Black bun

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    6-10

    people

Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

The Black bun or Scotch bun was once eaten in Scotland on the day of the Revelation, as with the Twelfth cake. In the last century, however, it has been linked to the Hogmanay party on the last day of the year. On this evening it is common to do First Footing. Just before the clock strikes midnight, you have to leave the house and ring the doorbell with a gift of coal, which symbolises warmth for the new year, and the Black bun, which means the family won’t go hungry (or without whisky, of course!) that year.

In the past, a bread dough was first made and part of it was kept for the crust around it, then all the ingredients for the Black bun were added to the rest of the dough. The modern version of the Black bun is a fruit cake with a layer of shortcrust dough on top of and underneath the cake, and sometimes wrapped all the way around it.

For this recipe I used one of the oldest Black bun recipes, from Mrs Frazer’s The Practice of Cookery, Pastry, and Confectionary, from 1791. She calls it a ‘Rich half-peck Bun’ and is the first to encase the fruit bread in a pastry layer.

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 150 g ( oz) large black raisins
  • 150 g ( oz) currants
  • 50 g ( oz) candied citrus peel
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 50 g ( oz) soft brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 50 g ( oz) blanched almond halves

For the pastry

  • 5 g ( oz) dried yeast
  • 300 ml (10½ fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour
  • 1 tbsp fine raw (demerara) sugar or caster (superfine) sugar
  • 30 g (1 oz) butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash

Method

For a loaf tin (1 kg/2 lb 4 oz)

Put the raisins, currants and candied citrus peel in a bowl with the rum and enough water to cover them. Leave to soak overnight, then drain and mix with the sugar and spices.

Add the yeast to the lukewarm water to activate it. Put the flour and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix together, then put the butter on top. Pour half of the yeast mixture over the butter and start mixing. When the liquid and butter have been completely incorporated, add the remaining yeast mixture.

Knead for 5 minutes, then let stand for a few minutes. Add the salt and knead for 10 minutes until all the dough has come together in a smooth dough that is not too dry. Scrape all of the dough back together.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare the loaf tin.

Take a third of the dough and knead it with the fruit mixture and the almonds. Roughly shape the mixture into a rectangular log. Press the rest of the dough out into a rectangle large enough to cover the filling. Place the filling on top and fold the dough around it. Press the dough together to seal it, cut away the excess and place the bun in the loaf tin. Brush with the egg and milk mixture, then bake in the lower part of the oven for 1 hour.

Serve the loaf with butter.