The Great Cornish Bake Off – Long Live The 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. Read on to find out about the Great Cornish Bake Off and how it was rediscovered along with a vegan recipe for Cornish saffron buns.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to our two entrepreneurial sleuths, we now have a new Liskeard bun and the next stage in the story awaits. Watch this space.
- a large pinch of saffron
- 15 g fresh yeast
- 200 ml warm water
- 200 g wholemeal flour
- 260 g plain flour
- 50 g golden caster sugar I used cardamom sugar
- a good pinch of salt
- 100 ml sunflower oil
- 50 g candied peel I used homemade
- 200 g sultanas or mixed dried fruit
- Place saffron in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to steep overnight.
- Stir the yeast into the water until dissolved.
- 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.
- Turn out onto a work surface and knead for a good ten minutes, adding the fruit in towards the end.
- Alternatively, chuck everything into a stand mixer and let it do the work for you.
- Cover the bowl with a tea towel, plate or plastic bag and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
- Knead again for another five minutes or so.
- Divide the dough into 16 pieces and form into rolls.
- Place on a baking tray or in a silicone mould (I used a 23cm (9") sq silicone cake mould).
- Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
- 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.
- Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
For best results with both flavour and colour, be sure to soak the saffron overnight.
Contains no egg or dairy, so suitable for vegans.
Adapted from Saffron Cake by Pamela Pascoe in Cousin Jennie's Cook Book
As 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 vegan Cornish saffron buns into Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.
As this was our very own Liskeard Bake Off, I’m going to be cheeky and enter my Liskeard Bun 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.
And third saffron buns also go 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.
Whilst 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 recipes for 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