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The Great Cornish Bake Off – Long Live The Liskeard Bun

Liskeard Bun

Once upon a time, many years ago, back in the 1960s in fact, or possibly the 1970s, reports are a bit vague, the Mayor stopped handing out the Liskeard Bun. This was an annual event when the newly invested mayor of Liskeard would hand out buns wrapped in brown paper bags to the local children. What a lovely tradition.

Earlier on in the year, rumours were alive that the hunt for the Liskeard Bun was on. The rumours were correct. Two intrepid Liskeard residents did a bit of sleuthing . The baker who used to make it was found, but the recipe remained shrouded in mystery. A number of people remembered receiving them and described them as a round fruity yeasted bun that may or may not have had saffron in it. A recipe was found in Cousin Jennie’s Cook Book by local author Pamela Pascoe, written in 1976. This may or may not have been the original Liskeard Bun.

Our intrepid sleuths thought it was time to resurrect the Liskeard Bun, or better still create a new one. The challenge was issued and a new Liskeard Bun would be announced on the day of Liskeard’s annual Ploughman’s Fair.  I had the fun and responsibility of being one of the three judges. I got to eat a lot of bun. I was also asked if I would make the saffron buns, Tesen Safron, from Cousin Jennie’s Cook Book for the event.

Liskeard Bun Judges

Some tough decisions to be made. Photo courtesy of John Heskyth.

I have made Cornish saffron buns before, but these were a little different – no chocolate for a start. The ingredients contained both lard and marg, neither of which I like to use, the former because I’m vegetarian and the latter because marg is a particularly unhealthy fat. So not only did I scale down the recipe and translate it into grams rather than ounces but I used sunflower oil as the fat. This had the added advantage of making the buns vegan, so that more can enjoy them. I used my own candied peel, which has a nicer taste and texture than the peel sold in tubs. Annoyingly, I didn’t quite get my act together to soak the saffron overnight, so the colour of these buns is rather pallid.

Liskeard Buns

Bun remnants after the judging was finalised. Photo courtesy of Lorna Shrubsole.

The day dawned fair, the town was alive with music and food stalls and three judges stood in the Mayor’s Parlour gazing at the array of fine looking buns wondering how they were ever going to choose a winner. Judging the new Liskeard Bun was a serious affair and we didn’t take our duties lightly. We looked, we prodded, we poked, we tasted, we scored, we discussed; one hour later we had come to a decision. Well, several decisions; there was an adult category, an under sixteens and a professional one and we had to choose a first, second and third with an optional commended. I may not be Mary Berry, but I had a lot of fun.

If I had not been judging I might have submitted my Liskeardy Cakes – maybe next year. Guess which one drew accolades from the judges.? Here’s a clue, Liskeard Bun.

The buns were brought out onto a stall by Liskeard’s Fountain for everyone to taste; pictures were taken and the winners were announced with much fanfare. Pamela Pascoe, author of the saffron bun recipe I adapted was there to award the top prize of an engraved glass cake stand. That really put the cherry on the cake.

Winners, Sleuths, Judges and Mrs Pascoe.

Winners, Sleuths, Judges and Mrs Pascoe. Photo courtesy of Lorna Shrubsole

Thanks to our two entrepreneurial sleuths, we now have a new Liskeard bun and the next stage in the story awaits. Watch this space.

Cornish Saffron Buns - Tesen Safron
Yields 16
A fruity yeasted bun, lightly spiced with saffron. Delicious with butter, either warm from the oven, cold or toasted.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. a large pinch of saffron
  2. 15g fresh yeast
  3. 200ml warm water
  4. 200g wholemeal flour
  5. 260g plain flour
  6. 50g golden caster sugar (I used cardamom sugar)
  7. a good pinch of salt
  8. 100ml sunflower oil
  9. 50g candied peel (I used homemade)
  10. 200g sultanas (or mixed dried fruit)
Instructions
  1. Place saffron in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to steep overnight.
  2. Stir the yeast into the water until dissolved.
  3. Place the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the water and oil, mixing as you go until it comes together as a dough.
  4. Turn out onto a work surface and knead for a good ten minutes, adding the fruit in towards the end.
  5. Alternatively, chuck everything into a stand mixer and let it do the work for you.
  6. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, plate or plastic bag and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
  7. Knead again for another five minutes or so.
  8. Divide the dough into 16 pieces and form into rolls.
  9. Place on a baking tray or in a silicone mould (I used a 23cm (9") sq silicone cake mould).
  10. Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
  11. Bake in the middle of the oven at 200C for 15-20 minutes, when the buns should be brown on top and the bases sound hollow when tapped.
  12. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Notes
  1. For best results with both flavour and colour, be sure to soak the saffron overnight.
  2. Contains no egg or dairy, so suitable for vegans.
Adapted from Saffron Cake by Pamela Pascoe in Cousin Jennie's Cook Book
Adapted from Saffron Cake by Pamela Pascoe in Cousin Jennie's Cook Book
Tin and Thyme http://tinandthyme.uk/
Shop Local BadgeAs the fresh yeast is bought from my local baker, just a two minute walk away and the wholemeal flour comes from Cotehele Mill, not far away in the Tamar Valley, I am entering these buns into Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

