You see, raisin buns are far from fancy. They are just bundles of buttery, milky dough studded with raisins and glazed with some egg wash to make their top golden. And yet, they hit all my soft spots, not least because they are never too sweet, and become the perfect vessel for some moreish toppings – jam, surely, but also ricotta, honey, and even butter and ham.
The recipe I’m sharing here is part of this month’s instalment of Italian Table Talk, which is dedicated to the rituals of breakfast. Find it alongside Emiko‘s cherry crostatine, Jasmine‘s cosy torta margherita, and Giulia‘s classic Italian cornetti.
Makes about 18 small buns
100 g /3 ½ oz/ 2/3 cup raisins
250ml /8 ½ fl oz/ 1 cup whole milk, plus more for brushing
85 g/ 2 ¾ oz / 4 tablespoons liquid malt (rice or barley)
300 g /10 ½ oz / 2 cups + 2 tablespoons strong while bread flour
200 g / 7 oz/ scant 1 1/2 cups plain white flour
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 g / 0.12 oz/ 1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
50 g /1 ¾ oz/ 3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, for brushing
Soak the raisins in warm water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan. Once steamy, add the malt and whisk until dissolved. Set aside momentarily.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, Make a small well on a side and place the salt inside it. On the opposite side, make another small well and add the yeast. In the centre, make a larger well and add the soft butter, cubed, and the warm milk with the malt. Start working all the ingredients with a wooden spoon at first, then with your hands. If the dough feels too dry – it should be soft but not sticky – add a tablespoon of milk at the time until it reaches the right texture. It might need none.
Tumble the dough on a floured work surface and stir in the raisins. Work them into the dough, then start kneading energetically for about 30 minutes, stretching and throwing the ball of dough until the surface is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can do all this in a stand mixer, first with the paddle and then with the hook attachment on.
Place the dough in a clean bowl. Cover it with cling film and leave it to rise and double in size – the exact time depends on the temperature in the room, it generally takes from 1 ½ hour to 2 ½ hours.
Take the dough and divide it into 16 to 18 smaller balls. Stretch them slightly and tuck the edges under. Place them, folded side down, on two baking trays lined with parchment. Cover with clean tea towels and leave to rise for 40-45 minutes.
Close to baking time, preheat the oven to 240°C/465°F/gas mark 9, and set the rack in the middle. Whisk the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of milk and use this to brush the top of the buns. Bake the first batch for 8-10 minutes, until deep golden on top, and then proceed with the second. Allow the buns to cool on a rack.
Once cooled, you can store them in a plastic bag, though they are best eaten straight away or within 3 days.