In Cornwall, a cream tea was traditionally served with 'Cornish Splits' rather than scones. Cornish splits are little yeast-leavened bread rolls, they are split when still warm and first buttered, then spread with jam before topping it with a generous dollop of clotted cream. Sometimes Treacle would be used instead of jam, this combination goes by the name of a 'Thunder and lightning' and although I'm not a big fan of treacle straight from the tin, it tasted -and the name sounded- rather good!
The splits are only baked for a short while and when removed from the hot oven, the little warm splits are then piled up in a tea towel, rubbed with a little butter before being covered by another tea towel so they don't develop a crust.
I haven't found any earlier reference to a Cornish split than the receipt in on of my favourite books 'Good things in England' published in 1932 by Florence White, a delightful collection of 853 regional English recipes dating back as far as the 14th century.
With findings of evidence at Tavistock Abbey in Devon it is believed that the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam existed in the 11th century. In Devon a similar bun is served with cream and jam, going traditionally by the name of a Devon Chudleigh as noted by Florence White and Elisabeth David Chudleighs are made the same manner as the Cornish split, only smaller. Devonians however tell me that the 'Devon split' -as it is called now- is in fact a lighter and more luxurious white bun rather than heavy scone-like bread as the Cornish version.
The Cornish split is a rare treat these days but as they are best eaten while still a little warm from the oven, you get the best split by baking them at home.
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Although Elisabeth David doesn't use lard in her recipe from her book English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Florence White does and I think it ads to the taste. This recipe is somewhere in between the recipe of David and White using all milk instead of a mixture between milk and water. I also added an extra spoon of sugar to feed the yeast.
What do you need
- 14 g dried yeast (2 packs)
- 2 teaspoons of fine caster sugar
- 355 ml tepid full fat milk
- 115 g unsalted, good quality butter
- 30 g lard
- 750 g strong white flour
- 1 heaped teaspoon seasalt
- Cream the yeast and the sugar in a little of the tepid milk.
- Melt the butter and the lard, when most of the butter and lard have melted take of the fire and stir until all the lumps are gone. Be careful not to let the butter and lard get too hot so it burns.
- In a large bowl combine the butter and lard with the flour, the salt and half the milk.
- Add the yeast and combine.
- Add the rest of the milk to create a dough, take it out of the bowl and onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes - it is important you do it for exact 10 minutes.
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper or if you don't have baking paper just grease with butter
- When the dough has doubled in size, knead it again to turn it into a long sausage.
- Divide into 40-50 g pieces so all buns have the same size
- Roll into balls and place evenly spaced on the baking tray that you have prepared
- Leave the buns to prove until they have doubled in size
- Preheat your oven to 220° C and bake the buns for 20 minutes
When you remove them from the oven Florence White recommends you rub them over with some butter and then wrap them in a tea towel to cool so they don't develop a crust.
You can keep these little buns for 4 days in an airtight container. Before use, place in a hot oven with a small container of water for 6 minutes. Then wrap in a tea towel as before.
Enjoy with clotted cream and jam, treacle, or why not go for savoury with the old school favourite egg and cress.
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