Sunday, 20 July 2014

Retro recipe: raspberry buns

By: Mrs Robot

The weather here was truly dreadful yesterday, so I decided to do some baking. I've had my eye on the recipe for raspberry buns in Julie Duff's book Cakes: Regional and Traditional for some time. Here at the House of Robots, things involving flour, pastry in particular, seem to be my thing. Another thing I love is old cookbooks and recipes.

Cakes: Regional and Traditional is a brilliant compilation of historic cake recipes from around the UK. Duff has done a massive amount of research for this book. The recipes are split into five sections - Small Regional Cakes, Large Regional Cakes, Small Country Cakes, Large Regional Cakes and Gingerbreads and Ginger Cakes. Yes, ginger was once so popular every region had its own variation so gingery bakes get a whole chapter to themselves. Where possible she tells you the region the recipe is from. There are six different apple cakes, for example, all with variations in their ingredients according to what was available and liked locally, from the Irish recipe involving mashed potato to the West Country one with spices (possibly a legacy of the area's major ports, including Bristol) to a Yorkshire one made with Wensleydale cheese. Raspberry buns are a 'country cake', assigned to no particular region, and Duff states the recipe she's reproduced comes from a cookbook handwritten in 1923 by a lady named Ivy Peatman.

The beauty of the recipes in this book is that they're so simple, possibly reflecting the sorts of ingredients that were widely available, and the limited amount of kitchen equipment most people would've owned. In this case all I had to do was rub fat with flour, add sugar, add liquids, make into balls, pop in jam and bake. Easy. Of course, it would have been easier if I had remembered to add the sugar before adding the liquid! As I worked in the sugar I was a little worried about overworking the dough. However, the resulting buns were light and looked as domed and golden as the ones in the book.

You might be looking at these photos and thinking, "They look a bit plain." If so, Cakes: Regional and Traditional probably isn't the book for you. Everything I've made from it has been absolutely delicious - Mr Robot is especially keen on the Irish lemon cake - but nothing has been especially fancy to look at. On the other hand, if you like cake but can't bear twee fripperies, get this book!

I think when I make this recipe again I'll make two variations. I'll add a drop of almond essence to the mixture, as I think it would be delicious with the raspberry jam. Also, instead of making a little ball and popping a lump of jam into the centre, I'll make two discs and spread the jam across one, leaving space at the edge to seal the discs together, because in my buns the jam tended to stay in a blob in the centre, and I'd prefer the jam to be more spread out across the cake.

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