Bristol Buns

Day 7 in the 2016 VeganMoFo: Close to Home – Make a food from your own country, state, or hometown.

Most people in the West Country in the UK will have heard of a bath bun, a sweet roll made with crushed sugar sprinkled on top. It can include candied fruit peel, currants, raisins and/or sultanas. A good friend of mine has a joke about Bath buns…

You say to someone “I bet you can’t say ‘I can’t eat my big Bath bun’ six times without messing up”. They say:

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

“I can’t eat my big Bath bun”

Then you say “Well stick it up your arse then!”

However, I don’t live in Bath, I live in Bristol and the only bun I could find relating to this city is the Colston bun, named after Merchant Venturer and slave trader Edward Colston. Colston is a divisive figure among Bristolians as so 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.

The Colston bun 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. 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…

Ingredients for one ‘dinner plate’-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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This entry was posted in Cakes, tarts, desserts & sweets and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bristol Buns

  1. Emma says:

    This is fascinating! I’m from the East Midlands and have never heard of either a Bath or a Bristol bun, but I love reading the history.

  2. Jenny says:

    Really interesting, I’d never heard of this before. I enjoy the idea of a dinner-plate-sized bun. I’m not sure I could resist the temptation to just sit down it for my dinner!

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