I am running a Christmas Breads course in November at Acton Scott Farm and Museum so I have been planning which breads we will be cooking during the day. I wanted to do a range of sweet and savoury so that there will be a bread to cover every occasion over the busy Christmas period. I was thinking about sweet buns and which one we should make. At a Christmas breads course last year we made St Lucia buns, they were quite tasty and appealed because of the story about them being handed out whilst the girls in Scandinavian towns and villages dress in white with a candle crown and walk through the streets. But they are not buns that I would write home about. I love a Chelsea bun and all of its fruity stickiness so I began to think about replacing the fruit, butter and sugar mixture with mincemeat and it works beautifully. Whilst I was making them Mr OC commented on the Christmassy smells emanating from the kitchen – so they were deemed perfect for the Christmas breads course, along with a date and walnut loaf and a blue cheese focaccia. All suitably Christmassy and with the advantage of using up the bit of mincemeat left in the jar, the bowl of walnuts and the inevitable bit of cheese that escaped the crackers.
For the enriched dough:
300g strong white flour
250g plain white flour
1 sachet of easy bake yeast or 10-15g of fresh yeast
10g fine sea salt
50g caster sugar
150ml whole milk
50g unsalted butter
For the filling:
5-6 tablespoons (about half a jar) of mincemeat
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
For the icing:
50g icing sugar
squeeze of orange juice 0r use water
To make the dough:
Heat the milk and butter in a small pan until the butter has melted, add in the tepid water and check with a clean finger that the liquid isn’t too hot. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast, so leave it to cool for a while.
Measure the flours, salt, sugar and yeast (keeping the salt and yeast separate as the salt will kill the yeast too) into a large bowl, pour in the liquids and add the egg.
Using a clawed hand mix the ingredients together until they come together in a shaggy mass. If the mixture has any dry bits of flour add a splash more water. You want it to feel on the wet side rather than the dry side. Cover with clingfilm, a large plastic bag or a shower cap and leave to stand for ten minutes. Uncover and using one hand stretch half of the dough furthest away from you and fold it over the other half. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretching and folding. Repeat the action for a further 8-10 times. The dough should start to resist you as you do these stretch and folds. This is the gluten developing. Cover the bowl again. Leave to rest for at least ten minutes and repeat the stretch and folds. Stop stretching and folding when the dough becomes difficult to pull. You will have done enough. Rest for at least another ten minutes and repeat the stretch and fold. Cover and leave until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour in a warm kitchen).
Preheat your oven to 200°c, gas mark 6, or use the roasting oven of the Aga. Place a solid shelf or tray in the centre of the oven or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga. All bread benefits from being cooked on a solid tray rather than a wire shelf.
Roll up from the long end, like a Swiss roll.
Once fully rolled up cut into 8-9 pieces, depending on how big or small you want your buns to be. Place the buns, swirl facing up, in a square or round cake tin, that measures about 20cm. You want the buns to be touching slightly so that they batch bake (that way you get the lovely soft side when ripped apart).
Flatten each bun slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover with clingfilm, a large inflated plastic bag or a shower cap and leave to rise until they look nicely risen and slightly puffy (about half in a warm kitchen).
Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and burnished. If you poke the middle with your finger you should feel very little resistance.
Just before the buns are due to be ready place the sugar and water for the glaze in a small pan and bring to a simmer over a gentle heat. Simmer for about two minutes.
When cooked place the tin on a wire rack and brush the sugar glaze over the buns. Leave them in the tin for about ten minutes and then remove and place on the wire rack to cool completely.
Mix the icing sugar and enough orange juice or water to make a pourable icing and decorate the top of your buns to your heart’s content.