Category Archives: Shropshire recipes

Butter Buns

Butter buns

These are the buns that I dream of. I do actually dream about them. When I was young you could buy these from an Italian family bakery that had shops in Shrewsbury and other local towns. They were my all time favourite cake and one that I would choose every time I saw them on their stainless steel platter. The memory of the taste has stayed with me and when the café doors were closed for the final time, it remained just that, a memory. Many times in recent years I have thought about how I might go about making them, but I couldn’t get my head around how you might layer the bun and enclose all that buttery goodness.

A few weeks ago a lady contacted me asking if I had the recipe for the Shrewsbury Butter Bun. Before she contacted me it never occurred to me that  the butter bun was a local phenomenon. Of course, now I realise it is.  A few weeks prior to this I found out that a friend’s husband had family connections with the café and I was considering whether she might think I was mad if I asked her if he knew the secret to the butter bun. The two things happening so close together felt like fate and I knew that it was time I got my act together and found out how I could go about making the butter bun.

I haven’t asked my friend’s husband. I thought it best not to ask him to reveal family secrets. But I did find an entry for butter buns on the internet which revealed the folding technique. At last, the answer to all my dreams. I can’t find the link again, which is frustrating, but if I do I will post it here. I have used the recipe that I teach for all my enriched dough recipes on the bread making course. It’s a recipe that can be adapted for a fruit bun, chelsea bun, iced finger etc.

I have trialled these twice now, with success each time. I was frustrated with the first batch that all the sugary butteriness oozed out during the baking. With the second batch I tried sealing the bun with a little milk to prevent the leakage. I now realise that you just can’t seal them, and this is the point. All that sugary, butteriness gathers in the tray and encrusts the bottom of the butter bun. May it ooze for all its worth, enough of the filling manages to stay in to create the delicious buttery layers.

These little beauties are now going to be one of the choices for students to make during the enriched dough part of the bread making course so that I can share the butter bun love with as many people as possible. I urge you to get out your flour and make some as soon as you possibly can.

Makes 10 buns

Lightly grease two baking trays. Oven temperature, 220°c, gas mark 7 or the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga.

For the buns
300g strong white flour (bread flour)
250g plain white flour
10g fine salt
7g easy bake yeast (instant yeast) or 10g fresh yeast (the fresh yeast can be dissolved in a little of the warm water that you will be using for the recipe)
50g caster sugar
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water ( I add boiling water to cold milk and that way both get warm, just make sure that the liquid is only hand hot or you will kill the yeast)
50g butter
1 egg

For the filling
100g softened butter
150g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste or extract

For the glaze
50 ml milk
50g caster sugar

Method

In a large bowl mix together the flours, salt, yeast and sugar. Pour in the water, milk, egg and add the cubed butter. Mix together well ( I use my hands like a claw) and then tip out onto a work surface (no extra flour needed) and knead for about 10 minutes until feeling smooth and elastic. You can of course use a free standing mixer to do all of this for you. The dough will be sticky during the kneading process, which is fine. Better sticky than dry.

Form the dough into a ball, and place into a bowl and leave to rise until double the original size, covered with a large bag or lightly oiled clingfilm. With all of the sugar, milk, egg and butter this dough will take longer to rise than a bread dough. In a cool kitchen expect this to be about two hours, less in a warm kitchen.

In a bowl mix together the softened butter, caster sugar and vanilla paste for the filling.

Place the sugar and milk for the glaze in a small pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in volume, take it carefully out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a sausage shape and cut into ten equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Take one ball and roll out thinly into a circle. Place a teaspoon of the filling mixture in the middle of the circle. Fold over the circle to create a semi-circle. Flatten the dough over the butter and press the seam down well. Place a second teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the semi-circle. Fold the dough over to create a triangle. Flatten again and press the seam well (See pics below). Place onto a lightly greased tray and repeat with the other balls of dough. Leave to rise for 20 -30 minutes. Place on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga, or onto the middle shelf of an oven preheated to 220°c, gas mark 7 for 15 minutes until golden.  Glaze the buns whilst hot with the sugar and milk using a pastry brush. Leave to settle on the tray for ten minutes, in this time they will have sucked back up some of the sugary butteriness that has oozed out, and then lift onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Butter bun fold, stage 1

Butter bun fold, stage 1

Butter bun fold, stage 2

Butter bun fold, stage 2

Butter bun fold, stage 3

Butter bun fold, stage 3

Print Friendly

Shrewsbury Cakes

Don’t let these boring looking biscuits deceive you, they are actually quite exciting.

