I’ve mentioned in a previous entry that I currently have an odd fixation on Scots food and culture. I am not quite sure who or what to blame for this, but perhaps the following picture may give us all a clue:
My current favorite actor is Scotsman James McAvoy who, apart from playing a chef in the Beeb’s rehashed version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is quite the foodie. The man cooks, he trained as a baker (a confectioner, actually, but…) to put himself through school, and he pores over recipes online. (Which is kind of nerve-wracking for a food blogger because you’d end up paranoid: Is Mr. McAvoy reading my blog?!?)
At the same time, I was reading through one of my cookbooks and flipped to a brief essay on the breads of Scotland. While baps, Melrose loaves, and bannocks (barley or Selkirk) sounded interesting, what really got my attention were the Aberdeen buttery rowies.
According to Ingram and Shapfter’s Bread, rowies (or butteries, depending on which part of Scotland you’re from, I think) are described by Scots bakers as akin to croissants for the basic reason that the ingredients and techniques used for both breads are practically the same. However, while croissants have a characteristic crescent moon shape (hence the name), rowies are usually either round or oval. They are also lighter than croissants and have a slightly saltier, more savory taste.
I confess that I’m a sucker for croissants and I’ve been yearning to try and make them at home. Unfortunately, numerous people have told me time and again that baking croissants in a home kitchen in a tropical country is an impossibility. Unless, according to them, one’s kitchen has airconditioning, the climate is just too darned humid for making croissants via the classic butter lamination method.
So, early this week, I asked a Scots friend of mine if his local baker sold rowies in the summer. He said the baker did – but, then again, summers in Scotland aren’t exactly warm. Oops…
But, as the old saw goes, where there’s a will, there’s got to be a way. A quick Google search dug up this recipe for Aberdeen buttery rowies – courtesy of the BBC’s Hairy Bikers. Si King and David Myers shot episode 27 of their show The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – a region famous for its oats, the famed Aberdeen Angus beef, venison, and – of course – the eponymous buttery roll. It looked easy enough – and you know how I get when something looks easy enough: I go for it! Of course, I had to do a bit of tweaking since I was using salted butter and lard isn’t exactly commercially available in these parts.
If you’re not the patient or the persevering sort, this is not the recipe for you. Because of all the dough-folding and butter-dabbing (or smooshing, depending on how humid it is where you are) involved, it isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you’re the type who’s willing to try anything once, then feel free to try your hand at baking these gorgeous-tasting little rolls.
The texture of the outside and the overall flavor will remind you of pie crust – and exceptionally good pie crust at that. Richly buttery with the right nip of saltiness and the insides good and fluffy, these are perfect as either dinner rolls paired with a tomato-sauced pasta or a roast with gravy. They’re even better as breakfast buns either with more butter, clotted cream and mango or peach preserves, or – my personal favorite – Nutella and sliced bananas.
Aberdeen Buttery Rowies
- 500g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 packet fast-acting yeast
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon sea salt or coarse rock salt
- 350mL hand-hot water
- 275g salted butter, softened
- 100g vegetable shortening or margarine
Combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the water. Mix until a shaggy mess is achieved. Dust your hands with flour and knead for 8 – 10 minutes. Cover with a clean dishcloth and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for an hour.
Punch out the risen dough and knead for an additional 2 minutes. Roll out into a 1cm-thick rectangle on a floured surface.
Cream together the butter and vegetable shortening. Divide into four portions. Spread 1/4 of the butter mixture on the lower 2/3 of the rolled-out dough. Fold the upper third of the dough over the center. Fold the bottom third over it. Turn the rectangle so that the shorter end faces you. Roll out to 1cm-thickness and repeat the process. Repeat the folding and buttering until all the butter mixture has been used up.
Roll out the buttered dough to 1cm-thickness. Divide into 20 portions. Roll these portions into balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Cover and allow to rise an additional 30 – 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6.
Bake the risen rolls for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.
Makes 20 rolls.
These rolls are excellent with either a hot cafe au lait or tea with real cream. Watching a James McAvoy film (The Last King of Scotland, anyone?) or anything with Sir Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, or Gerald Butler while eating would make it yummier, I think. Rather distracting, but yummy nevertheless. ;D