Making good buns
Here are some general tips for making memorable buns.
Be generous with all the enriching ingredients: an extra egg; 10-15% more butter than normal; 20% more fruit (currants, sultanas, etc.; a little extra spice. [Remember – adding egg and butter may mean you have to call up a little more flour].
Spices: you are rewarded if you grind them on the baking day, everything is so zingy and flavoursome. In my bakery I would ask all staff to put in an extra hour right before bun season, and out would come the old coffee grinders. There would ensue a frenzy of grinding and sieving, followed by re-grinding of the coarse bits caught in the sieves . Gradually a huge mound of freshly ground spices would rise on a large sheet of brown paper on the work table. About two kilos or more.
Here’s my favourite blend: allspice and cloves are the hotties, and when eating the bun they hit the tongue and the front of the mouth! Be careful not to overdo them…
nutmeg, cinnamon, & cumin are the sweeter and more gentle ones, and they comprise the bulk of the mix
a little more depth and warmth? add ground ginger
Ferment your dough as for normal buns, remembering that with such a rich and spiced dough it is best to watch that the first rise achieves less puffiness than a normal bread dough. For such rich doughs I would always make a ferment (in the English baker’s lexicon a ferment = wet sponge, highly yeasted).
Crossing. See the photo at the top. Keep the piping nozzle well above the buns as you swish along. The buns must be placed on the trays in neat rows to enable accurate piping.
The Piping Mix. It should be runny, like a batter that falls easily from the whisk when it is raised above the mix. Don’t select a wide nozzle, but it should not be too thin. The nozzle I like to use is 4mm. The runny mix and the width of nozzle means that you should only need to squeeze the piping bag gently to have it streaming out. Here’s the mix:
100 gm bread flour
100 gm plain flour
Rub into the flours half a tablespoon of veg oil
450-500 ml water
Beat with a whisk into a smooth batter
Red dyed eggs for Greek Easter plaits (tsoureki)
A rich burgundy red, these dyed eggs are sunk into easily expanded gaps between the strands of the enriched 3-strand plait that is the normal style of this bread.
The photo below shows them ready for final proving, each plait getting one egg, but you can insert two or three into the plait if you like. The dyed eggs have to be inserted fairly deeply to avoid them exploding in the oven.
Here is the recipe for the dye, a simple and natural affair that you would find cloth and wool dyers have used for millenia. In the kitchen save your onion skins for a week or two.
TO MAKE RED EGGS
12 uncooked eggs
skins from 15 Spanish onions (brown)
2 tabspns white vinegar
4½ cups water
Put skins, vinegar and water in a saucepan, bring to boil, simmer for 30 minutes. It will look orange.
Strain into a glass/ceramic bowl (plastic gets stained)
In a stainless steel pan, add cooled, strained dye and the eggs – in one layer totally covered by dye.
Boil over medium heat, cover and simmer 12-15 minutes to redden the eggs. Take out the eggs with a slotted spoon.
When the eggs are dry gently coat them with veg oil. One way to do this would be to rub them with an oil-soaked piece of kitchen paper.