The recipe for this dough comes from one of the many digital manuscripts made available by The Wellcome Library, and dates from 1699. The original was a bit sparse in some of the instructions (“add honey to sweeten” “what spice you will”), but I’ve experimented and come up with a version that is rich, not too sweet and delicately spiced. I specifically wanted a recipe that did not contain fruit, but feel free to throw some in if you like. Additionally, mix it up with your own spice blends.
Makes 12 bunny buns
450g strong, white flour – plus extra for kneading.
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp ground allspice
250ml whole milk
113g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
- Put the honey, butter and milk into a small pan and warm gently until the butter has melted and the honey dissolved.
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl.
- When the milk mixture has cooled to blood temperature, pour into the whisked eggs, stirring briskly.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients.
- Stir together until the mixture comes together in a soft dough. Important: The texture of the dough depends on the moisture content of the ingredients, including that of the flour, eggs, butter and honey. It is probably going to look too wet. Don’t panic. Knead in extra flour to bring it back to a consistency with which you’re happy. It is better to have it slightly too soft, than too dry.
- Knead for 10 minutes until smooth.
- Cover and set to rise until doubled in size. The butter and the honey will mean that it will take longer to rise than regular bread dough, so think more in terms of 2-3 hours than just a single hour.
- When risen, tip out from the bowl and press out the air.
- Fold the dough together loosely and weigh it.
- Cut into 12 portions. Using a digital scale will give you the greatest accuracy and therefore a more even batch overall.
- Shape into buns. To help you shape the dough into bunnies, I’ve prepared a photographic how-to:
- Set the buns onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment while the oven heats up.
- Heat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- I opted not to glaze the dough, but if you prefer to, brush with milk and/or egg yolk.
- Bake for 20 minutes, turning the baking tray around 180 degrees after 10 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Leave cooked buns on the baking sheet and cover with a clean cloth to cool. This will help to keep the crust soft.
- Eat warm, either as is or with butter.