 

Treat Petite LogoAs this was our very own Liskeard Bake Off, I’m going to be cheeky and enter it into Treat Petite which is all about The Great British Bake Off, this month. I’m hoping Kat at The Baking Explorer and CakeyBoi will allow it.

 

Tea Time Treats LogoAnd this also goes towards the ever groaning table at Tea Time Treats which this month is all about Summer Baking. Hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Janie of The Hedge Combers.

 

Love Cake LogoWhilst not strictly a cake, saffron buns are also called saffron cakes down here in Cornwall and they are ideal portable picnic fare, so I’m hoping they will be eligible for Love Cake over at JibberJabberUK where the theme is Pack me a Picnic.

Other yeasted fruit buns you might like

Choc cross buns – Tin and Thyme

Cornish choc chip saffron buns – Tin and Thyme

Liskeardy cakes – Tin and Thyme

Spiced current sourdough buns – Fuss Free Flavours

Tea cakes with cranberries – Tin and Thyme

Wholemeal apple hot cross buns – Fab Food 4 All

Comments

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Thanks Jo, they were pretty good, but not as good as the winning bun šŸ˜‰

  1. Leave a Reply

    Emily
    19th August 2015

    What a lovely tradition. I love foodie stories like that. Sound yummy x

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Yes me too, uncovering the story of the Liskeard bun has been interesting.

  2. Leave a Reply

    lisa
    19th August 2015

    Ahhhh I used to live near Liskeard for two years. Agreed your Liskeard buns look much nicer than the Safron buns I used to get from Barnecutts Bakery (now that brings back fond memories). Fab looking recipe, I will have to give them a go x

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Gosh finding out so much about you today Lisa. Where did you live? It’s always been Blakes for me as I still think of Barnecutts as a newcomer šŸ˜‰

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Thanks Angie, I’d be very surprised to find you were a margarine fan šŸ˜‰

  3. Leave a Reply

    laurie
    19th August 2015

    lovely buns and I loved the background story, beautiful photos, yummy!!!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Traditionally saffron buns are eaten with clotted cream, but no jam needed as they are sweet enough.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Henk Kooiman
    19th August 2015

    Great story ! And a lovely dress Choclette; you really do look like a local celebrity in it :))
    Unfortunately, sunflower oil in baking somehow doesn’t agree with me (same problem with carrot cake). Would you mind mentioning the original quantities of lard/butter/egg as in the original recipe ? I’d love to try these buns !

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      19th August 2015

      Hi Henk, thank you. You could always use a different type of oil, but here are the original quantities: 3 lb plain flour, 1 lb lard and marg – mixed, 6 oz sugar, 1 1/2 lb dried fruit, 4-6 oz mixed candied peel, 1 tsp salt, 1 dram saffron, 1 oz yeast, warm milk and water to mix. Make of that what you will šŸ˜‰

  5. Leave a Reply

    Sarah
    19th August 2015

    Really enjoyed reading this, sounds like you had a lot of fun. Cute picture with all the wee kids. šŸ˜€

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thanks Sarah, I really enjoyed the morning and all the excitement leading up to it too. It was great to have some kids entering. Hopefully more next year šŸ™‚

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      It really was fun and great to see people getting into the spirit of it all. Hoping it will become an annual event.

  6. Leave a Reply

    Sarah James
    20th August 2015

    Looks like you had a lovely day Choclette & such a privilege to be a judge. Looking forward to baking your Liskeard Buns šŸ™‚

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      It was indeed a privilege and a responsibility Sarah, but it was great fun and I hope it will run again next year. I’m sure you will do a far better job than I did on the bun front šŸ™‚

  7. Leave a Reply

    Camilla
    20th August 2015

    I’ve never had a one of these buns and have always wanted to try one so thanks for sharing the recipe and also for linking to my Apple Hot Cross Buns:-)

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Saffron buns are a Cornish classic Camilla, but these are not nearly as sweet as the commercial varieties I’ve tried, so preferable.

