Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Belgian buns and Science brownie points
You know how most people have a favourite bakery treat? A custard tart or a doughnut - or perhaps one of those decorated novelty gingerbread men? For me it was always a cheese turnover - a savoury pastry which my best friend and I used to use as fuel on long shopping trips to town to spend our clothes allowances. I don't know how we stayed fuelled on them all day as they were tiny, but we always used to have one each - until the day when we found that Ainsley's bakery in Leeds had a *mushroom turnover* special. Ah, that was a good day.
The Scientist's bakery treat has followed him into adulthood, although I only became aware of it when we moved to Sussex. This is because his favourite is a Belgian bun, and they are not apparently a standard bakery item (a bit like my cheese turnovers I suppose, which I have never seen outside Yorkshire, not that I've had any inclination to look in recent years). A Belgian bun is a bit like a Danish pastry, but with a different type of accent, and made of a sweet bread dough rather than pastry. Other than that it's very similar - a big spiral containing dried fruit and some sort of sweet filling (lemon curd is a favourite) and then coated with icing and a cherry on the top. I'm not certain enough of what the true Belgian bun looks like to risk buying him one from anywhere other than a Forfars Sussex bakery, but he makes sure to pop in and get one whenever we're back on the south coast.
A few months ago we were talking to his sister about childhood treats, and it turned out that she was also a fan of the Belgian bun, although they hadn't been a shared family tradition. A long conversation about the best place to buy them in the town where they grew up ensued, during which I hatched a plan to see if I could recreate this happy childhood memory. I did find a recipe on the internet, on the endearingly named site bun-recipes.co.uk, which looked as though it had the right sort of dough. We don't live very near to Scientist Sister (who is also busy with a young Scientist Nephew Sprog) so I thought I'd take the opportunity of a sup rise retirement party for the Scientist parentals last weekend to try it out.
The dough has the basic constituents of a sweet enriched bread - flour, yeast, sugar, milk and eggs. My recipe directed me not to knead the dough before its first rise, but instead just to leave it in its bowl in a warm place. The dough did rise nicely, and was a bit less sticky by the time it was ready for kneading. Then you roll it out to a rectangle and scatter it with melted butter, sugar and dried fruit, before rolling it back up again. Then slice it into rounds and leave again, before finally baking. I was really pleased with how they looked (though about half the size of the Forfars' model). I drizzled the cooled buns with some icing made from icing sugar and water, and would certainly have gone down the cherry topping route had we had any. Both The Scientist and Science Sister were delighted with their treats and pronounced them just like the originals. I've already had a request to try putting lemon curd in them next time. They were really fun to make, and nice to be bringing back a little of the delights of childhood. I'm sending these Belgian buns to Stefanie at Hefe und mehr (Yeast and more) who is hosting this month's sweet breads-themed Bread Baking Day.
On a slightly related topic: my treacle tart from our Alice in Wonderland party has been thoroughly usurped by this recipe, which Science Sister made at the surprise party last weekend. I'll definitely be trying it myself some time!
Belgian bun recipe here
And if you're after an enriched vegan bread dough you could try Hannah at Bittersweet's pain de mie