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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Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

“…a handful of currants.” Love it. A certain vagueness adds a homey touch to recipes. And adventure. Realized I add a handful of currants to a lot of things, starting with Grape Nuts in a bowl with milk. And I love yeast breads!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Yes, Sully, I think you'd find a lot to amuse you in old cookbooks. I grew up reading them like novels. I forgot all about Grape-Nuts. Haven't eaten a cold cereal in decades, other than homemade organic granola. But if I were going to buy one off the shelf, it would be Grape-Nuts.

Laurel Ann Nattress said...

Wow, those look delicious, but I am really Jonesing over the china.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Laurel Ann. That china pattern has been discontinued. It also comes in pink. I just have a few pieces of each.

Amy Johnson said...

My favorite recipes are the old ones! These look and sound delicious!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Amy! And I think it's fun when a recipe has "a story."

Mrs. White said...

This looks wonderful! The cookbook must be fascinating. I will have to see if I can find a copy. Thank you!

ellen b. said...

That was a nice gift. The buns look delicious. It's fun to hunt down all things Jane Austen in England!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Mrs White. I hope you can find a copy. I think you'd really enjoy it.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Ellen, thanks! I may never make another trip to England, but you're so right about that! I had great fun doing the Bronte Country stuff.

Phil in the Kitchen said...

A currant bun is a joy forever and these would definitely be the perfect bit of nostalgia for me. Currant buns from local bakeries were part of my childhood and that must make me vintage as well as the buns. I've never heard currant buns called Bolton buns but, ten years or so ago, I tried recreating an old recipe for the Bolton Flat Cake, which is similar in style to Chorley and Eccles cakes and is usually filled with currants (and jam). There could be a connection. Currants (and other dried fruits, spices and so on) were arriving at Liverpool docks and that probably explains the number of recipes from the area using those ingredients. But I suppose it's just as possible that Martha Lloyd was given the recipe by a Mrs Bolton, so who knows? Incidentally, currant bun was rhyming slang for the sun where I grew up, so it always has happy associations for me.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Phil, thanks so much. I love your baking stories and suggestion of the possibility of a Mrs Bolton! Travel from Hampshire to Bolton, near Manchester, might not have been something Martha Lloyd would have done—no fast trains and motorways then!

Jeanie said...

Well, these sound fun and not too challenging. And after all, how could anything associated with Jane Austen be anything but delish?!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Jeanie. I hope one of you two will make them. It's a super soft dough, very easy to knead, effortlessly and absentmindedly!

TONY said...

I am sure Bolton Buns are brilliant,Jean.

It is possible Martha Lloyd visited Bolton. People did travel good distances in the 18th and 19th centuries. Lydia Bennet and George Wickham (the cad) were on their way from Brighton to Gretna Green no less but only got as far as London. It would have taken Martha many days and probably a sore posterior with all tha carriage riding though.Then there was the journey back of course. All for a bun.

For your intrepid readers who may well have had an interest in Bolton piqued, here is some info from Wikapaedia about Bolton.

"A former mill town, Bolton has been a centre for textile production since the 14th century when Flemish weavers settled in the area, introducing a wool and cotton-weaving tradition. It was a 19th-century boomtown, development largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. At its peak in 1929, its 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dyeing works made it one of the largest and most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. The British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War and, by the 1980s, cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in the town.

The town has a population of 139,403, whilst the wider metropolitan borough has a population of 262,400. Bolton originated as a small settlement in the moorland known as Bolton le Moors. In the English Civil War, the town was a Parliamentarian outpost in a staunchly Royalist region and, as a result, was stormed by 3,000 Royalist troops led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine in 1644. In what became known as the Bolton Massacre, 1,600 residents were killed and 700 were taken prisoner."

There is no information about buns however.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Tony! I should have known better than to ask *you* a simple question! 🤣 But, seriously, you know I *am* interested in all things England.

chickenruby said...

I didn't know there was a cookery book. I've just finished reading Emma, I could imagine her baking these. Thanks for linking with #pocolo

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Suzanne! I loved Emma.

Marilyn @ MountainTopSpice said...

You always amaze me with your directions to a recipe, and how you can take a recipe over 100 years old, and make it easy to use today! Thank you so much! Many blessings to you!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Marilyn, thank *you* so much! You're so kind! I just love old recipes and food traditions.

Peabea Scribbles said...

True on recipes. I tend to think I'd have trouble sharing one as over the years they are tweaked to my tastes. I admit, I am not one for cooking/baking...really. Just usually the basics to get by, but I do think these buns would be so delicious. May have to give them a try. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Peabea. I hope you will give them a try. I find kneading dough very therapeutic and relaxing!

Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man! said...

These buns sound delicious, and I love the backstory!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jeff, thanks so much!

Esme Slabbert said...

I will have to make a small batch of this for myself, as the rest of my family may not enjoy it as much as I do, and also then I have them all for myself
Thank you for sharing your links with us at #289 SSPS Linky. See you again next week.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Esme. Go ahead and make the batch of 20 and then freeze them! Then you can thaw at a few at a time to give yourself a treat!

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