I used to live and work in Singapore, and one of the iconic snack foods there is the Curry Puff!
It’s basically a pastry turnover with a spicy curry filling – sometimes there’s meat added and/or other vegetables, but my favourite was the potato curry puff. More usually, the filling is diced potato, but the cafeteria at the school I was working at sold potato curry puffs with a smooth, mashed potato filling. I know – carb. coma material, amiright? The combination of crisp pastry and smooth, spiced mashed potato was very comforting, and over the years I’ve tried to reproduce their flavour but without much success.
Having said that, the recipe this week isn’t for a traditional curry puff at all. Traditionally, curry puffs are deep fried, occasionally with spiral pastry (similar to that used for sfogliatelle), but the thought of deep fried anything tends to fill me with the horrors these days. Another option would be to bake them, using regular pastry, but even that has a relatively high fat content, so what I decided to do was use bread dough in place of pastry.
Stuffed, filled bread buns are the ideal mobile meal or picnic item – the filling is self-contained,so there’s nothing to fall out or dry up or get soggy, and to my mind they are even more tasty because the dough wrapper seals in all the flavours during cooking. My recipe for Bierocks, for example, has such simple ingredients, but tastes amazing!
Over the years my attempts to reproduce the filling have stumbled over the spicy flavouring. I’ve tried numerous combinations of spices and each one has had some major flaw. Thinking I’d had a Eureka moment, I even tried mixing in sweet potato with the mashed potato but no *shudders* Oh dear me, that was such a ‘no’.
But now I’ve got a filling I’m happy with because I opted to buy curry paste. *waits until the shrieks of horror die down* Yes, I opened a jar and I’m not ashamed to admit it! It turns out that what my taste buds had been yearning for wasn’t an authentic, hand-crafted spice mix – it was just *waves hands about vaguely* ‘curry’. Sidebar: I also buy basic, value curry sauce – sometimes called ‘chip shop curry sauce’ and pour it over cooked chicken – with the family, it’s just as popular a meal as the home-made-from-scratch butter chicken (and made in a fraction of the time!) Go on, indulge in a jar today – it’ll set you back 20p.
Having said that, the range of curry pastes available in the supermarkets means that you can ring the changes as often as you like. Because the curry paste is concentrated, you don’t need to use much at all, and there’s also no risk of making the filling too soggy. I’ve flavoured the filling quite strongly, because there’s just a small quantity in each bun. If you want to use more filling and make turnovers/pasties, consider using less of the curry paste.
You can make these buns plain – just as a round bun with filling inside, but you can also pretty them up into the flower shapes shown above. Too often we spend a lot of time faffing with decorations for sweet things, and savoury items tend to be the poor relation, so I decided to redress the balance somewhat. An added bonus of the flower shapes is that they can be eaten delicately, by breaking off a petal at a time to nibble on! – Oooh! Get me, Mrs Etty-Kwette!
Curry Bloom Buns
The following quantities make 8 buns.
300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1 large eggwhite
300g cooked potato – riced/mashed
2tbs curry paste of choice – I used Patak’s Rogan Josh
1 large egg yolk
black sesame seeds or kalonji/nigella seeds
white sesame seeds
- Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, plus the oil and egg-white, into a bowl.
- Heat the water and add to the milk. This should make a warm mixture of blood heat temperature. Test by dipping a finger into the mixture to make sure it’s not too hot.
- Gradually add the milk and water mixture to the other ingredients until they come together in a ball. You might not need all of the liquids.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
- Brush the dough with oil and place in an oiled bowl.
- Cover with cling-film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
- Over a medium heat, cook the curry paste in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, to bring out the flavours of the spices.
- Remove pan from heat and add the mashed potato. Stir thoroughly to combine, until the colour is even throughout.
- Once the dough is risen, tip out from the bowl and gently press to deflate.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Divide the dough into eight pieces.
- Divide the filling into eight pieces.
- For each bun
- Pat the dough into a circle about 10cm in diameter.
- Put a ball of potato filling in the middle of the dough.
- Damp the edges of the dough with water.
- Gather the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch to seal.
- Turn the dough parcel over and press to flatten until it measures 10cm in diameter.
- Using a sharp knife, add cuts to the flattened dough as shown in the diagram below.
- Twist each piece to the left 90° so that the filling is visible and gently flatten to make the petal shape.
- Transfer the bun to the prepared baking sheet.
- Allow the buns to rise for 15 minutes (after the last one is shaped).
- Whisk the egg-yolk and water together and brush over the shaped buns.
- Scatter the black sesame seeds in the centre of each bun, and sprinkle the pale seeds over the ‘petals’.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden.
- Wrap in tea-towels and set on a wire to cool, to keep the crust soft.
There’s been a lot of traffic to the blog lately for Apple Rose Tarts – not sure whether it’s been the return to our screens of The Great British Bake Off or what, but it just goes to show that people like pretty things to bake.
So that got me thinking about how I could put a twist on the prettiness of the tarts but in another form
and shamelessly cash in on their popularity.
I’m a big fan of buns – buns don’t get half as much press as they should, in my opinion: more robust than a cupcake, less sugary sweet and much more satisfying. However, they can all too easily tip over into heavy, claggy lumps of stodge, thick with stickiness – which becomes a logistical nightmare to try and eat.
