Recipe Number One Hundred & Forty Six: Page 319.
I can spend a long time in a bakery trying to decide what to choose. More often than not I end up opting for a substantial bun. I tell myself that it is just a sweet bread; in my mind they're almost healthy! When feeling particularly virtuous, I'll choose a Bath bun as it appears to be relatively plain with no sweet icing. I've never made my own before. I couldn't help but worry that they might not be as 'healthy' as I had imagined!
Mary says that Bath buns are distinguished by their coarse sugar topping. This sounded like a key ingredient and not something I could do without! As they are not the sort of things I would usually buy, Neil kindly popped to the shop. Alas he came home empty handed. Not one to give up, I decided to have a go at making my own sugar lumps! I tipped some sugar onto a plate then added a tiny amount of water and mashed it with a fork. I had no idea if I was doing the right thing, but very much hoped that I was! The sugar soon formed into tiny little lumps, so things were looking promising. By this time, my little boy was up from his nap and ready to play. This meant that the buns would have to wait until before I went to bed; it was going to be a long day!
Once Neil and Isaac were asleep I went into the kitchen to make the Bath buns. I quite like baking late when the house is quiet and I can get lost in my thoughts. I consider buns to be in the same vein as bread simply because they both contain strong flour and yeast! As I added these two ingredients to the bowl I felt on familiar ground. I've made a fair amount of bread lately, so I was happily in my comfort zone. After adding a little salt it was time to tip in some sugar to sweeten the mixture. Next, I needed to melt some butter. I decided it would be quicker to do this in the microwave. It certainly was quick as I made the mistake of melting it on the highest setting! I had to race back to the microwave at breakneck speed when I heard an eruption! The butter had to be cooled before I could pour it on top of the dry ingredients. As it was boiling hot I had to wait some time. I wasn't really sure why it had to be cool, as my next task was to add in some warm milk! Once the butter and warm milk had been added, I needed to crack in a few eggs. I hadn't expected eggs to feature in this recipe but, as I don't have much bun making experience, I didn't really know what to expect! I was starting to realise that they aren't perhaps as similar to bread as I'd thought; it was certainly a much richer dough.
I measured some sultanas and chopped candied peel into the already full bowl. Not many recipes call for candied peel. However, I can guarantee that I'll need to use candied peel each year at Christmas time. A whole container is rarely used and the leftovers will usually sit around until next Christmas. By this time they are no longer any good! I combined all of the ingredients together. The resulting mixture was very soft but not as sticky as I might have imagined. After an initial sprinkle of flour to the worktop, no more was needed as the dough was so easy to work. After five minutes of kneading it was springy and elastic. Now it was time for the dough to head back to the confines of the bowl to rise for about an hour. The heating had long gone off and the house was feeling rather chilly, so I resorted to turning on our little heater. I stuck both myself and the bowl in front of it. An hour doesn't feel so long when you have lots of cake books to look through!
I hauled my tired body from the sofa when the dough had doubled in size, and gathered it up. The dough required another knead before I could divide it up into 18 pieces. We'd certainly have to share these buns with our neighbours. There is no way we could eat all of them and the freezer was full to bursting! I laid the buns out on the baking trays and placed some oiled cling film over the top. It was of course time for another rise – this time for half an hour. On this occasion I could place them next to the oven which I'd turned on to pre-heat. Sadly I am too large to perch next to the warmth of the oven, so I had to huddle back in front of the heater. By this time I was too tired to read and it was a struggle to stay awake! Thankfully the half an hour soon passed and I was able to move onto the exciting part of using my makeshift sugar lumps! First of all I had to glaze the puffed up dough with some beaten egg and then I could sprinkle over my crushed sugar. It worked so well! I'll know in future to make my own and save a bit of money! Now into the oven went my Bath buns. I didn't think it wise to head back to the seductive comfort of the sofa so instead I busied myself with the washing up. Oh how wonderful!
At least the gorgeous smell wafting from the oven kept me awake; even though it was about to strike midnight my mouth watered! The buns only required fifteen minutes in the oven so I didn't have long to wait. I had half expected the crumbled sugar to melt in the oven. It was a lovely surprise to see that all my sugar lumps were still intact. The buns hadn't expanded as much as I'd hoped, but they were a lovely golden brown. I couldn't resist a little taste before bed! I could really taste the candied peel and the sweetness of the crushed sugar. The texture was perhaps a little chewier than I would have liked; I wonder if I had over worked the mixture. The next morning the buns were a little past their best but, when spread with butter as Mary suggests, they really were rather special.