It is often said mockingly by people from other nations that the British do not have a food culture. However, the people from these isles have more than seven names for a plain soft white bread roll, depending on which region they’re from.
A Tea cake in West Yorkshire is a plain white roll, but in the rest of the country it contains currants. In other regions you’ll find the name Cob, Bap, Morning roll, Soft roll, Buttery Vienna, Oven bottom, Coventry batch, Breadcake, Scuffler and Muffin, the latter also meaning something entirely different elsewhere. My friend Jo from Lancashire passionately insists that it should be referred to as a Barm cake and nothing else.
I’ve always known these particular buns as Baps. The rolls were usually elongated, often with a visible swirl on each end where the dough had been rolled up. These rolls were the type served warm with soup when I was little.
These Baps are the ultimate vessel for a bacon butty – a Bap filled with fried bacon and sometimes also egg. Fish finger butties are also very tasty because the Bap wraps itself well around the fingers, delicious with mayonnaise flavoured with chives, tarragon or pickles and capers. The crispy fish fingers contrast nicely with the soft bun.
Add the yeast to the lukewarm water 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 or lard on top. Pour in half of the yeast mixture and start kneading. When the water and butter or lard have been completely absorbed, add the rest of the yeast mixture. 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 neither too dry nor terribly wet.
Cover the dough and set aside for 1 hour until it has doubled in quantity.
Briefly knead the dough and divide it into 12 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 on a baking tray and continue shaping the other Baps.
Cover the tray of Baps 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 Baps have doubled in size. Towards the end of the resting time,
Lightly sprinkle the Baps with flour and gently flatten them.
The next day, the Baps can be revived in a hot oven for a few minutes. You can also freeze them, thaw and then pop in a hot oven for a few minutes so your Baps are just as they were when they were first baked.
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