Sunday, 29 August 2010

Bank Holiday Baking!


Bank Holiday Monday is upon us, and I'm keen to get you all baking... especially across the Pond, because it was brought to my attention the other day that Americans don't have rock buns. Is this true? Or were my sources (one American and one Canadian) wrong? The rock bun - also known as the rock cake - is one of my favourite sweet things, and is the taste of summer for me. Our Vicar's Wife always made them in the summer holidays, you see. They look very simple - certainly couldn't be made to look fancy, however hard you tried - but have the most wonderful taste, a combination of flavours that I think is hard to beat.

I know a lot of my blog readers are much better bakers than me, so bear with me if you make these blind-folded everyday. As usual, with my recipes, I'm going to go back to basics - just so nobody is left behind.


With this recipe, you might well not have all the ingredients in the cupboard (see above) - especially if you don't bake that often - but PLEASE, I encourage you to go and get them, because rock buns are quick, really easy, and should be a staple in every kitchen, especially if you have children. And this is one where you can't miss out the different flavours - they all need to be in there. Here goes... (I should add that I've used this website to work out cup measurements - hope they're right!)

1.) Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, and grease two baking trays. As I said last recipe, nobody EVER does this first, but... well, the option's there.

2.) Mix together 225g/8oz/1.75 cups of self-raising flour and a pinch of salt - and the Secret Ingredient. Well, it's not secret - but neither is it in the recipe book I have. Our Vicar's Wife uses this, and I think any rock bun without it would be sub-standard and barely worth eating! Ahem. Here it is:

Just pop a shake of Ground Mixed Spice in with the flour. You'll thank me later...


3.) Rub in 100g/4oz/half a cup of margarine - which does mean getting your hands messy, I'm afraid. You can try doing this with a wooden spoon, but it really won't work quite the same. Keep going until it's this sort of texture:


4.) Add in 50g/2oz/a quarter of a cup of demerara sugar, mixed peel, and currants. Wikipedia tells me that in the US demerara sugar is known as 'turbinado sugar', which I think is a hilarious name... The recipe can be done with regular caster sugar (which Wikipedia - isn't it useful? - tells me is 'superfine sugar' in the US) but demerara makes it *that* much yummier. Basically, use a brown sugar, crunchy if possible, but anything else you can lay your hands on will do.


I haven't given quantities for mixed peel and currants (you can use mixed fruit, if you can find bags of it, but sometimes these bags include cherries, and they wouldn't work at all) - it's very much to taste. Maybe a tablespoon of mixed peel, and two or three of currants? But it's definitely better to have too much of these than two little. Don't skimp on them! Oh, and I do hope tubs of mixed peel are available outside the UK...?

5.) Mix it to a stiff dough with an egg. You'll need to use your hands again - doing it with a spoon won't get the mixture to come together. You can add milk, if it won't make a dough with just an egg, but you shouldn't have to. It should look a bit like this...


6.) Put it in rough heaps on the baking tray, and put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. This mixture should make about 16 rock buns. They'll go into the oven looking like this....


...and come out looking like this...


Unlike a lot of biscuits, they won't really change consistency when they come out of the oven. And they should be brown on top - better slightly overdone than underdone, as the crunch is nice.


Please give this a go, you (and your kids) will love them!

15 comments:

  1. Never heard of rock buns here (we have "buns of steel," but that's another thing altogether!). They look like scones - are they similar? And of course, my other question, can I substitute chocolate chips for the currants? Please don't gasp in horror -- I can't stand dried fruit (it's a texture thing), so any time a recipe calls for raisins or some other sort of abomination like them, I just substitute the chocolate chips. :)
    I'm sure my children will be anxious to try these. We try to have "tea time" now that we're back in school and this will make them feel very British.
    Thanks for sharing -- have a wonderful holiday!

