Bristol Buns

Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish…

Buns or rolls are made with flour, sugar, margarine and yeast. They are richer and sweeter than plain bread. They can be flavoured or filled with other ingredients such as spices and dried fruits.

Different types of buns include: bannock, bara brith, barley bread barm cake, Bath bun, bread roll, Chelsea bun, Colston bun, cottage loaf, crumpet, farl, fried bread, griddle scone, hot cross bun, iced bun, Lady Arundel’s Manchet, ardy, London bun, manchet muffin pan loaf, plain loaf, potato scone, saffron bun, Sally Lunn bun, scone, scuffler singing hinny and a Stottie cake. A bun can also refer to a bread roll, such as a burger bun.

Colston buns, named after Merchant Venturer Sir Edward Colston, are made in the city of Bristol in the UK. It was traditionally distributed on Colston Day to some school children in Bristol by the Colston Society. The buns are made of dough flavoured with dried fruit, candied peel and sweet spices. The bun comes into two size categories: ‘dinner plate’ with eight wedge marks on the surface, to be shared with the child’s family and ‘ha’penny starver’, a smaller bun designed to ‘stave off’ hunger.

Colston is a divisive figure among Bristolians. He was viewed by some as an inspirational figure due to his donations of money to schools and other causes. However, much of his wealth was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves. Many Bristolians now regard him as having committed crimes against humanity calling for his statue in the city centre to be pulled down. His name is hard to avoid in Bristol: Colston Tower, Colston Hall, Colston Avenue, Colston Street, Colston’s Girls’ School, Colston’s School and Colston’s Primary School. He is also remembered, particularly in some schools, by Colston’s Day, on 13 November and of course the regional bread bun, the Colston bun, is named after him. I don’t know what we can do about all the roads, buildings and schools, but I’m calling the bun the Bristol bun! So far, a genuine recipe has eluded me (and others are searching) so here is my version…

Colston bun

Ingredients for one ‘dinnerplate’-sized loaf

For the dough:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 x 7g sachets easy-blend yeast
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup warm soya milk
  • 2 tbsp vegan margarine, melted
  • Margarine for greasing

Spices:

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp mixed spice

Fruit:

  • 3-4 dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, figs, blueberries)
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • Juice of ½ a small orange
  1. Soak the dried fruit in the orange juice for about 20 mins then strain, keeping the juice.
  2. Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl with all the spices and soaked fruit and zest and mix well.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the warm milk, orange juice and the melted margarine.
  4. Mix everything together to form a dough. (If it’s too dry, add a little warm water; if it’s too wet, add more flour).
  5. Knead on a floured surface for at least 5 minutes until the dough is springy.
  6. Transfer to a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size (this should take about one hour).
  7. Knock the dough back by kneading it for a few seconds.
  8. Dust a baking tray with flour.
  9. Use a little flour to help you shape the dough into a smooth round loaf.
  10. Place on the baking tray. Flatten it down a bit,
  11. With a sharp knife, score the top of each loaf into eight pie-shaped sections, so that the sections can be more easily broken off.
  12. Cover the tray loosely with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for about 20 mins.
  13. Heat oven to 180°C.
  14. Bake for 20 mins, then cool before eating.
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