“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’s English 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.
- 2 tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 x packet of 7g dry yeast
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 150ml skin temp water
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp strong bread flour
- 3¾ cup strong bread flour
- 185g soft butter
- ¼ cup white sugar
- pinch mixed spice
- pinch salt
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 2.5 tbsp white sugar
- 2.5 tbsp water
- caraway seed comfits
- In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Use a candy thermometer to watch until the sugar reaches 225F.
- In a large frying pan, over a very low heat, stir the caraway seeds until warm. Note that it should only be hot enough for you to be able to reach your hand in and stir with your fingers.
- When the sugar liquid has reached 225F, remove from the heat.
- Take one tsp and drizzle it over the caraway seeds.
- Use a wooden spoon to stir the seeds until the sugar has dried.
- Pour in another tsp, and again stir until the sugar has dried.
- Repeat another 10 times, until the sugar has built up.
- Set aside in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Warm up a mixing bowl by swirling with boiling water and emptying.
- Whisk together yeast, sugar, and water, then cover in a warm place for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to start to ferment.
- Beat in the eggs and flour, and cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place for 1 hour (I like to turn the oven on low and place the bowl on the open oven door).
- An hour later, once risen, mix in the dough ingredients- strong bread flour, butter, sugar, mixed spice, salt and lemon juice.
- Knead to get a smooth dough, then cover again with the cling wrap and place back in a warm place for almost two hours.
- Punch in the dough, then form the dough into small orange size. Place on a baking paper lined baking tray, cover with cling wrap and set aside in the warm spot to rise again.
- Preheat the oven to 220C/425F and bake for ~20 minutes until golden brown.
- While baking, in a small saucepan, stir together the extra sugar and water until it becomes a thick syrup.
- When the bath buns are removed from the oven, spoon over the sugar syrup and sprinkle the caraway seed comfits on top.
Bath Bun recipe followed from Jane Grigson's book, English Food.
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