It's Christmas again, or Xmas if you prefer, and it seems to recur with alarming rapidity this side of 50! Hopefully you will have visitors, or hungry young ones, but if not, sit back and enjoy this special time anyway.
It’s important to have some treats on hand and better still if these are home-made from good ingredients. Yes it is party time, but highly sugared stuff becomes tedious if it rules the occasion. Time for some deliciously sweet but also nutrient dense treats, which need not be the penance some perceive!
In Britain and around the world
Being a brilliantly British institution, good old fashioned buns fit the bill here. I’m Australian, and having inherited the tradition, was appalled when first working here, alongside French bakers with high panary skills, to learn they couldn’t make hot cross buns…even with a recipe…..it’s in the blood! Even in Iceland good buns are important, especially on Bolludagur, bun day, the Monday preceding Ash Wednesday, and these are invariably cream-filled.
Where I am from in South Australia, that delicious bun the “Berliner” was loyally re-named the “Kitchener” bun during WW1, so buns have some gravitas….of course the afore-mentioned hot-cross buns even having religious significance…which one must say seems lost on today’s heretical mass produced versions. Buns appear in numerous guises throughout the world, and deservedly so, as they can be perfect for a morning tea or as a sustaining snack.
3 delicious buns to try
The cream bun which many of us remember from childhood…they seem far less in favour today, replaced by psychedelic cupcakes, doughnutty things or artificially coloured and flavoured sugar whatevers.
These buns are slightly different to the old bakery versions. These were often risen close together so they kissed, each being supported by its neighbour, so they could attain more height and once baked, sensuously torn from this embrace revealing soft inviting sides. Proof them this way if you like, or make individuals as I have.
The home-made cream bun is a little more dangerous…being in your house in quantity and very very moreish. The commercial ones contain cheap jam and that wonderful creation “mock” cream which indeed one can mock! Made at home with either your own raspberry or strawberry jam or at least a good one, and filled with real whipped even clotted cream, the cream bun can reach culinary heights!
I’ve even invented not-so-mockable creme for the times when cream is seasonally less available. These are a reconstruction of the old butter cream, one made with honey that most local and ancient of sweeteners, a force of nature rather than a refined sweetener, and the other with 100% cane sugar, which is simply dried sugar cane juice, replete with fine caramel flavour and many important nutrients.
RECIPE: Cream buns
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!
There is little agreement about the original Bath bun; of course the French claim it is just a brioche, however the shape is decidedly English. That it is a butter enriched yeasted sweet dough is not in dispute. Traditionally it was sprinkled with caraway comfits, sugar enrobed caraway seeds, which no longer exist, and so the use of caraway in the bun would seem traditional, which accords with local cultural flavours, and notably is not French at all.
Modern Bath bun recipes usually contain lemon rind, which is really delicious and I have used it here as we have caraway in the cider buns, however I prefer them with the traditional caraway flavour….use 10g in the recipe.
RECIPE: Bath buns
Then follows one of my favourites, and certainly more hefty than a cream bun. In a very traditional vein, these are caraway flavoured, fruit-filled sourdough buns. The fruit is soaked in good cider before being added to the dough, and no sweetener is added at all, the fruit being sufficient.
The fruit is in good quantity as well…. There is nothing worse than a fruit bun with 3 sultanas in it! These are chewy and heavy but very light on the digestion in the way of sourdough, and a must-have around during colder weather for that necessary warming sustenance and ability to satisfy as a wholesome snack.
RECIPE: Sourdough Cider Fruit Buns
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