Jane Austen and A Taste for Bath Buns
Though, to be sure, the keep of two will be more than of one, I will endeavor to make the difference less by disordering my stomach with Bath buns. Jane Austen to Cassandra, January 3, 1801Jane Austen was only too familiar with Bath Buns. She often found it necessary to sneak them surreptitiously into her room to augment the rather meagre meals given by her well-meaning but rather stingy Aunt Leigh Perrot.
Not to be confused with the Sally Lunn Bun, also made famous in Bath,these are thought to have been created in the mid 1700s by Dr. William Oliver, who also invented the Oliver Biscuit. The caraway comfits suggested here are sugar coated caraway seeds. They are difficult to find now, and though recipes for creating your own are available, the project is time consuming. Plain caraway seeds will work as well. Bath Buns are now commonly made as a sweet bread with most recipes replacing the entire amount of comfits with sugar. This makes for an entirely different sort of roll.
A Simple Recipe for Bath Buns
Bath Buns Rub half a pound of butter into a pound of flour, and one spoonful of good barm, warm some cream, and make it into a light paste, set it on the fire to rise, when you make them up take four ounces of caraway comfits, work part of them in, and strew the rest on the top, make them into a round cake, the size of a French roll, and bake them on sheet tins, and send them in hot for breakfast. ELIZABETH RAFFALD, The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1786
• 220 g / 8 oz / 1 cup Butter, softened
• 450 g / 16 oz / 2 cups Flour
• 2 tsp. Yeast
• 180 ml / 6 fl oz / ¾ cup Cream
• 1 tbsp Sugar
• 60 g / 2 oz / ½ cup Caraway Seeds or Caraway Comfits, divided
Warm the cream and sugar together and sprinkle the yeast on top. When it has melted into the cream, mix the liquids, butter and flour together in a mixer with a dough hook attachment. Once dough has formed, add the caraway seeds, reserving a few for sprinkling on top of the rolls. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to rise for 1½ to 2 hours. When the dough has risen, punch it down and form it into round rolls. This dough will make 8 large or 12 medium sized rolls. Place the rolls on a greased cookie sheet, sprinkle them with the reserved seeds and place them in a warm place to rise again, this time about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F. Bake the rolls for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot, with butter. Serves 8-12
This Bath Buns recipe is from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends.
In Bath, Jane wrote to Cassandra : “there is a public breakfast in Sydney Gardens every morning, so that we shall not be wholly starved.” Would these buns have been at that breakfast?