“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Bath Buns, Vicar?

This Thursday I went with Mum, Sis, and Grandad Eric to our old friends at Rolvenden Farmers' Market. Last time I went it was all in the village hall, but this time it was half in the hall and half was in and around the church across the street. All the regulars were there: Silcocks with their wonderful cheeses, where I bought a St. Michaels Blue Cheese, Buster's with their amazing pies, pasties and sausage rolls, VJ Game and Farmer Palmer with their lovely meat products (rabbit burgers, anyone?), The French Deli with their wonderful selection of cheeses and saucissons, Farmhouse Kitchen with their jams and preserves as well as local cheese (I bought a jar of 'Loadsa Peel' Marmalade, a traditional marmalade with -you guessed it - lots of big chunky orange peel in it), Appledene Alpacas with all their wonderful alpaca wool products (ever felt alpaca wool? It's the softest wool you will ever touch!), Wealden pottery, Milbank Olives, Botterell's Fresh Fish, and several other craft, vegetable and fruit stands. We stopped and had a cuppa and Sis and I browsed the used books for bargains, Sis coming away with a few and I just one (Marina Lewycka's A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian,  which I just started, and is hilarious, by the way).
There was a nice man selling delicious-looking and unusual loaves whose name I cannot remember, but I bought from him a loaf that I was attracted to partly because of what it looked like and partly because of the name. It looked like a giant Bath Bun (see my older post entitled Chefs, Bath Buns and Markets), but was named a More Tea, Vicar?. Brilliant name. I had a nice thick slice of that for my 'dessert' tonight, toasted and buttered. Mmmmm.

So what is a Bath Bun? Well, it's a rich, sweet, round  yeast bun that has a lump of sugar baked in the bottom and more crushed sugar sprinkled on top after baking. Sometimes the ingredients can include candied fruit peel, currants or larger raisins or sultanas.
The Bath bun is possibly descended from the 18th century 'Bath cake'. References to Bath buns date from 1763, and they are still produced in the Bath area of England. The original 18th century recipe used a brioche or rich egg and butter dough which was then covered with caraway seeds coated in several layers of sugar similar to the French dragée. Apparently it was devised by Dr. William Oliver, a doctor who treated visitors to Bath who came for the spa waters. He later invented the Bath Oliver biscuit, when Bath buns proved to be too fattening for his patients with rheumatism. Well, duh.
Occasionally folks confuse it with the Sally Lunn bun which also comes from Bath. Here is where I attempt to illustrate the difference.

(above)Bath Bun.

(below) Sally Lunns.

Sally Lunn buns are a similar texture, a brioche-type dough with a hint of sweetness and aromatics (lemon is most popular). There are two popular stories as to how the bread got its name.

Version 1: Some historians maintain that Sally Lunn buns were originally made by Protestant refugees from France, who called them "soleil et lune." Translated into English this means sun and moon, with “sun" referring to the warmly colored top, and "moon" to the white and airy interior. In the mouths of English vendors crying their wares on the streets of Bath, "soleil et lune" could become Sally Lunn. In 1685, Louis XIV (1636-1715) revoked the Edict of Nantes (slaughter of Huguenots), which gave little protection to French Protestants. He banned practice of any religion except Roman Catholicism in France. More than half a million Protestants fled the country to England, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Version 2: The recipe for this bun is said to have originated in Bath with the arrival in 1680 of a Huguenot immigrant called Solange (Solie) Luyon who brought her native skill and worked at a Bath bakery - this bakery is now known as Sally Lunn's House and can be visited today with the original recipe buns available for sale or consumption in the dining rooms. Sally Lunn is a corruption of her name and the bun became a very popular delicacy in Georgian England as its taste and lightness allowed it to be enjoyed with either sweet or savoury accompaniments.

Well, whatever the story, and whatever the bread, Bath Bun or Sally Lunn, they're delicious, and moreover, the giant Bath-Bun-Lookalike MoreTea Vicar  is delicious, too. So now you know. As soon as i find out who the guy that bakes them is, you shall know, as I'm sure you'll all want a taste.

À votre santé!

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