I haven’t posted a Shropshire recipe for some time. This isn’t because I have forgotten my ambition to share more Shropshire recipes with you. I have been reading quite a bit about the history of food in England recently and I have often been thumbing through my Shropshire recipe books. I just haven’t managed to blog about it.

The Shrewsbury Cake, also known as the Shrewsbury Biscuit, has many variations and a long history. Some recipes state lemon as the main flavouring, some caraway seeds. Karen Wallace, in her Shropshire Food, says that five variations of the biscuit are listed in Cassell’s Dictionary of Cooking, printed in the 19th century.

Wikipedia tells me that a recipe for it was included in The Compleat Cookery, printed in 1658, and that the playwright William Congreve, uses the Shrewsbury Cake as a simile in his play, The Way of The World in 1700. Karen Wallace refers to a pamphlet produced in 1938 (that is how important the Shrewsbury cake is, it gets its very own pamphlet, with the grand name ‘Shrewsbury Cakes – The Story of a  Famous Delicacy’) that states that the first recorded mention of said cakes was in 1561. The cakes were given to people of importance when they visited the town.

My Shropshire Cookery Book, published by Shropshire Women’s Institute has a historical recipe  from a family recipe book from 1630 to 1750 and this is the one I have used for this recipe. It includes a reference to sack, which had me scratching my head for some time. What, I wondered, is sack? Then I remembered that hiding away on one of my shelves I have the Good Housekeeping Cookery Encyclopedia, which says that sack is “an old name for various white wines, particularly those from Spain and the Canaries; sherry is the only modern representative of the family”. So, there we go, who knew?

I don’t have any sherry in the house, but I do have a bottle of Madeira, so Madeira it is then.

Here is the original recipe taken from the WI’s Shropshire Cookery Book.  This book does not have a publication date, but as the price was originally 2s.3d. it’s safe to say it was printed before the decimalisation of sterling in 1971. It’s a wonderful book full of treasures and I love the way each recipe was given by a member of one of the WI’s in Shropshire.  The historical recipe for Shrosebury Cakes was given by E.Walshe (St.Giles WI), and very grateful I am too.

To Make Shrosebury Cakes
Take one pound of flower, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter, half an ounce of carraway seed, some nutmeg, rub it well together then take three eggs, beat them well, then put to them three spoonsful of sack and as much rosewater. Mix it with your paste then role it out and cut it into what shapes you please, bake them upon tin plates, prick them with a pin let your oven be not to hott.

I love the way so many of the spellings have changed since the 17th Century and the spelling of Shrosebury is very interesting.  There is a long-standing argument locally over whether Shrewsbury is pronounced with a shrews or a shrose, and I have grown up saying it with a shrews. It seems, however, that historically it was  a shrose. Shocking (and may I add, wrong).

You can still get Shrewsbury biscuits in some of the bakeries in Shropshire. But I doubt they add a slug of Madeira to their dough. In fact no Shrewsbury biscuit I have ever tasted tastes like these.  You can detect both the Madeira and the rosewater and the dough spreads to create a delicate tuile-like biscuit rather than the shortbready type I have tried before. They would be delicious with ice cream. When I make them next though I might forgo the rosewater and stick with the madeira as I am not sure it’s not all too complicated a taste. Don’t do away with the caraway seeds though, as they are delicious.

