I am testing the ovens in my new kitchen before classes commence and these were my test subjects. As I walk towards my chickens in their pen I have been struck with the delicious scent of the elderflowers growing on the tree there this last week. The smell is difficult to describe but it almost fizzes in the air, it reminds me of the Refresher sweets that I used to enjoy as a child. It is so wonderful but also fleeting, in the next week or so, the fragile blossoms will be on the floor and the berries will start to form. I decided I must use them before they are gone. I was making these buns and so thought I could add the scent to the icing. It is subtle and was missed by most of my family, in their greed to eat the bun, but I knew it was there and enjoyed it very much. You can, of course, make these buns without the elderflower syrup, but if you can, then do.
The dough for these buns is made with my enriched dough standard recipe that I use for most of my sweet buns – iced fingers, chelsea buns, hot cross buns etc. It’s adaptable, so go ahead and have a play around adding flavourings and ingredients to suit you.
For the buns:
300g strong white flour
250g plain white flour
50g white sugar
5g easy bake yeast or 10g fresh yeast mixed with a little of the water
10g fine sea salt
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water
50g softened butter
50g mixed dried fruit or use just currants
20g softened butter
Place the flours, sugar, yeast and salt (keeping the yeast and salt separate) in a large bowl. Add the milk, water, butter and egg (you may not need all the water so hold some back) and mix with your hands or with an electric dough hook until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in the bowl and cover with clingfilm or a large plastic bag. Leave to rise for about two hours. The time needed will depend on the warmth of your kitchen.
Tip your dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is 2-3 cm thick. Spread the softened butter into the rectangle and sprinkle over the dried fruit.
Roll up from the long end, like a swiss roll and cut into 10 even slices. Place these onto a buttered baking tray. Cover with oiled clingfilm or a large plastic bag and leave to rise for another thirty minutes or so.
Preheat your oven to 180°c and bake your risen buns in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Whilst the buns are cooking make the elderflower syrup. It’s very easy and you will have some left over for drinking as a cordial or adding to a glass of bubbly, should the mood strike you.
Pick 5-6 elderflower heads carefully, You want to preserve as much of the pollen as you can as this is where the wonderful scent is contained. Check for insects and bird poo (those blinking pigeons!).
Measure 200g sugar and 200g (or ml) of water into a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add your elderflower heads and take off the heat. Allow to infuse for twenty minutes and then strain the syrup through muslin, a clean tea towel or kitchen paper sitting in a colander and into a bowl. Allow to cool.
Measure 200g icing sugar and add a tablespoon of the elderflower sugar syrup. Stir and if needed add a little more sugar syrup until you get a good consistency. Spread this onto your cool buns in a more artful way than I can manage.