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  2. Silly me -- one more question: What is in Ground Mixed Spice? Is it like Allspice? I must say these look like they would be good with some crushed pecans in them, too. :)

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  3. I definitely had rock buns growing up (in Canada) but I had many friends who had no idea what they were. I think it really depends on your cultural heritage and the influences you had around you growing up. I had many nannies growing up, all of whom baked what they were used to in England/Sweden/France/China, etc. As fond as I remain of tarte tatin and Hong Kong-style egg tarts, the only recipes I am really attached to emotionally are the German/Czech ones my best friend and I learned from her oma and my babi when we were growing up. There's something wonderful about making an apple strudel with your great-great-grandmother's recipe.

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  4. You’ve read my mind! I’ve been looking for some real bickies to have with tea whilst reading Persephone books across the pond.

    Yes, I've heard of rock cakes, but never had one, and I am ever so grateful for your recipe. Thank you for specifics on the sugar. Trader Joe's, a chain across much of the States, has this regularly, at a good price, and currants, too.

    From www.mysupermarket.co.uk -- Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Dill, Ginger, Cloves, Nutmeg are listed for the Sainsbury’s. May I assume the list is predominant ingredient first, as it is here? The dill seems strange to me, but my chai recipe calls for coriander, so the rest is a combination I’m familiar with.

    “Mixed peel,” also from the above web site, lists Orange Peel (59%), Lemon Peel (20%), Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Salt, Citric Acid, Preservative (Sulphur Dioxide). Yes, this is exactly what we used to find here for use in old-fashioned fruit cakes, traditionally made before Thanksgiving and left to soak in liqueur-soaked cheesecloth until being eaten over the holidays. (Web site has a photo.) Unfortunately, this tends not to be available throughout the year, and some years I’ve only seen candied cherries, but maybe a gourmet store…

    In my humble opinion this is very similar to our U.S. versions of scone recipes. I would hazard a guess that they could be made in a food processor, as can scones, provided you go very gently with the margarine and final mixing into a ball stages--just a couple of pulses. Like scones, the less the dough is worked, the better. (And you don’t want to chop the fruit into tiny granules.)

    Again, thank you from the bottom of my pear-shaped frame… er, heart!

    You’ve read my mind! I’ve been looking for some real bickies to have with tea whilst reading Persephone books across the pond.

    Yes, I've heard of rock cakes, but never had one, and I am ever so grateful for your recipe. Thank you for specifics on the sugar. Trader Joe's, a chain across much of the States, has this regularly, at a good price, and currants, too.

    From www.mysupermarket.co.uk -- Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Dill, Ginger, Cloves, Nutmeg are listed for the Sainsbury’s. May I assume the list is predominant ingredient first, as it is here? The dill seems strange to me, but my chai recipe calls for coriander, so the rest is a combination I’m familiar with.

    “Mixed peel,” also from the above web site, lists Orange Peel (59%), Lemon Peel (20%), Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Salt, Citric Acid, Preservative (Sulphur Dioxide). Yes, this is exactly what we used to find here for use in old-fashioned fruit cakes, traditionally made before Thanksgiving and left to soak in liqueur-soaked cheesecloth until being eaten over the holidays. (Web site has a photo.) Unfortunately, this tends not to be available throughout the year, and some years I’ve only seen candied cherries, but maybe a gourmet store…

    In my humble opinion this is very similar to our U.S. versions of scone recipes. I would hazard a guess that they could be made in a food processor, as can scones, provided you go very gently with the margarine and final mixing into a ball stages--just a couple of pulses. Like scones, the less the dough is worked, the better. (And you don’t want to chop the fruit into tiny granules.)

    Again, thank you from the bottom of my pear-shaped frame… er, heart!

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  5. Fabulous recipe, thank you!

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  6. Making them by hand can be beautifully messy and leave a trail of stickiness across the kitchen surfaces (yes, Simon, you know that's true!)although this is reduced if you use a couple of forks to chunk them on to the baking tray.
    You can make them with an old fashioned Kenwood mixer (as opposed to food processor) as long as you don't let the mixture become too smooth and sophisticated.
    These are rough chunky buns that start their life on the cake side of the spectrum and, after 3 days in a tin, move effortlessly over to the biscuit side. They are loved by men - having a no-nonsense manly texture (none of that soft melting feminine stuff) and gird up loins for heavy digging in the garden or stoking an autumnal bonfire.
    They are lovely though! mmmmmmm

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  7. Your sources were not wrong! I can say with confidence that I've never heard a single soul ever say 'I'm dying for a cup of tea and a rock bun!'. So I'm going to rise to the challenge and make these in a few days when our heatwave is over. Enjoy your day!

