#224 Basic Bun Dough

One of Griggers’ main bugbears in the 1970s was the massive decline in the quality of all things bready. There are of course artisan bakers that do make excellent bread – Barbakan in Chorlton, Manchester is the one near me – but generally it is the supermarket bread we seem to buy and endure. Of course, nowadays, supermarkets have in-store bakeries in supermarkets, so there are improvements, but it is still bread done in the cheap with additives. I think the point that Jane is getting at is we don’t know how good bread can be because we don’t bother to bake it ourselves. This is a shame, because artisan bread can be easily gotten hold of at a fraction of the price of a supermarket loaf, if you bake it yourself. I am trying my best at this concept and am getting better. This recipe is one that Griggers hails the most as it can be used as a base for hot cross buns and Chelsea buns; the supermarket ones are “dull” and this is because the ingredients that make them so good are omitted, such as sugar, eggs, butter and milk.

This recipe can be used as a base, but I wanted to see what the simple rich basic bread buns tasted like, partly through interest, but mainly because I wanted to do a practise one before I do the hot cross buns on the run up to Easter.

Begin by mixing together a pound of strong white bread flour with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt in a warmed mixing bowl. Measure out 2 ounces of caster sugar, and place one spoonful of the sugar into a pudding bowl along with an ounce of crumbled fresh yeast into a pudding bowl and four ounces of flour from the mixing bowl. In a jug, mix together a quarter of a pint each of milk and boiling water straight from the kettle. Whisk this into the yeast mix to form a smooth batter and leave to rise for around 15 minutes until the whole thing has become a satisfying yeasty cushion. Whilst you are waiting for it to rise, stir the remainder of the sugar into the flour and rub 3 ounces of butter into it. Make a well in the centre and pour in a lightly beaten egg and the foaming yeast mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a good 10-15 minutes adding flour as you go so that the dough is slightly rubbery and “a moderately tacky, but not sticky, texture”. The mixing bowl should then be washed and greased so that the dough can sit inside and rise and double in bulk – make sure you cover it with some cling film or a damp tea towel. Fresh yeast rises much quicker than dried, so it’s great if you are an impatient bread-baker.

The bread can be used for whatever purpose you like, but if you want them au naturale, then roll the dough into a long sausage shape and divide into 12 pieces and form them into round buns. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving gaps for when they rise. Cover them and prove for at least 30 minutes. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 230⁰C, remove and brush them with some milk to make them shiny when they cool.

#224 Basic Bun Dough. This bread was delicious! Slightly sweet, rich and very fluffy. I can’t wait to do the hot cross buns – they must be divine because these basic buns are a 7.5/10.

#131 Devonshire Junket

No I’d never heard of one either. A junket is made by mixing milk with rennet and letting it curdle, adding whatever flavour you wish. Essentially, it is Little Miss Muffet’s curds and whey. These sorts of puddings were very popular – and still are in France. The English version being different in that the curds and whey aren’t separated, whereas other nations usually do. This is a very old recipe going way back – the earliest Griggers found was in a book from 1653. In fact the term ‘junket’ comes from the Norman French, jonquet, which was a basket made from rushes (jonques) to drain cheeses, says Jane. The junket has fallen out of favour, but is hanging on as a speciality of Devonshire, south-west England. The trickiest bit of the recipe, is finding somewhere that sells rennet – if there’s any Mancunians reading this, I got mine from Barbakan in Chorlton.

FYI: Rennet is an enzyme that used to be extracted from the stomachs of calves to curdle milk. Although still used, most manufacturers used vegetarian rennet to make their cheeses etc. I think the veggie-friendly rennet is produced using bacteria with the rennet gene inserted.

For 4 to 6:

Warm a pint of Channel Island milk slowly until it reaches 37°C. If you can’t get Channel Island milk, use whole milk – do not be tempted to use skimmed or semi-skimmed, it will not work. Whilst it’s warming, mix a dessert spoon of sugar with 2 tablespoons of brandy in the serving dish that you want to set your junket. When at temperature, pour the milk into the dish and carefully stir in a dessertspoon of rennet (follow the instructions on the bottle in case this is different). Now leave the milk to set at room temperature. I went back and checked it after an hour and it was done – it had essentially become fromage fraise. Now slacken off ¼ pint of clotted cream with a little double cream and pour or spread it over the junket, being careful not to let it split. Lastly sprinkle some nutmeg or cinnamon over the top and you are done.

#131 Devonshire Junket – 5/10. This was ok, but sugar and cream always tastes good. I think the brandy should be replaced with some stewed fruit or vanilla extract, because I loved the texture of it. I think with a little playing around, the junket could have a come-back. I am dreaming up variants as I type…

#81 Northumbrian Wholemeal Scones

Another venture into yeast cookery. This one uses fresh yeast; a new one on me. It’s much better than the dried stuff. Also, I have a giant bag of stone-ground flour left over from Doris Grant’s Loaf the other month, and what with the credit crunch and the whole of the Western World going into liquidisation, it’s best I try to be a bit frugal. Also, I have finished the no carb diet I was on, and so the other reason I went for this recipe is that it uses proper organic brown flour with all the bits and wheatgerm and everything inside, and that must be better than white bread. In fact, my house is a white carb-free zone from now on (unless it’s in a recipe for the blog, natch). Oh, I bought the yeast from the Barbakan deli in Chorlton – an excellent bakery, probably the best in Manchester – for only 20p per 100 grams. I thought I may as well use what the best use. I hear that supermarkets with bakeries within will give you it for free.

I have no idea what make these scones particularly Northumbrian. Ideas anyone?

Here’s what to do…

Makes about 12 scones.

Mix 1 ½ pounds of stone-ground wholemeal flour with a teaspoon of salt, rub in 2 ounces of chilled lard (I used hands here rather than the mixer for a change) and make a well in the middle. Mix ¼ pint of milk with ¼ pint of boiling water and pour about a teacup full of it into dish or small bowl and stir in a tablespoon of golden syrup. Fork in an ounce of fresh yeast into the syrup mixture and allow it to froth up. This is much quicker than the dried stuff, it took only 10 minutes in my cold kitchen! Tip it into the flour along with the rest of the water-milk mixture. Be careful though, don’t add it all at once; you need a ‘soft but not sloppy dough’ says Griggers. I actually needed a little more. Put some clingfilm over the top of the bowl so it doesn’t dry out and let the Sacchromyces do its work until the dough as doubled in size. Roll out the dough, keeping it fairly thick, and cut out rounds with a scone cutter. Place scones on a baking tray, cover again and allow to prove. When they’ve risen again, brush them with milk and bake for 15-20 minutes at 220ºC.

#81 Northumbrian Wholemeal Scones – 7/10. Griggers suggests eating them hot with butter and honey. And so right she is. Bloody marvellous. They are just as good as normal scones. They’re not sweet, but a lovely malty flavour instead. I also had some the next day for a quick tea – split two and grilled them with cheese on. I’ve frozen the rest to keep me in a constant supply.