flouring them , covering with a teatowel 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 hottish oven at 190F/375C. The baking takes 15 mins and they should emerge having spread somewhat and kissing. At this stage, I like to deftly gaze them with strong heather honey applied to the hot buns with a pastry brush, and then strew chunky sugar on top so it sticks to the honey, which glazes and becomes stable.

The more conventional glaze is to dissolve a little of the sugar in some of the milk and brush this onto the hot buns before strewing the sugar.

Enjoy them with good coffee/tea and listen to the strains of harmonious delight.

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.