Thursday, October 4, 2012

Andrew Whitley's Spicy Buns

Related post: Daily Bread - An Andrew Whitley Workshop

If you have been reading Farine for a while, you probably know that I am not a huge fan of anything sugary but these buns truly make the cut: the recipe calls for very little white sugar, most of the sweetness coming from dried fruit. Moreover they contain a healthy amount of wholewheat (55%) and they are leavened by what is apparently called a flying ferment, a lovely British term I had never heard before. It basically means a quick milk-based ferment that makes for a more active dough than when the yeast is simply added to the flour at mixing time.
I adapted the recipe somewhat, increasing the flour a bit (American all-purpose flours, while not as strong as Canadian ones, still seem to require more water than their British counterparts), replacing part of the raisins with dried cranberries (both for their tartness and their cheerful color) and adding dried orange peel (from Penzey's Spices).
Andrew's recipe calls for soaking the fruit in water, juice or brandy. In Victoria, Diane Andiel (who helped organize the workshop and was in charge of the ingredients) had been kind enough to pre-soak them for us in Grand-Marnier and the taste was exquisite. I opted for orange juice this time but I might go for the Grand-Marnier at holiday time, especially since the orange-cranberry bouquet of flavors make these buns excellent candidates for a Christmas breakfast, brunch or tea.
Those of you who would rather follow Andrew's original recipe will find it in his book, Bread Matters, on page 254.
Ingredients (for six buns):

Flying Ferment
  • 70 g wholewheat flour (I used Cedar Isle Farm flour kindly brought to me from Agassiz, BC, by my friend breadsong)
  • 10 g sugar
  • 3.3 g instant yeast (a scant teaspoon)
  • 140 g milk
Fruit mix 
  • 40 g dried cranberries
  • 90 g raisins
  • 5 g dried orange peel (you might want to use the grated zest of an orange instead)
  • 50 g orange juice (if using freshly grated orange zest, you will need only 25 g of orange juice)
Final dough
  • All of the above flying ferment
  • 130 g white flour (you may need more or less depending on the flour you use. The best way to proceed might be to start with 100 g and adjust as needed)
  • 55 g wholewheat flour
  • 7 g baking spice (I used Penzey's which I can't recommend enough as the blend of Ceylon cinnamon, mace, anise and cardamom yields an irresistibly delicate flavor). Please note that I have zero financial interest in the company and no incentive to blog about it! It just happens that there is a Penzey's store in Seattle and I like the fact that most of their spices are available in 4-oz resealable plastic bags that can be stacked flat in the freezer. Stored that way they keep their flavor almost indefinitely
  • 5 g salt
  • 15 g sugar
  • 25 g butter (at room temperature, diced)
  • 25 g egg (about half an egg)
  • All of the above fruit mix (don't squeeze the fruit but don't go overboard with the liquid either. Your best bet is to use the leftover liquid for another purpose. I added it to the plum sauce that was simmering on the stove)
  1. Soak the fruit with the juice, water or brandy and allow it to hydrate for at least an hour, longer if you can, stirring from time to time (Andrew advises putting it in a plastic bag, sealing the bag, shaking it so that all the fruit get wet and if possible occasionally repeating the shaking during the soaking period)
  2. Mix the pre-ferment and allow it to ferment for about one hour in a warm place (it should rise and drop)
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together then add the butter, the egg and the flying ferment (do not add the fruit mix at this stage)
  4. Mix until the gluten structure is well developed (I started mixing by hand but the dough was too soft and I soon transfered it to the Kitchen Aid mixer: I mixed it on 2 for two minutes, then on 4 for a couple more minutes, at which point I took it out of the bowl, put it on the floured bench and folded it a couple of times. It came together beautifully)
  5. Stretch the dough into a rectangle and carefully press the fruit into it, then roll it as you would a jellyroll, tucking in all the fruit that might escape
  6. Turn the "jellyroll" 90 degrees and roll it again
  7. Then return the dough to the bowl, cover it and let it rise until it no longer springs back when you palpate it with your finger
  8. Divide in six and shape into fairly tight rounds
  9. Put the rounds 5 cm apart on a parchment-lined half sheet pan, slide the pan into a clear plastic bag, blow once in the bag and tie it shut
  10. Set to rise in a warm place until they are almost touching
  11. When the buns are ready (the dough no longer springs back when you palpate it with your finger), decorate the top if desired (I sprayed them slightly with water then sprinkled some pearl sugar on them), bake them in pre-heated 350°F/180°C for 15 minutes (I steamed the oven first) then check their doneness. If necessary, bake another 5 minutes
  12. Cool on a rack
  13. Enjoy!

Andrew Whitley's Spicy Buns are going to Susan for YeastSpotting.


  1. That looks splendid! I love whole grain raisin buns and this mixture of spices sounds so good! I just thinking of adding some kind of mild sourdough for a more complex taste.

    1. Did you soak the fruit mix overnight? I could not find this in the recipe.

    2. Hi Stefanie! As a matter of principle, adding a mild sourdough is a great idea, especially because if it offers another opportunity to use some of the extra levain we always have on hand. I am not sure the flavor will be perceptible though as the other flavors are already very bold. I would keep the percentage really low (5 to 10%) to avoid changing the texture of the buns (which are rather soft due to the milk and butter)... Please let me know what you think if you try it.

    3. Oops, yes, thank you, I had forgotten to describe the fruit soaking process. Thanks for letting me know! I modified the recipe accordingly.

    4. I bake the rolls this weekend and add some of my Lievito madre sourdough and I love the rolls. Soft, sweet and spicy :-) I think they would be great for the Christmas time with all of the spices!

  2. I love cranberry/orange combo's, but toss in the Grand-Marnier and you have the trifecta of all things, wonderful. This recipe is a MUST for me, but I won't be waiting until the holidays. I'm driving to the liquor store this weekend.


  3. coffeegrounded, you are B-A-D! I love it!

  4. Beautiful looking spice/fruit buns/rolls. Looks like the perfect treat for the holidays which are fast approaching.
    Thanks for sharing this great recipe.

    1. Glad you like the recipe, Ian! I find it hard to believe that the holidays are almost upon us but these buns kind of cancel out the melancholy: they smell and taste wonderfully festive...

  5. Hi MC,
    I am delighted to see your version of Andrew's Spicy Buns, using the Cedar Isle flour :^)
    Your kitchen must have smelled just like Christmas with these coming out of the oven, and the flavors! - orange, cranberry combined with that Penzey's spice blend - weren't these buns a wonderful thing to discover at Andrew's class?
    :^) breadsong

  6. I'm not about too sugary, either, but once in a while... These crackers sound wonderful. I've only tried making crackers once and really enjoyed them. I should do it more often. As for the buns, well they wouldn't last long here!



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