Playing with food is always fun – partly, I’m convinced, because it is so frowned upon. Diving into Pullapart Loaves, Bubble Bread, Monkey Bread, Tear and Share, Cinnamon Buns or Chelsea Buns – to name but a few – and pulling out a handful of warm, pillowy dough is not only delicious fun, but carries that little frisson of excitement of doing something a little bit NORTY. Still not too pretty a sight, though.
Here, then, is my solution – buns with all the fun of a pullapart, but still delicate and pretty. Soft petals of sweet bun dough gently folded around each other, interleaved with a sprinkling of tangy, lemony sugar and butter.
If you’re prone to the Homer Simpson drools when it comes to fresh-baked carbohydrates, you can, of course, stuff them in your mouth whole. And with buns still warm from the oven this certainly would have strong ‘mitigating circumstances’.
However, today we’re going for – or at least TRYING for – delicate, so picture yourself peeling off each delicious petal one by one and maybe dipping it into a little pot of creamy cream cheese lemon topping for a moment of decadent indulgence.
OK, before we start, there are a couple of Top Tips I’d like to bring up.
Top Tip 1: Using milk either wholly or in part, to mix your dough will make the resulting buns/rolls softer. The downside is that it also reduces their keeping qualities to a couple of days. Then again, who has home-made buns lying around after 2 days anyway?
Top Tip 2: To get even more of that pillowy softness, brush the hot just-baked buns/rolls with milk as soon as they come out of the oven and then cover with a clean cloth. The heat of the dough will turn the milk into steam and the cloth with keep the steam close, softening the rolls as they cool.
Top Tip 3: Dissolving sugar into warmed milk will give you a bun glaze that will dry with a nice sheen. NB The more sugar you add, the shinier (and therefore stickier) the finished effect will be.
Sweet Rose Buns – makes 12
250g strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast acting easy blend yeast
25g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
4tbs caster sugar
- Put the flour, yeast, sugar, butter, salt and egg into a food processor and blitz until well mixed. The mixture will resemble fine breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and make a well in the middle. If you have a stand mixer and a dough hook, then use that.
- Warm the milk.
- Add in the water and the vanilla to cool it to blood temperature. To test: stick your finger in it – if you can’t feel it, then it’s at the correct temperature.
- Add the liquid to the dry mix and bring together into a dough.NB It will be rather moist and soft, so if you’re kneading by hand, use a scraper on the surface to help you lift the dough as you knead it.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then set aside, covered, until doubled in size (about 45 minutes-1 hour).
- Grease a 12 hole bun/cupcake tin.
- Melt the butter. Have a pastry brush ready.
- Grate the lemon zest.
- Mix the lemon zest and sugar together.
- Tip out the risen dough onto a floured surface and pat down to press out the air.
- With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until very thin – just under 5mm. NB You will need to work quickly for the next part, because as soon as you stop rolling, the dough will start to rise again.
- Brush the sheet of dough with melted butter.
- Sprinkle the sugar/lemon mix evenly over the butter.
- Using a 5cm plain round cutter, cut out rounds of dough.
- Lay the dough out in rows of 7 circles, each circle of dough overlapping the previous one by half (see diagram).
- Using a pizza wheel cutter or sharp knife, cut along the mid-line of each row of dough as indicated. This will give you two sets of dough pieces, to make two rose shapes.
- Roll up from the left hand side and drop into one of the holes in the bun tin.
- Brush the finished rolls with beaten egg-white.
- Cover and set to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
- Mix the bun wash by mixing 2tbs caster sugar with 4tbs milk. Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved in the milk, otherwise your glaze will be grainy.
- Bake the risen buns for 15 minutes, turning the tin 180° after 10 minutes, to help get an even colour.
- Brush the hot buns with the bun wash and cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean cloth.
Lemon Cream Cheese Dip
100g cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon – use the one from the recipe
40g icing sugar
1 tbs milk – Optional
- Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
- Sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
- Add the lemon juice and beat again until smooth.
- If the mixture seems a little stiff, add in 1tbs milk to loosen it.
Bonus Post – Flower Tarts
As you know, I’m not great with decorating with fondant or sugar paste or anything like that. I don’t have the steady hands for delicate piping or the patience for sugar-work. I actually much prefer the dish itself to be its own decoration. So these little tarts are right up my street – especially as they require practically no skill whatsoever – Bonus for me!
I’m not including a recipe, because the picture pretty much speaks for itself – this is more of a decoration suggestion.
I blind baked some pastry cases in a mini muffin tin  – filled them with a vanilla creme patissiere (thick custard is fine) and topped them with a single, perfect berry.
The surrounding petals are made out of two rings of sliced almonds poked into the custard – how simple is that? *she says, channelling Ina*
Anyhoo – thought you might enjoy – so enjoy! 😀
 I highly recommend getting a pizza wheel if you haven’t already got one – even if you don’t eat pizza! They’re extremely useful for cutting cleanly without dragging/tearing – perfect for this recipe.
 Top Tip 4 To blind bake the mini pastry cases, use mini muffin cases to line your pastry cases and fill them with rice. So much easier than trying to get parchment or foil in there.