Railway buns

Railway buns

Railway buns

We’re declaring January “Mrs Beeton month,” here at The Ordinary. We’ve been poring over her Everyday Cookery (and, incidentally, pouring over it as well! Clio and I conspired to spill a whole glass of juice over the brittle pages!) We’re particularly immersed in the cakes, buns, biscuits and pastries sections – just the thing to get us through the dreary, damp, chilly, grey, drizzly, delightful winter days. There’s a comforting consistency to the recipes…page after page of nearly the exact same ingredients in nearly the exact same proportions. Flour, fat, leavening, a bit of sugar, milk, maybe an egg. Baked, steamed, dropped, girdled, glazed. And since it says “every day” cookery, we’ve been dutifully trying something new, every single day. When I saw a recipe for “railway buns,” I fell in love right away. Railway buns! What a beautiful thought. In a rare editorial comment, Mrs Beeton tells us that “These make good sandwiches for a journey.” Of course they do! Some little bit of warmth and comfort in your pocket as you set out for your adventures!!

So your Sunday collaborative playlist is on the subject of being on a journey. Not traveling songs, exactly, but songs about that moment that you realize that you’re far from home. Maybe you’re on a train or at a station or in a motel room, in between places, and it hits you like a ton of bricks just how many miles from your home you are. How strange and different everything feels. You miss home, and can’t remember why you came out here in the first place. Are you going back, or are you traveling on? Or do you sit on a bench and take a railway bun out of your pocket to take a minute and think the situation over.

railway-biscuitsI must admit that I mis-translated this recipe, but they turned out delicious anyway. I added about half the flour that I was supposed to. So that when Mrs. Beeton said I should roll out the dough and cut it into squares, I cried, “Mrs. Beeton, you’ve steered me wrong – I can’t roll out something this soft!!” Well, it turns out it was my mistake, but it worked out well. I dropped the batter onto a baking sheet, which is my preferred lazy way to go anyway. The buns were probably a little flatter than they were meant to be, but so so good. Everybody loved them. They’re quite similar to (American) biscuits, so I made them again with baking soda and baking powder instead of yeast, just as an experiment, and they turned out tasty. Softer and richer than your average biscuit, and just the thing fresh out of the oven for yet another chilly January day. And I think they, too, would make nice sandwiches for a journey.

Here’s our far from home playlist. As ever, I’ve made it collaborative so feel free to add any song you like. It’s shaping up to be a wonderful playlist for a drizzly Sunday, hunkered down with some railway biscuits in a nest of blankets!!

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1 cup warm milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
4 T cold unsalted butter
1 egg

Combine the yeast, sugar and warm (body-temperature) milk, and set aside for about ten minutes to get foamy.

Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, and with your hands, rub it into the flour until you have a coarse, crumbly consistency. Make a well in the center and beat in the yeast & milk and the egg. Now you’re going to beat until it pulls away from the bowl. This will take 4 or 5 minutes. If you’ve ever used a processor to knead dough, you know what this looks like. At some point the dough will come together in a messy lump in the middle of the bowl. It doesn’t leave the sides of the bowl clean, but it’s drawn to the center.

Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for a couple hours, till it doubles in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly butter a baking sheet, and drop the batter onto the sheet in lumps the size of the buns you like. I made 4 largish ones, but 6 medium-sized ones would work as well.

Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until they’re golden brown on top, firm, and hollow-sounding when you tap them.

To make these as railway biscuits…

1 1/2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
4 T cold unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400.

Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, and with your hands, rub it into the flour until you have a coarse, crumbly consistency. Make a well in the center and beat in the milk and the egg, just till it all comes together – don’t over work it.

Lightly butter a baking sheet, and drop the batter onto the sheet in lumps the size of the buns you like. I made 4 largish ones, but 6 medium-sized ones would work as well.

Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until they’re golden brown on top, firm, and hollow-sounding when you tap them.

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8 thoughts on “Railway buns

  1. Dreams fade, hope dies hard
    She cups her eyes and stares out at the stars
    Says “I feel we’ve travelled very far”
    Yeah yeah ooh yeah yeah

    No Second Thoughts by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

    • I had a Mrs Beeton once – she was invaluable when I was first married and had no clue about cooking (or anything else probably). But some of her recipes are very strange. Lost her along the way somewhere…

      • To anybody, I think! Mind you, I have an American cookery book that used to puzzle me a lot, wondering what on earth a stick of butter was.

  2. this was the soundtrack of my life – until a strange halt to my moving on a decade ago:

    ….. but i have travelled this life alone.
    If only i’d have found you sooner,
    maybe you’d have found me saner,
    now i’m lost in the unknown.

    If i had crosses to bear,
    then i’ll accept being there,
    and it was all for you.
    But if the damage is great,
    and maybe you were too late,
    then i will just keep drifting through.
    Travelling on and travelling on until my life is gone.
    Travelling on and travelling on until my life is gone.

    If you want me
    then take me,
    maybe you could break me,
    like no-one could.
    Then there’s you… but then there’s you…

    Beber & TamraTravelling On

    Talking of a halt to my travelling on – 2 days ago I adapted the Mocha mousse cake for Ruth’s birthday – I kind of did the cake part but then added a chocolate icing and cherries for the top and filling, instead of mousse – very nice it ended up (we’ve finished it already) … we then watched Le Harve, because R had read about it in one of your post – lovely film. I had so set myself up waiting for a sad and emotional ending.
    Thank you.

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