I visited Shetland pre-pandemic when we could travel from home in Australia to the UK. I was so taken with the islands – the breathtaking scenery, the wildlife, the history and culture and of course the food!
This recipe is based on a recipe called Yeast Buns from Margaret B Stout’s “Cookery for Northern Wives” published in 1925. This book documents many Shetland recipes and was an insight into traditional cooking.
I made and blogged the buns a while back, see here. I’ve made a few more tweaks this time. The original recipe makes a lot of buns! So this time I divided the recipe in two, making a batch of 12 buns and I also made a lovely large fruit bun, with lemon icing.
I converted the imperial measurements to metric. doing a little bit of rounding up or down, but as I wanted to keep the integrity of the original measurements, I didn’t change anything too drastically.
I’ve also adapted the recipe to make in a KitchenAid or similar.
I’ve tweaked the ingredients in these ways. I substituted instant yeast for fresh yeast. I added a lot more more dried fruit than in the original, adding extra fruit again for the large fruit bun. I also added some more flavour in the form of vanilla extract and almond essence, as well as cinnamon and allspice.
I made the large fruit bun in a paper panettone case, but you could make it in a large high sided cake tin. You would end up with a slightly wider bun, but with less height.
For the sponge
227g strong flour
9g instant yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
426 mls milk
567g strong flour
113g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
100g candied orange
100g sour cherries (for the large bun)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon milk
200g icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon
The ingredients (except for the cherries) are for both the little buns and the big one. Divide the mixture in half after proving and before shaping.
Here is the method, adapted from the rather scant instructions given by Margaret Stout.
For the sponge, sieve the flour into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar. Gradually add the lukewarm milk, stirring to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel or a disposable plastic shower cap. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.
Prepare the rest of the mixture. Put the flour, caster sugar and butter into the bowl of a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the sponge mixture, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, almond essence, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well, for for at least 5 minutes until the dough is elastic and passes the window pane test.
Cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap/tea towel/plastic shower cap and leave to rise again for 1 ½ hours.
Remove the risen dough and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sultanas, raisins and candied orange, a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition. You want to incorporate the fruit as evenly as you can into the dough.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.
Now divide the dough into two.
Take one half of the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a ball and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the tray loosely with a tea towel or large plastic bag and prove for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Take the other half of the dough, and stretch into a large rectangle. Scatter the sour cherries a small amount at a time, over the dough, folding the dough over after each addition.
Shape the dough into a large ball and place in a panettone case or large cake tin. Cover with a tea towel or plastic bag and prove for an hour in a warm place.
When the small buns have proved, put them into the preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the buns are a deep brown colour.
Remove the buns from the oven, and while warm, brush the tops of the buns with a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a tablespoon of milk.
When the large bun has finished proving, put it in the oven and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until a deep brown colour.
Remove the large bun from the oven and leave to cool.
For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to make a thick lemon paste. You may need to adjust either ingredient to get the right consistency.
If you think the buns need zhushing, you could drizzle a little of the icing for the big bun over the tops. I made this icing a little more “drippy” by adding in more lemon juice. However I iced some and also left some plain.
Both the small buns and the large bun keep well as they are enriched with milk, butter and eggs. They are quite soft, and they remain soft even after a couple of days.
You could eat either bun as is or butter liberally – I even toasted the small buns the next day and ate with lashings of butter!