My grandmas are nothing if not hospitable. They both claim to find it stressful, and to dislike having people congregating in their respective kitchens, but they both – in their own special ways – are natural born hostesses.
There was always the golden rule of returning a borrowed casserole dish full (never empty), but there was another unspoken rule written into both households: is a guest coming? Better bake.
And it wasn’t just special occasions. If you hadn’t been seen in awhile (and ‘awhile’ could mean anything from a week to eight months), it was expected that you’d have a sweet treat all to yourself. I once returned from college for a weekend and found not one, not two, but three blueberry pies to my name – because I’d once mentioned it was my favourite.
I think that’s why, when someone (anyone) comes to my house, there is bound to be a freshly baked something to welcome them in. It just seems unnatural any other way.
So when my uncle came to visit for a weekend in November, the baking sheets came out once again. Now, my uncle (like my dad – they are twins after all) isn’t exactly a sweet tooth. So I went easy on the cakes/cookies/cupcakes and chose a British standard instead. It’s apparently good with coffee, and it’s even better fresh from the oven. Welcome accordingly.
For the buns:
4-8 cups flour*
1 tsp salt
1 sachet fast-acting dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
For the filling:
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit*
1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast. Melt the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter is just melted. Add the milk mixture and the egg to the flour mixture and gently mix until just combined. Add extra flour as needed to form a soft dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes until dough is soft and elastic, and not sticky (you may need to add a bit more flour). Lightly oil a bowl with some vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
3. Knock back the dough to its original size, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and fruit. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder, then cut into 10 x 1 1/2 inch slices and set onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.
The original recipe calls for strong bread flour, but I used all-purpose and the buns still come out great.
I used raisins, but you can use any dried fruit. Dried cherries would make a nice addition.
Recipe adapted from the BBC.