Bath Buns

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Recipe by Pen Vogler

Rich Bath buns with a sweet sugar glaze were a favourite of Jane Austen – though apparently it was easy to over-do it.

From a recipe from Mrs Raffald’s “The Experienced English Housekeeper” published in 1769. Mrs Raffald tells us to “send them in hot for breakfast”, which sounds rather indigestible for these rich, buttery buns, and may have been why, when Jane was staying with a rather mean aunt, she joked to Cassandra that she would make herself an inexpensive guest by “disordering my stomach with Bath buns”.

Makes 12 cakes

1 lb/450 g all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp salt (optional — not in original, but we find yeast buns very bland without it)
2/3 cup/150 g butter
¼ oz/7 g sachet active dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup/225ml milk
For the glaze
2 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar
1 tbsp milk
Sugar nibs, or a few sugar cubes, roughly crushed and mixed with a few caraway  seeds. These are in place of the caraway comfits – sugar-coated caraway  seeds – that Mrs. Raffald would have used.


[1] Add the salt to the flour, if using, and rub the butter in until it is like coarse bread crumbs;sprinkle in the yeast, sugar, and caraway seeds, and mix it together well. Warm the milk, and stir it into the dry ingredients to give a soft dough; add a little milk if necessary.

[2] Give it a good knead for about ten minutes on a floured surface until it is smooth andpliable; return to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and let it rise in a warm place until double insize; it may take a good two or three hours because the butter in the dough impedes the rising action of the yeast.

[3] Punch the air out of the dough and make up 12 cakes, put onto greased baking sheets, cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap (clingfilm) and leave to rise again for up to 1 hour.

[4] Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/Gas Mark 5.

[5] Bake for 12–15 minutes until they are golden brown.

[6] Heat together the milk and sugar for the glaze, and brush it over the hot buns, then strewthe crushed sugar cubes and caraway seeds over the top.