Baked goods have become very complicated these days. Cakes are 7 layered wonders, iced to Sistine Chapel like standards. Cupcakes have wacky flavourings and enough frosting to get lost in. Breads have starters from 500 years ago that require the kind of nurturing of a pet. It gets quite exhausting. Faced with so much choice, I’ve had a yen for something very simple. And nothing gets more simple than the staple of the Belfast bakery when I was a child, the Paris Bun.
Sweet bready cakes the size of your fist, they were little mounds of total simplicity, only jazzed up by a scattering of crisp pearled sugar on top. Some might even say they are a bit dull, but I loved them. Similarly comforting as a Rich Tea biscuit or a malted milk, they go quietly and unobstrusively with a cup of tea mid afternoon. No one outside of Northern Ireland and the west coast of Scotland seems to have known their un-showy charms and it was frankly a devil to get a recipe for them. I’ve ended up cobbling something together from three or four bits and bobs on ex-pat forums, adding my own twist in the shape of malt powder to give them a slight richness and flavour. Despite all that, they were very easy to make.
Paris Buns: makes 12
- 115g butter
- 125g sugar
- 2 tablespoons Horlicks or other malt powder (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 150g plain unsweetened yoghurt or buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 250g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pearl sugar to scatter
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the Horlicks powder and the baking soda and mix well. Crack the eggs in and pour in the yoghurt. Mix until a batter forms. It will look slightly curdled, but this is fine.
Sift in the flour and the baking powder and mix until the batter becomes a soft dough that pulls away from the sides and forms a lump in the middle of the bowl. Don’t overmix.
Place dessertspoonfuls of the mix on a baking paper covered tray. Paris Buns are traditionally a smooth domed shape with a slight point on the top which looks quite bosom like, so try and make these smooth and slightly more upright as they will spread while cooking. Scatter with pearled sugar and then bake at 220℃ for about 12 minutes. They should be a golden sun kissed colour rather than actually brown. Cool on a wire rack.
I was as pleased as punch with these. Paris buns could be a bit dry in my memory but the yoghurt in these makes them very soft and the malt powder gives them a stickier crumb with a beautiful glossiness. I had one with a cup of Suki Belfast Brew tea and it was the perfect combination. If you like your baked goods simple, do give these a try. They are so quick and delicious, you’ll understand why things that work well in Belfast are described as ‘wee buns’….
PS: I have no idea why they are called Paris buns. I suspect the shape might be supposed to look like the Eiffel tower. If you really squint…