Buns (all buns) have things in them that yeast does not like – fat, eggs, spices….all yuk to yeast. The first key to a light bun is to make a pre dough so that the yeast has the best possibility of making the buns rise even with all those “enriching” items in them. The second key is to use plain flour, not bread flour. Buns are kind of like cake and a light, soft bun requires a slightly weaker flour than a nice, sturdy loaf. The third and most important key is to not kill the yeast. Most buns require you to heat the milk – this is to break down the sugars, not to heat the milk. Have you ever noticed that hot milk tastes completely different from cold milk?
Any good Virtuous Bread student knows you can use cold milk from the fridge and the yeast will still work – it’s only heat that will kill yeast. To that end, heat the milk to near boiling point and then leave it for at least 30 minutes until it is room temperature/hand hot/ or maximum 40 degrees. If you are not sure, leave it to cool until it is cold.
500 g plain white wheat flour
50 g sugar
2.5 g instant/5 g dry/10 g fresh yeast
250 g milk that you have heated up and let cool again
10 g salt
50 g butter
150 g sultanas
50 g mixed peel
Make a pre dough:
Measure the flour in a bowl. Make a well and put in the yeast and the sugar. Pour over the milk. Flick some flour over to close the well. Cover and leave for an hour until the foam has burst through the top of the well.
Make the dough:
Add the salt, eggs and butter to the flour and mix the ingredients together. Pull out on to the counter and knead well for 10 minutes. There is not a huge amount of butter in this recipe so you don’t have to worry about kneading it in separately.
Pop the dough back in the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. Fold in the fruit and the peel and then cover the dough and let it rest for 2 hours.
Shaping the bath buns:
Line a deep roasting tin with parchment and blob about 12 blobs of dough on the parchment with a couple of spoons. Sprinkle them liberally with rock sugar and then cover them with a tea towel. The logic of using a roasting tin is that the deep sides hold the tea towel over the tops of the buns so it does not stick. If you don’t have a baking tin with deep sides, lightly flour a tea towel before placing it over the buns.
Let these rest for 1 hour or so until they have doubled in size.
Pre heat the oven to 180 and bake the buns for 20 minutes until they are golden and sound hollow when they are tapped. Cool completely if you can (ha) and then eat, ideally with a cup of tea and more butter.