Well, I’m back. As you may remember, the early arrival of my daughter and then the adjustments of life with two kids have meant I have taken a much longer sabbatical from this beloved space than I would have liked.
Now that we’re living in the age of corona virus and life proceeds with all stuck at home, I decided to try out a recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while: Jane Austen’s beloved Bath Buns.
A little additional research revealed that the buns I made are more similar to the Sally Lunn bun(n), whereas the buns Jane Austen likely enjoyed were ones that incorporated sugar-coated caraway seeds and were first developed by Bath physician William Oliver in the 1700s, likely as a digestive aid, though Jane says in a letter in 1801 that she will offset the cost of their new living arrangments in Bath by “disordering my stomach with Bath buns.” For more on that, you can visit this article from the Jane Austen Center in Bath, which includes a recipe. What we know is that Jane loved these breads, and whether they are the Oliver-inspired ones with caraway seeds or Lunn’s buns-on-steroids mini-loaves, you and your family will love them as well.
This is the recipe I used, and ultimately, we came out with 18 smaller, slightly muffin-shaped rolls that paired well with any dish from breakfast to dinner. They would be particularly good with clotted cream and jam…you know, if American stores sold things like clotted cream, though I’m sure a good facsimile could be made and perhaps that will be an adventure for another day.
You may notice that my rolls are not quite picture-perfect. What you can’t tell on the photo is that the tops of the buns have a stringy appearance. Alas, this is due to over-proving – i.e. I left the bread sitting too long by the warm fire when I got distracted trying to help my daughter stay on top of her math homework during our suspended school-year. By the time I remembered the poor lump of bread, it had gotten quite large – easily 3 or 4 times its original size – and was pocked all over the skin it formed with bubbles. Ultimately, they still succeeded in rising again for the second prove in the muffin tins, baked well, and tasted good. I can only imagine how much better they’ll be when I give them the attention they deserve.
This is an easy, kid-friendly recipe, and I highly recommend it as a great way to pass the time and perhaps encourage your own stay-home students to explore more into the life of Jane Austen.
If you’d like to learn more about the rather exciting history of these buns, check out this site:
Up next, remembering my summer 2019 adventures in Winchester, city of Jane Austen’s final days and burial.