Proper Tea Treat Buns
A wonderful Cornish childhood memory! I clearly recall being handed the most enormous bun after games and jollifications at our local chapel Tea Treats. We used to gather in the nearby field, dozens and dozens of excited village children, then sitting crosslegged in the grass and tucking into our Tea Treat Buns. They tasted absolutely divine. Saffrony and choc full of fruit, the size of a tea plate. Heaven.
So, as requested, after talking to many folk about what they remember, here is my version of this old Cornish delicacy. Saffron cakes and buns have currants in them, but my friends all recall that they were loaded with lots of different fruit, especially peel, that we know our forebears loved. It is strange using sultanas and raisins in a saffron mix. I saw an old 1920 recipe using spice, as well as saffron and mixed fruit, so I decide to use some nutmeg only. But if you recall it spicier, by all means add a teaspoon of mixed spice. This old recipe also used demerara sugar but I think that would be too coarse.
I was born and bred in the village of Stithians, but I am sure many of you will recall a different flavour and fruit combination in your Tea treat Buns. I will look forward to reading all about your own memories and thoughts on this subject. But here is mine…..
I buy saffron online and it is very much cheaper than in a supermarket. It is often Iranian or suchlike and just as good as Spanish. Take a very large generous pinch and place it between a fold of baking parchment and pop it into a warm oven for ten mins, then crush with a rolling pin.
This quantity makes 6 tea plate size Tea Treat Buns.
In a pyrex jug, place:
9 fl oz milk, warmed
1 heaped teaspoon caster sugar
your powdered saffron
a few more strands of saffron, according to taste
1 teaspoon dried yeast
Set this aside for a mo to start working, meanwhile, In a large bowl, place:
1lb 2 oz flour [half plain, half strong plain]
7 oz fats - 2/3rds lard, the rest butter [or all lard]
Rub the fats into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add:
6 oz mixed dried fruit
extra mixed peel
extra currants to taste [I probably used another 3-4 oz, all depending on your taste]
2-3 oz caster sugar, according to taste
Mix well, then make a hole in the middle and add the frothy saffrony milk. Stir well and then bring together before turning out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place back into your bowl and cover. Put to rise in a warm spot. This is a dense mix and will not be double, but leave for about 90 mins.
I have read several old books and they all state these buns should be the size of a tea plate, so about 6 inch in diameter. No wonder they looked so big when we were small, needing two hands to hold them!
Lightly butter two baking sheets, or use parchment. Pre heat your fan oven to 170C
Knock back the mixture, then cut and shape your buns. By my reckoning each bun should weigh just under 8 oz, uncooked. The whole mixture weighed just under 3lb, therefore making 6 buns. Shape them, continually turning them under until a nice round shape with all the ends tucked under and put them onto a baking sheet, [I also used parchment] pressing them lightly until they measure about 5 inch in diameter. See pics on my Blog. Cover and rise once more for about an hour.
Bake for around 30 mins, turning the trays around halfway to ensure an even bake. I recall that the buns were lovely and yellow, so a slightly cooler oven to ensure they do not brown too much.
My buns came out at just under 6” in diameter, so I pressed them out about right. I was as pleased as punch with them, as was my husband for the next few days, as I then froze them, taking out one at a time. Perfect. Cornish. Scrumptious.
Why did this tradition die out?