    Haha! Just noticed my word verification is 'fatter'!

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  8. I love rock buns used to make them as a child. Got to be butter, though :0)

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  9. Delicious pictures. I must admit I want to eat some of the dough. Whenever I make fruits scones I always end up eating too much of the dough.

    I used to share your attitude about preheating ovens until I took a semester-long culinary arts class. Anyhoo, it was there that I learned that ovens take longer to heat than you might think and that can have a big impact on the finished product. Putting something into a non preheated oven could mean that for 5 to 10 minutes of a 10-15 minute baking time your oven isn't the right temperature. Can make all the difference between success and failure.

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  10. Mmmmm... Rock buns..... We LOVE rock buns (which I make without eggs, of course, being vegan) and think of them as the perfect autumn treat. What could be nicer than coming in on a frosty day, after walking the dogs, to a blazing fire and a cup of tea and a rock bun? Not much!

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  11. Your rock buns like great, used to buy huge vanilla ones in a cafe next to an old job, they were crisp on the outside and soft crumbly on the inside. Fantastic. I'm going to try making both sorts and taste test them for a winner. It's a tough job.

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  12. My grandmother used to make rock buns (thats the British influence here in Sri Lanka) and this receipe makes me nostalgic to try them once again. Thanks for the detailed instructions.

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  13. Now that I've gotten over my chagrin at accidentally posting my too-long post twice--beg pardon, all-- I've had a note on my computer to share ~

    I can't locate self-rising flour in this "cosmopolitan" Midwest city, so will make my own. Recipe: to 1 cup all-purpose flour, add 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt (which I never use). Then sift or somehow mix thoroughly. (I whisk.)

    Now to make that peel, as I can't find that anywhere, either... and the spices......

    D. Ellis

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  14. Thanks for posting this recipe, Simon! I made these yesterday, and they turned out great. I used D. Ellis's recipe for self-rising flour which worked well except it resulted in too much salt in the buns. I also used a recipe for mixed spice which I found on here: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Mixed_Spice . And, just so you know, I found that what is called demerara sugar in Britain and turbinado sugar in the States is called demerara sugar in Canada. Thanks again!

    Virginia

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  15. Susan - I gasped in horror a little bit, but hope you enjoy them! Although I wouldn't put in the peel or spice... actually, the spice could be interesting. I don't know what's in Ground Mixed Spice, but Anonymous/D. Ellis below has gone into some detail!

    Claire - I love making melting moments because it's the only thing I really remember about my great-grandmother - quite a legacy to leave! I think of her everytime I make them. I'd love to think I'd have some connection like that 110yrs after I was born.

    D. Ellis - I hope you enjoyed them, and thanks for all the details you gave! They are quite similar to scone recipes, in terms of ingredients, but I think the ratio must be quite different as they have a different texture. More rocky!

    Elise - enjoy!

    Mum - food mixer, begone! I always think that's cheating... although I definitely don't put them on the tray by hand - far too sticky. Made some the other day.. mmm.

    Darlene - I was so pleased you made these! And loved the word verification... these are healthy; they have fruit! Ahem...

    Twelfthknit - oh, you've put me to shame... I know I should use butter in baking, but I can't afford it (and get so irritated with it being either from the fridge and unusable, or from the cupboard and all melted!)

    Thomas - preheating I do tend to do, but I don't think I've ever greased my tins at the beginning!

    Penny - they do go perfectly with a cup of tea! (Then again, what cake doesn't?) For vegan recipe, do you just miss out the egg, or do you add something in place of it?

    Hayley - so, which won?! It is this crisp/crumbly contrast which makes me love them so much.

    Mystica - these always make me think of summer holidays, which is when Mum used to make them - a very nostalgic cake :)

    Virginia - so pleased they worked! And I didn't realise s-r flour was so hard to find - it's such a baking essential! Thanks for the sugar info - isn't it odd how sugar is named differently?

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