Bath buns, 20th century

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    8

    buns

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

This version of Bath buns became popular in the early 1900s. Professional baking books of that time give several recipes, one richer than the other and therefore also more expensive, so that all classes of people had a version of the bun that they could afford. You can still find this modern version of the Bath bun today in Bath. It uses much less butter than the older recipe.

Ingredients

  • 15 g (½ oz) dried yeast
  • 280 ml ( fl oz) lukewarm full-fat milk
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour
  • 60 g ( oz) raw (demerara) sugar or white sugar
  • 70 g ( oz) butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 5 g ( oz) fine sea salt
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
  • 35 g ( oz) currants, to garnish
  • 55 g (2 oz) sugar nibs, to garnish

Method

Add the yeast to the lukewarm milk and stir briefly and gently to activate it. The yeast will start to foam up in clusters, which means it is ready for use. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and put the butter on top. Pour half of the yeast mixture over the butter and start kneading. When the milk and butter are completely absorbed, add the rest of the yeast mixture, along with the egg. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then let it stand for a few minutes (at this point it will be very wet). Add the salt and then knead for 10 minutes, scraping the dough off the dough hook and side of the bowl if needed, until the dough has come together in a smooth and elastic dough that is not too dry but also not terribly wet.

Cover the dough and set aside for 1 hour until it has doubled in quantity. Meanwhile, line a baking tray with baking paper.

Briefly knead the dough and divide it into eight equal pieces. Take a piece of dough and lightly flatten it on your work surface, then pull the outer parts in like a purse and gently squeeze together like a dumpling so that the dough can no longer split open while rising. Turn the dough over so the squeezed ends are on the bottom. It should be nice and smooth on top – if not, flatten it and start again. Place the bun on the baking tray and continue shaping the other buns.

Cover the tray of buns with a light cotton cloth and wrap it in a large plastic bag (I keep one especially for this purpose). Rest the dough for 1 hour or until the buns have doubled in size. Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).

Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with the currants and/or sugar nibs. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown. The buns are best eaten on the day they’re made. The next day they can be revived in a hot oven for a few minutes. You can also freeze the baked buns, thaw and then pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes.