There are many other things that I should be doing. I am in the middle of a piece about Death, I interview somebody in an hour, I have a study that looks like a store cupboard nobody cares about, and everybody chucks their stuff into. I should be researching, planning and tidying to enable a more structured work routine.
But all I want to do is write about buns. Iced buns. I don’t even, particularly, like iced buns. I never wake up and think “I really fancy an iced bun”. But they are a perfect, unassuming little cake. Very English (to my Italian mind). And humble. My partner, who is English going back to the beginning of time, said that “iced buns were what you bought your children when they really wanted a doughnut”. I have no idea if this is true
This is how you make them. It’s a recipe from a Jamie Oliver magazine from a few years back, the method of which I’ve adapted slightly. The recipe says it makes 12, but you could easily make 24 small ones (and even then, not that small). These were, actually, iced ‘fingers’ but I prefer the word bun. I made 12 and they were as oversized as the eyes on a Bratz doll. Next time I’d make them smaller.
14g dried yeast
150ml milk, tepid
500g strong white bread flour
50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
40g very soft butter, unsalted
140ml of water straight out of the tap
For the icing: 300g icing sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of water
Stir the yeast into the milk and set aside. You don’t need to wait for it to froth up or anything.
Mix together the flour, sugar and salt together. Now stir in the yeast/milk mixture and the rest of the ingredients, mixing it all together.
You’ll have a very wet dough that looks almost unmanageable. Leave it in a bowl for 10 minutes.
Oil a work surface or board (wooden boards don’t work so well for bread kneading, I use a Top Gourmet one which is made of recycled cardboard and it’s brilliant for all my bread making) and tip the dough out. You may need to scrape it up with a scraper to begin with but don’t be tempted to add flour and don’t panic. You can do this. It’s buns you’re making, just think of that.
Knead it very lightly for about 10 seconds, then cover and leave for ten minutes.
Do this twice more. By the end you should have a smooth dough that is slightly more manageable. Now leave it, covered in an oiled bowl, for about an hour and a half. It should have doubled/risen quite a bit.
At the end of this time, knead it lightly one more time and cut bits off it and roll into either circles (I used flour for this last bit) or sausage shapes. If you want to be really precise, weigh the whole dough, work out how many buns you want, then divide one by the other so you end up with buns the exact same size.
Place whatever size/shape bun you’ve made onto a parchment lined tray. The buns shouldn’t be touching yet – they reach out to each other as they rise.
Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes. I left them at room temperature – 20c – for 90 minutes (not on purpose, I got held up) and when I came back they’d blown up to enormous proportions. All was fine, I had very big, very light, very fluffy buns. But it was touch and go until I got them in the oven. I’d say give them an hour at an average room temperature.
Into a preheated oven of 200C, place the buns for 10 minutes or so. You want them to be lightly golden. When done, take them out and cool completely. They’ll be all squashed up against each other and you’ll have to tear them apart to reveal their inner fluffy softness.
Now mix up the sugar and water to make the icing and spread it on top. The icing won’t be pouring consistency – it’s much thicker than that. So you need to spread it on with a knife but as it dries it smooths out so don’t worry about it not looking lovely and slick when it first goes on.
Don’t store these in an airtight container. The buns need to breathe or the icing will slide off. So you may want to freeze half (un-iced in which case make half the quantity of icing) as these make rather a lot. But they are fun to give away. Everyone seems to like an iced bun.
These are great for school fetes for that reason – children and adults like them – and they are not overly expensive to make. I think, and my eldest agrees, that these taste even better the next day. They didn’t last into a third though.