Here is my recipe. It makes one-third of the original to make 22 biscuits.
150g plain flour
150g caster sugar
150g cold butter
¼ tsp caraway seed
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 egg
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp Madeira or sherry

Method

The easiest way to make these biscuits is in a food processor.  Tip in the flour and the cubed butter and pulse until breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it starts to come together as a dough.  Shape into a flattened disc and wrap in cling film or a food bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

If you don’t have a food processor, then rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together with your hands until it gathers into a ball.

Dust the work surface with flour as this is quite a sticky dough and roll the dough until about 5mm thick. Stamp out rounds or any shape you like and place onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Place in the centre of a preheated oven at 160°c, gas mark 3 or the lower half of the Aga Baking oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden.  Leave on the tray to cool for five minutes and then remove carefully onto wire racks.  These biscuits are delicate so take care.

Make a pot of tea, sit down and enjoy a little taste of history and salute to the good people of Shrosebury, or indeed Shrewsbury.

 

 

Print Friendly

Soul cake – A Shropshire Recipe

Today is All Soul’s Day.  I didn’t know about All Souls Day until I read about it in my Shropshire recipe books in the summer and I have been waiting ever since to make these Soul Cakes.

All Souls Day is a Christian festival and these days some churches hold special services for people to attend to remember those that are no longer with us.

In ye olden days it was a tradition that the poor would go a-souling and offer up prayers of remembrance for the relatives of their wealthier neighbours in return for money or food.  Then, in more recent years, it was the children who would sing “A soul-cake, a soul-cake, please good missus, a soul-cake.  One for Peter, one for Paul, three for Him who saved us all” and would receive a soul cake in return. A bit like trick or treating (in the nicer parts of town).

It was/is believed that All Souls Day was/is the day when the spirits of the dead will visit loved ones. I like that idea very much.  I am not at all religious but would love to think that loved ones who are no longer with us are still able to visit and see how we are getting on with the ups and downs that this life throws at us. So in celebration of all the memories of loved ones no longer with us I have made these Soul Cakes.

Three of the Shropshire recipe books that I have all use the same recipe, which is credited to Mrs Mary Ward. She is known to be the last person to keep up the tradition of giving out Soul Cakes at her home in Pulverbatch.  She died in 1853 at the ripe old age of 101.  Rather amazingly, to celebrate her 100th birthday she wore her wedding dress of yellow satin and received Holy Communion with her friends and neighbours.  I wish I could squeeze into my wedding dress now! The story goes that she never suffered from a day of illness in all her long life. She must have been some kind of lady Mrs Ward. I wonder if she is looking down on us today?  I hope she is and I hope she is proud that her recipe is still being used 200 years on.

The problem with old recipes though is that they can take a bit of interpreting. Here it is as it appears in the books I have.

“Three pounds flour, quarter pound butter (or half pound if the cakes are to be extra rich), half pound sugar, two spoonsful of yeast, two eggs, allspice to taste, and sufficient new milk to make it into a light paste.  Put the mixture (without the sugar or spice) to rise before the fire for half an hour, then add the sugar, and allspice, enough to flavour it well; make into rather flat buns and bake.”

Right, where do I start?  How big are your spoonfuls of yeast? Teaspoon or dessert spoon? How much allspice should I use? A pinch or two teaspoonfuls?
How much milk will be needed? Rather flat buns? Should I cut them out like scones? Or shape them like bread rolls? What temperature should I cook them? I appreciate Mrs Mary Ward would have cooked them on her fire, but should I treat them like bread and scones and use high heat for a short period, or like a cake and so cook them at a moderate heat for longer?

So the soul cakes you see here might not be anything like the good cakes made by Mrs Mary Ward.

These days I think we might have a sweeter tooth than we used to and I must say these are rather dull eaten on their own. However, with a bit of butter and jam, they wash down a treat with a cup of tea.

This is how I made them (with thanks, and maybe apologies, to Mrs Mary Ward).  I halved the original recipe as I doubt I will be swamped with singing children later.

750g plain flour
100g butter
1 teaspoon yeast
1 egg
350ml milk
100g caster sugar
1½ tsp allspice

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°c, gas mark 7.

