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SPICED ELDERBERRY BUNS

This recipe is from my first book Food You Can Forage, which is available to buy here.

Elderberries are one of my favourite fruits to forage at this time of year - they're small and deep purplish-red, and although they can be eaten raw in small amounts, they're better fermented in mead or boiled into jam and jelly.

Elder trees can be found everywhere in Britain, but often grow around rabbit warrens because rabbits eat the berries and help germinate the seeds. The berries ripen from leftover elderflowers, which is why it's useful to resist picking all the blossoms in spring - although it's good to do this anyway as pollinators like the flowers!

The following recipe was developed before I went vegan, but with a little experimentation I'm sure the ingredients could be substituted for plant milk, vegan butter and a flax egg. One of my favourite things about going vegan is trying to reinvent my favourite recipes using plant-based alternatives - a couple of years ago I managed to veganise our family Christmas cake recipe!

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:
200g fresh elderberries
75g demerara sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
25g unsalted butter
225g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp lemon juice

For the dough:
500g strong white flour
Pinch of sea salt
7g dried yeast
300ml whole milk
50g salted butter
1 medium egg

METHOD

Sift the flour, salt and yeast together in a bowl and make a well in the middle using a spoon. In a saucepan, heat the salted butter until it has melted and add to the flour mixture, as well as the milk and egg. Using your hands, stir the whole mixture together until it forms a soft dough; you may need to add a little flour or milk depending on the consistency. Sprinkle a little flour onto a clean surface and spread out to create a non-stick area, then tip your dough mixture out. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes (depending on arm strength - it takes me ages) until the consistency is smooth and elasticated, but no longer sticky. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a teatowel, then set aside at room temperature for an hour.

Meanwhile, pour the elderberries into a preserving pan with a little water and simmer until the berries have softened to a juicy mush. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and mixed spice and stir well. In a separate pan, heat the unsalted butter until it has melted and leave aside.

Once the dough has risen to twice its size, lightly flour a surface and tip the dough out. Roll out into a rough rectangle around ½ cm thick and brush the exposed surface lightly with the melted butter. Then tip the elderberry mixture onto the surface and spread out evenly across the rectangle. Carefully roll the rectangle into a sausage so that the elderberry mix forms a spiral through the middle and, once secured, slice the sausage into 4 cm slices.

Place each slice on its side onto a greased baking tray and cover them all with a teatowel. Preheat the oven to 190°C and leave the slices to rise for 30 minutes. When risen, bake the slices for 20 minutes until they are golden brown and transformed into swirly buns, and leave to cool.

In a separate bowl, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice to form glacé icing, and drizzle over every bun until well coated.