Iced fingers

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    14

    fingers

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

An Iced finger or Iced bun is made from sweet yeast dough enriched with eggs, milk and butter or lard. It can be square, round or finger-shaped, depending on the bakery, and the icing is either snow white or baby pink. The buns are usually sold unfilled, but sometimes they are filled with jam and whipped cream, or just whipped cream. The bun must be very light and fluffy and baked to a pale golden colour. If you see Iced fingers in rural bakeries, they are often very large and the first thing you spot as you walk through the door. Around 1900, they often had the glamorous name of ‘Queen’s rolls’. Today they are considered a rather plain and uncomplicated bun, which is actually their strength.

When the buns are baking, they should touch as they expand so that you can tear them apart and enjoy that wonderful soft part where they were spooning together. These buns need to be eaten within just a couple of hours of baking or they lose their lightness and become as heavy as a regular bun. If you aren’t eating them all fresh, freeze them before you ice them.

Ingredients

For the buns

  • 15 g (½ oz) dried yeast
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz) lukewarm full-fat milk
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 60 g ( oz) raw (demerara) sugar or white sugar
  • 100 g ( oz) butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 g ( oz) fine sea salt

For the glaze

  • 200 g (7 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 tsp water

For the filling (optional)

  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) cream with at least 40% fat
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • strawberry or raspberry jam

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, baking powder 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 eggs. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then let it stand for a few minutes (at this point the dough 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.

Divide the dough into 14 equal pieces. Take a piece of dough and lightly flatten it into an oval 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. Continue shaping the other buns, then place them on the baking tray in two neat rows.

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).

Bake the buns for 8-10 minutes until pale golden brown. Allow them to cool completely, then make the glaze by mixing the icing sugar with the lemon juice and water. Put the glaze in a piping bag and pipe a line on the top of each finger, then use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to smooth it out. Allow the glaze to set before you fill the fingers.