Paris buns

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    4

    large 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

These buns were once very popular in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the west coast of Scotland, but they are hard to find today. They are similar to scones and rock cakes. I found a recipe in The Modern Flour Confectioner from 1891, a cookbook by Robert Wells. Why the buns were called Paris buns is unclear.

Wells does not decorate the top of the buns, but the buns people remember from the last 50 years all have either a topping of small sugar nibs or currants, or a combination of the two. I prefer to decorate the buns, as they look far more interesting with the topping.

The Northern Irish women with whom I spoke reminisced about the Paris buns from their childhood. Perhaps this is also the reason the Northern Irish Van Morrison included them in his song ‘Cleaning Windows’ from 1982: ‘We went for lemonade and Paris buns’.

Ingredients

  • 250 g (9 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 55 g (2 oz) raw (demerara) sugar or white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 60 g ( oz) chilled butter, diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 95 ml (3 fl oz) buttermilk
  • 50 g ( oz) currants
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
  • small nibbed sugar, to garnish
  • currants, to garnish

Method

Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and knead it into the dough.

Add half of the buttermilk and use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix it into the dough, then add the rest of the buttermilk and the currants.

Divide the dough into four pieces and shape them into very rough balls without kneading. Don’t be tempted to roll neat balls – just pat the dough together with your hands or two forks and leave it rough to give a nice effect when the buns are baked. Place the buns on the baking tray.

Brush the buns with the egg wash, sprinkle with the sugar nibs and/or a couple of currants and bake for 15-20 minutes until they are lightly coloured.

These buns are best when they are still a little warm, and they’re best eaten on the day they’re baked.