  8. Leave a Reply

    Kath
    20th August 2015

    Oh I love it. The sleuthing and the judging. I am going to they your saffron buns. They do look very tempting. x

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Ooh yes, do give them a go Kath. If you like them, you could spread the Cornish saffron bun love on your baking course šŸ˜‰

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thanks Sina. I’m rather hoping this bake off will itself become a tradition in Liskeard – time will tell šŸ™‚

  9. Leave a Reply

    jenna @ butter loves company
    20th August 2015

    I am so fascinated by the addition of saffron into this bun! I have some on hand and and now feeling inspired to use them in a baked good. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thanks Jenna. Saffron buns are a traditional bake in Cornwall, but they should be a bit yellower than mine. They taste great though.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Well Cornwall isn’t so very far away Sylvia and a Cornish cream tea just has to be tried šŸ™‚

  10. Leave a Reply

    Heidi Roberts
    20th August 2015

    What great fun judging a bun competition. Hope there was loads of tea to drink to wash it all down in style!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      We were a bit let down on the tea front Heidi, but we had water to cleanse our palates between buns.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thank you Michelle. I hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of Cornwall šŸ™‚

  11. Leave a Reply

    Piyali Mutha
    21st August 2015

    What an enthralling story that was. You wove such magic with your words and pictures, that it actually teleported me to the event. The gorgeous table of buns look so good that I can well imagine your difficulty at deciding which was the best. The Cornish saffron buns which you baked look so perfectly delightful and delicious. No wonder everyone applauded such lovely creation from you. A very interesting recipe which surely, I would love to try.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thank you very much Piyali, you’ve been very kind. It’s made my day reading how you were transported to our part of the world for a while šŸ™‚

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      21st August 2015

      Thanks Razena. I’ve inherited a love of bread and buns from my mother. Not very good for me I know, but they are so satisfying.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      22nd August 2015

      Thanks Amy. Saffron cakes or buns are very much a Cornish speciality and very nice they are too. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted so many buns in one sitting before šŸ˜‰

  12. Leave a Reply

    Kate - gluten free alchemist
    23rd August 2015

    Sounds like a scream! What fun!!
    There are some amazing local traditions surrounding food and it is always fascinating to learn about them. Lovely post Choclette and lovely looking buns!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      24th August 2015

      Sadly, I think many of the local traditions died out a long time ago, it would be great for places to bring back or invent new ones so we had some real diversity.

  13. Leave a Reply

    Phil in the Kitchen
    25th August 2015

    May I say that I think you did a very fine job there in bringing a lost bun back to life. I’m not sure that I could take the stress of being a judge however much cake and tea was on offer. I wonder why the tradition died out. Perhaps it was regarded as no longer relevant or beneath the dignity of a mayor? Both of which sound like deeply misguided reasons to me.

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      26th August 2015

      I expect it came down to money in the end Phil, but I agree with you – a misguided decision. It’s now looking like our local baker is going to start baking the winning bun, so who knows where else it might go.

  14. Leave a Reply

    Ness
    29th August 2015

    What a fascinating story. I wonder if there are any other towns left that still do a similar act. I haven’t a saffron bun since I was last in Cornwall. It would seem wrong to have one anywhere else in the country!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      1st September 2015

      Haha Kate, you could always have the saffron bun and think of Cornwall šŸ˜‰ Yes, it would be interesting to know if any of these old traditions still exist – I suspect not, which is a bit sad.

  15. Leave a Reply

    Karen
    29th August 2015

    THANKS so much for this wonderful entry into Tea Time Treats! LOVE the recipe and photos so much! Karen

  16. Leave a Reply

    Janie
    29th August 2015

    Ah, that’s so cool! I look forward to trying the winning bun soon šŸ™‚
    Janie x

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      1st September 2015

      Yes indeed Janie, we’re hoping it will soon be available in our local bakery.

  17. Leave a Reply

    Elizabeth
    3rd September 2015

    Oooh these buns are making my mouth water just thinking about them! Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing with the Shop Local Challenge!

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      4th September 2015

      Haha, thank you, that’s just what I like to hear Elizabeth šŸ˜‰

  18. Leave a Reply

    Irmgard Upmanis
    5th September 2015

    I would love to make these but only have access to yeast granules. How much of this product would I have to use as a substitute for the fresh yeast?

    • Leave a Reply

      Choclette
      6th September 2015

      Hi Irmgard, dried yeasts vary quite a bit, but it should tell you on the packet how much yeast you should use for the quantity of flour. But it should be about 1 tsp of instant yeast and 2 tsp of dried active yeast.

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