A friend lent me one of her long-held books called Cattern Cakes and Lace, A Calendar of Feasts by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer. She had bookmarked the recipes for February wondering if they might be of use in my bread making course. The book is a fascinating month by month look at the traditions and festivals of Britain and the food associated with them.
These yeasted buns, that originate from Leicestershire and Rutland, were traditionally given as a token to a potential suitor or to the children in a village on Valentines Day and were shaped as weavers shuttles because of the strong weaving industry in the region. I hope that I have done some justice to the shape of the weavers shuttle (see the pic at the bottom of the post).
We enjoyed them sliced in half and buttered (generously, of course).
450g plain flour
15g fresh yeast or 5g (or a sachet) of easy bake yeast
10g caster sugar
200g raisins or mixed fruit
beaten egg to glaze
Pour the milk into a small pan and over a medium heat bring almost to a boil. Milk contains proteins that can fight with the yeast and by scalding it you denature these proteins helping the buns to rise better. Add the water and the butter to the hot milk and stir well to melt the butter and get the mixture to a tepid heat (too hot and you will kill the yeast). Place the flour in a bowl. If you are using fresh yeast crumble it in like you would when you rub butter into flour for pastry. If you are using easy bake then just add it to the flour. Add the sugar and salt (keep the yeast and salt separate from one another, salt will kill yeast). Pour in the milk mixture and the egg and mix together well.
Stand mixer instructions:
If you have a stand mixer then mix until combined then leave to sit for ten minutes. then knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Leave the dough to sit for ten minutes. then mix again for 1 minute. Leave the dough to rise until doubled in size. Add the fruit into the dough, mixing in well.
Kneading by hand instructions:
If you are kneading by hand, keep the dough in the bowl and pull one side of it and stretch and fold it over itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the pull, stretch and fold. Keep doing that action until you have done about ten to twelve stretches and folds. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a damp towel and leave to sit for ten minutes. Repeat the stretching and folding. Leave to rest for ten minutes and then repeat the stretching and folding. You will need to do less stretching and folding each time before the dough resists you. (When it does begin to resist stretching you know you have done enough of the folding and leave it to rest.) Leave the dough to rest and prove until at least doubled in size. Add the fruit into the dough, mixing in well.
Divide the dough into eight (the original recipe specifies twelve, but I am greedy). Flatten each piece of dough carefully so you don’t deflate too much. Take the two top corners and fold them into the centre of the dough. You should now have a triangular shape at the top of the dough.
Using your thumbs fold this tightly into the centre of the dough. Press the seam down well.
Fold the dough over again so that it is now starting to look like a baguette. Press the seam down well.
Roll the bun into a small baguette shape so that they resemble weavers shuttles (or as near as I can get them). Place on a greased baking tray.
Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm or a large plastic bag. Leave to prove until 1½ times the size.
Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6 making sure that you place a tray in the oven to heat up. Bread and yeasted buns benefit from being placed onto a hot tray as soon as it goes in the oven. When the buns have proved, brush with beaten egg and place them in the oven and bake until golden for about 25-30 minutes.