Place the flour and yeast into a large bowl.  Melt the butter and warm the milk.  Beat the egg in a mug or small bowl.  Add the butter, milk and egg to the flour. Mix together well until smooth. Make into a ball.  Cover with a large plastic bag or oiled clingfilm. Place in a warm spot and leave to rise for half an hour. Add the sugar and allspice to the dough and knead until well combined.  Place onto a lightly floured board and roll rather flat!  Now I admit to having no idea how flat you should roll these.  I tried about 2 cm and these are a bit too biscuity.  I also tried about 4 cm and these work well as a scone.  I also tried the last one like a bread roll and that worked well too.

Place in the hot oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden. They taste good warm with butter and strawberry jam.

I am glad I tried these, but perhaps there is a reason they aren’t made so much these days.  They are a bit dull and I have tasted better scones/ sweet bread. I like the ideas associated with them though.

 

Print Friendly

Shropshire Mint Cakes

Well, this is my first post in what I hope will become a series of Shropshire recipes. ( I suppose Fidget Pie was the first, but hey…).  Over the summer I found three books on Amazon,

and I found another today, which is winging its way through the British postal system as we speak.  I want to share some of these recipes with you to celebrate the traditional recipes of my lovely county.

The reason I found this fourth book is because I found the recipe for these mint cakes in the red and white book by Mary de Saulles, unfortunately the list of ingredients omits the sugar. So I found myself searching for the original recipe to find out how much sugar I should be using and I think it is in this book and I found the recipe online.

Whilst searching for this though, I found that a recipe for Shropshire Mint Cakes was published in an Australian newspaper on 24th April 1935.  How fantastic is that?  A Shropshire lass in search of a local recipe is assisted by a newspaper article published on the other side of the world 76 years ago.  The internet is a marvellous tool.

I couldn’t use this recipe either though because this one doesn’t seem to specify the amount of butter that you use.  The search has also revealed that like all recipes these little cakes can be adapted, one recipe uses currants but suggests that you could also use dried figs and the other recipe suggests the use of both currant and mixed peel. One recipe suggests that you make them by spreading the mixture over a square of pastry and topping with another square, cook, then slice into squares.  The other suggests that you make individual cakes.  I thought the latter would make for a neater cake, especially if my lack of dexterity became involved.

The Shropshire Mint Cake is a bit like the Eccles Cake, but with the addition of fresh mint.  You can really taste the mint and at first you think that these might be an acquired taste, but I can assure you that they soon become just that.  I had acquired a taste well before I was eating the fourth one in a row, warm from the oven (my well-known lack of willpower again!).

I urge you to give them a try.

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
100g butter, diced
1 tbsp caster sugar
enough cold water to mix

For the filling:
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
80g caster sugar
80g currants
50g softened butter
1 egg to glaze

Method

First of all place the chopped mint into a bowl and add 40g of the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to sit for at least an hour until the mint juices start to run.

Make the pastry by placing the flour and the diced butter in a bowl and rubbing the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers, lifting your hands up high over the bowl to incorporate air. (I would use my food processor, but it broke and is at my Dad’s as he valiantly tries to repair it for me – thank goodness for Dads). When it looks like fine breadcrumbs, stir in the tablespoon of sugar and add enough water to make a smooth dough. Flatten the dough slightly into a disc and  wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.

Place the currants, mint mixture, remaining sugar and the butter into a bowl and using a fork combine well.

Roll the pastry quite thinly and cut out discs using a scone/cookie cutter.  Place half of these discs onto two baking sheets. Then place teaspoonfuls of the currant mixture in the middle of the discs. I used a scone cutter that measures 6 cm and this made 24 little cakes.

Beat the egg with a fork and then brush a little of the egg all around the edge of the discs of pastry and place another disc on top, sealing well around the edge by pressing with your finger.  Brush the egg all over the tops and then place the baking trays in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or the middle/bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Remove carefully onto a wire rack and leave to cool a little before you sample your first one.

 

 

 

 

Print Friendly