16 November 2023

Bolton Buns - From Jane Austen's Kitchen

Bolton Buns - Currant Buns - From Jane Austen's Kitchen / www.delightfulrepast.com

Bolton Buns, or Currant Buns, were inspired by recent travels. Sort of. My cousin Paula went to England in September; and I went with her, vicariously! She visited sites connected to our Mayflower ancestors on her mother's and my father's side of our families. She sent many lovely photos for my archives. She also visited and sent photos of Chawton House in Hampshire. If you are a Jane Austen fan, I don't have to tell you who lived there from 1809 to 1817.

Then in October Paula sent me a wonderful book for those interested in Jane Austen and/or Regency cooking and life in a "middling" household. The book, Martha Lloyd's Household Book, with annotated transcription by Julienne Gehrer and foreward by Deirdre Le Faye, is an excellent window—kitchen window—into the everyday life of Jane Austen's all-female household at Chawton Cottage. 

More than a cookbook—but if a cookbook is what you like, well, there you go!—it tells us more about our Jane through the eyes of her dear friend, member of her household, and eventually (after Jane's death) sister-in-law. Martha Lloyd, ten years older than Jane, was a remarkable woman in her own right, so one can enjoy this book from several different angles.

Bolton Buns - Currant Buns - From Jane Austen's Kitchen / www.delightfulrepast.com

The recipes are written as one does when writing down the bare bones for one's own use. Just the ingredients, no need for all the details. So I've taken one recipe, Bolton Buns—written Bolton Bunns by Martha—and given you all the details you need to make them. I've halved the recipe and translated all the weights and measures to measures, ounces, and grams so that whether you're in the US or the UK or anywhere at all, you can make the buns. 

The one measure in this recipe that took a bit of interpreting was "a handful of currants." Martha's hands might have been larger or smaller than mine, so her idea of "a handful of currants" might be different from mine. After some deliberation and weighing and measuring, I decided to translate "a handful" to 1/4 cup/1.25 ounces/35 grams—more than a handful in my hand, but anything less seemed pointless.

During that era, rich yeast breads were a popular breakfast item and would likely be seen again at teatime as well.

Do you enjoy making vintage recipes? Do leave a comment and tell me your thoughts. And if anyone has ever heard of Bolton Buns anyplace besides Martha Lloyd's Household Book, let me know. I'm thinking it must have been her own name for her currant buns.  

Bolton Buns - Currant Buns - From Jane Austen's Kitchen / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Bolton Buns - Currant Buns

(Makes 20)

1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces/296 ml) milk
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/57 grams) cold unsalted butter
3 dip-and-sweep cups (15 ounces/425 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces/50 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (0.25 ounce/7 grams) instant yeast
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) currants
1 large egg yolk, room temperature, beaten

1 In 1-quart saucepan (or a 2-cup glass measure in the microwave), heat the milk just until tiny bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. Add the chunk of cold butter and stir until melted. 

2 In 2- to 2.5-quart mixing bowl (I use this 2-quart glass measure—makes it easy to see when the dough has doubled), measure/weigh the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the currants, using your fingers to separate any that are stuck together. Mix them in and make a well in the center again. 

Note: While measuring/weighing the flour, also measure/weigh about 1/4 cup (1.25 ounces/35 grams) of flour separately and set aside for kneading and shaping. You won't need it all, but it's good to have out just in case, so you never have to go back into the cupboard for more when your hands are all floury. Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking too much to your hands and counter; a little sticking is fine. Adding too much flour is the ruin of bread.

3 Pour the warm milk mixture and beaten egg yolk into the well. Mix the flour in to form a soft, but not overly wet, dough. The dough should not be sticking to the bowl too much, but come away fairly cleanly.

Clean out the bowl (no need to wash it) and lightly oil it. Knead the dough, using flour from the 1/4 cup, until it is very smooth and silky, about 8 to 10 minutes. Put the dough into the lightly oiled bowl, cover,* let rise until at least doubled, about 2 to 3 hours.

* If you're using plastic wrap, tear off an 18-inch long piece so that you can use it again to cover the shaped buns. I use a silicone lid or mixing bowl lid to cover my 2-quart glass measure and this half sheet pan cover for proofing the buns.

5 Line baking sheet (I use this heavy-duty half sheet pan) with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces--I, being who I am, 😁 weigh the batch of dough in grams (on this food scale) and divide by 20 (making each bun 45 grams). Shape each piece into a ball. Give it a little roll on the unfloured counter, a motion sort of like moving a computer mouse around, to make a smooth ball. If you used flour, you would not be able to get the needed traction.

6 Place in 4 rows of 5 on prepared baking tray. If using plastic wrap, spray with cooking spray the same piece of plastic wrap you used to cover dough, cover buns lightly and let rise about 1 hour or so. They will not be doubled, just puffy. 

7 During the last 15 or 20 minutes (depending on your oven), preheat oven to 400F/205C/Gas6.

8 Bake for about 13 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly for a few minutes before serving. If you want the crust to be its softest, lay a pristine kitchen towel over the buns. 

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