I’d never heard of dampfnudel before they appeared as the technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off bread week. Even the ones Paul Hollywood produced looked insipid. I only decided to try them because he promised the taste of an iced bun.
I didn’t have very high hopes that my dampfnudel would work. I’ve tried iced buns and no end of sweet doughy stuff and none of it ever seems to turn out very well. On top of this, the Great British Bake Off website says that they are, “incredibly difficult to bake.” What had I let myself in for?
I have to admit that I did cheat a bit. First, I didn’t knead by hand. Everything went into the KitchenAid, and the dough hook did all the work. Second, I used a lot more time than would have been available to the brave Bake Off contestants. I have absolutely no idea how they make anything in the time they’re given. Third and fourth, I didn’t make the fruit sauce or the custard. I still had some jam left over from the Viennese whirls. That would have to do.
I put strong white flour into a bowl and added caster sugar to one side and instant yeast to the other. I added milk, eggs and butter and stirred until the mixture came together. The recipe says you should do this with your fingers. I used a spoon. I kneaded it in the KitchenAid for about eight minutes. The dough is supposed to have a soft, smooth skin when its had enough kneading. I’m not exactly sure what a soft, smooth skin looks like on dough, but my mixture did seem pretty smooth, so I left it at eight minutes.
I added lemon zest and gave the dough a few more turns in the KitchenAid. I put the mixture into a bowl, covered it with cling film and left it to prove. The recipe says for about an hour, or until doubled in size. My dough was nowhere near doubled in size in an hour. In fact, by the time it had (at least two hours later), I had to go and pick Matthew up from school, so my dough doubled in size, then had another couple of hours before I could go back to it. Would it be overproved? Would anybody notice?
When I returned to the dough, I knocked the air out, carefully divided it into twelve equal pieces and rolled them into balls. They were a bit on the “informal” side, as Mary Berry would say, but they’d have to do.
I made the poaching liquid (butter, milk and sugar, heated until the sugar has dissolved) in a pan, put the buns in and left them for fifteen minutes. The recipe doesn’t say whether the lid of the pan should be on at this stage. I put it on on the basis that, when you’re leaving something to prove, you do usually cover it up. My buns expanded nicely in the fifteen minutes proving time, and, I’m pleased to say, retained a lot of their informal charm.
I put the pan over a medium heat on the hob (we have an induction hob and I put it at level four – that seems like medium to me, although I’m never sure). I gave them the full thirty minutes as per the recipe, and then a further eight without the lid. They turned out looking like this.
They weren’t particularly photogenic, but they did have the required caramelised bottom that you can’t really see on the picture, and they tasted really good. I was very pleasantly surprised. They were like teacakes (the afternoon tea type, not Tunnock’s) and were lovely with the Viennese whirl raspberry jam. They may look like a very poor, anaemic cousin of the iced bun, but, compared to all the other disasters I’ve had with sweetened dough, taste and texture-wise they stand out a mile. I may even try them again one day.