Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Cherry Buns - and memories of my grandmother

Food can be such a nostalgic thing… and the taste of a particular food or ingredient can transport you rapidly back in time so that you could almost believe that you were living through that particular moment again. I often remember people or events by the foods that I ate at specific time and I am reminded of them when I taste those flavours again.

There are many foods that I associate with my grandmother who was a huge influence on me and who was also a great and adventurous home cook. I loved everything that she cooked and feel that I have her to thank for my inquiring palate and eagerness to try new foods and flavours. I was her only granddaughter and also the eldest grandchild and even though she loved all her grandchildren, I think that I was just that little bit more spoilt than the others.

I would often accompany her on her daily trips to the local shops to pick up the Irish Times newspaper and to get fresh meat from the butchers. The shops were located down the road from where we lived in Dundrum, a suburb of Dublin. Although from Castlebar, County Mayo originally, she had lived all her married life on the outskirts of Dublin and remembered Dundrum when it had been out in the country and not the busy and densely populated suburb that it eventually became. She insisted on calling Dundrum, the ‘Village’ and enjoyed the ten minute walk to go and get her ‘messages’ each day. Along the way she would bump into neighbours and friends and this meant that naturally, we would have to pause on our journey so that she could have a good chat about the various issues of the day!

Sometimes, as a special treat, she would bring me into the Bewley’s Café located in Dundrum Village and we would sit down and have a cup of tea together… along with a sticky bun or donut from the selection that they had on offer. Sometimes I would choose a chocolate-covered ring donut or an almond bun, but my absolute favourite were the sticky cherry buns! These were made from an enriched yeasted dough, were studded with chopped glacé cherries and covered in the most addictive sticky and sugary glaze. I loved to split them and slather them in butter… HEAVEN!

Unfortunately, only the Grafton Street branch of Bewley’s Café remains open today and they no longer make and sell the cherry buns that I used to love so much, so I decided that I would experiment a little and see if I could recreate them and come up with my own version.

In the end my version was easier to make than I had anticipated. I used a basic enriched dough which included added eggs and butter and to this I added washed and chopped glacé cherries. The dough is quite sticky to work by hand, so feel free to use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.

When the buns emerged from the oven and whilst they were still warm, I brushed each with a simple sugar syrup and then let the buns cool. I was so delighted with how the buns turned out and most importantly they were so evocative of the many happy times that I spent with my grandmother.


500g strong white flour
75g caster sugar
5g fine sea salt
15g fresh yeast
275ml milk
1 large egg
75g butter, softened
125g glacé cherries, washed and chopped
Egg wash:
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
To glaze:
75g caster sugar
75ml water


1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (you can also knead this dough by hand, but it is sticky and you will have to keep working it, without adding any extra flour and persevere – it will eventually come together).
2. Crumble the yeast into the milk and stir with a fork until it has all dissolved. Add the milk and egg to the flour and start kneading the dough using the mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. You will need to mix it for approximately 6 or 7 minutes at a medium speed until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the butter gradually; making sure that it is well incorporated after each addition. The dough should be very soft but have a silky texture. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and allow to prove for 90 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
4. Turn the dough out onto a clean work-surface and knock back gently punching out all the air. Scatter over the chopped glacé cherries and knead them gently into the dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place onto a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment, spacing them about 5cms apart. Cover with a damp cloth/cling-film and allow to prove a second time for about 90 minutes until almost doubled in size.
5. About 15 minutes before you bake the buns, preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5. Then, just before baking them, brush with a little of the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes until golden brown all over. Transfer to a wire rack and brush over a little of the glaze (see below) whilst they are still warm. Allow to cool.
To make the glaze:
6. While the buns are baking you can make the glaze. Place the sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat a little and bring up to simmering point and allow to bubble for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside until ready to brush on the baked buns.

Makes 10.