This is a recipe I tried and tested several months ago during our stay in Japan. I wanted to introduce our Japanese hosts to something quintessentially British, and since I was heavily absorbed in the new Great British Bake Off episodes at the time (a huge thank-you goes out to whoever uploaded them all to YouTube), iced buns immediately sprang to mind. I’m not in the slightest bit ashamed to say I love that show, although I’ve since discovered the French version, ‘Le Meilleur Patissier’, which almost puts it to shame. Anyway I probably shouldn’t admit to having watched British TV whilst staying in Tokyo…..but I suppose everyone misses home sometimes.
I could have kept it simple and made traditional iced fingers, but instead spruced them up a little. The Japanese are notoriously difficult to impress, so I chose to stuff my buns with a butterscotch cream, and glaze them with a fresh lime icing; both components were straightforward enough to make, and complimented each other almost perfectly. I borrowed the butterscotch sauce recipe from the ‘Smitten Kitchen’ blog; to this I just added whipped cream.
Iced bun dough itself is usually pale, soft and only semi-sweet; it’s the filling, normally cream-based, and the white icing, which give the fingers their notorious sweetness. I seem to remember our local bakery adding glacé cherries to the cream filling too; avoid indulging in too many of these if you want to avoid actual ‘fat finger’ syndrome.
For the bun dough (enough to make 6):
250g strong white flour
25g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, softened
1 medium egg
1 x 7g sachets instant yeast (or 15g fresh yeast)
1 tsp salt
75ml warm milk
For the lime icing:
200g icing sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2-3 tbsp water
For the butterscotch cream:
4 tablespoons butter
109g dark or light brown sugar
118ml double cream
2g sea salt
1 1/2 tsp good quality vanilla extract/paste, or 1 fresh pod, split
200ml double cream (approximately)
To prepare the butterscotch:
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan then add the sugar, cream (118ml) and sea salt. Whisk well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
2. Bring to a gently boil and cook for approximately 5 minutes, whisking from time to time.
3. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the vanilla. Taste the caramel (careful it will be extremely hot!) and adjust the seasoning – it may be necessary to add either more salt or more vanilla. Whisk well until completely smooth and glossy, then transfer to a clean bowl/container and leave to chill in the fridge.
4. Whisk up the 200ml double cream until it forms soft peaks. Pay attention not to over-whip, as it will be folded into the cold butterscotch sauce later.
5. When the sauce is completely cold, fold the whipped cream through it gently, little by little. If you desire a strong butterscotch flavour, you may want to hold back some of the whipped cream. The final consistency should be creamy and light, but still firm enough to pipe.
To prepare the fingers:
1. Start by making the bun dough – place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, holding back 1/4 of the water for the moment. Stir the mixture with your hands until it resembles a rough dough, then slowly add the remaining water. Bring the dough together in the mixing bowl by kneading gently.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise for at least 1 hour.
3. Use this time to prepare the butterscotch sauce, then leave to chill.
4. The dough should have doubled in size. Turn it out gently onto the table top and divide into 6 pieces, each about 70g in weight. Roll each piece into a ball, then extend the balls into fingers about 13cm long by placing the palms of your hands flat against the work surface and rolling back and forth.
5. Place the dough fingers onto a greased baking tray, leaving a small gap of about 1cm between each. The dough will expand, filling the gaps and connecting the buns in a line. Cover the entire tray lightly with cling film to prevent the dough from drying out, then set aside for at least 40 minutes to allow the buns to rise.
6. Preheat the oven to 220°C. When the fingers are well risen transfer to the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Transfer the line of buns to a wire rack to cool, without separating them just yet. Leave them to cool completely before gently tearing them apart, then either cutting or breaking them down the middle.
7. Fold the whipped cream through the butterscotch sauce to finish the filling.
8. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the freshly grated lime zest. Gradually stir in the lime juice, followed by a small splash of water to form a thick paste. If it’s a little too thick, add a drop more water. You could even add more lime juice if you prefer the flavour really pronounced.
9. Pipe or spread the butterscotch cream evenly down the centre of each cooled finger. Be as generous as you like, according to your taste. Now spread the lime icing across the top of your buns, not worrying too much if it drips down the sides.
My fingers were met with complaints – according to Adam, an iced finger should be split in half directly across the top lengthways, as opposed to sandwich-style along the side. I’ll leave the decision up to you – who am I to tell you how your fingers should be stuffed and served! I suppose it depends on where you come from. Cutting them along the side however, definitely makes the icing easier.