“Hagrid poured them tea and offered them a plate of Bath buns…”
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
Like many vintage recipes, the bath bun has changed over time. Bath buns were once described as “almost the same preparation as the Brioche cakes so much eaten and talked of in Paris.” (Mistress Margaret Dods, The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, 1829), however, the recipe I followed from Jane Grigson’s English Food, creates a more irregular shaped rich bun, reflecting the more modern recipe now often used. It’s been suggested in Elizabeth David’sEnglish Bread and Yeast Cookery that the recipe may have shifted in London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 due to the large number (~one million) that were made and eaten over a period of several months.
What makes this recipe special, is the garnish of caraway seed comfits instead of crushed sugar lumps. Comfits, spices/seeds that are coated over and over in sugar, were once common in the 18th century on baked goods like wigs and bath buns, but eventually disappeared.
While slightly time-consuming, the extra effort in making the caraway seed comfits is well worth it. No crushed sugar lumps give the same delicate flavour that the comfits do.