Yes, you need that many raisins, so stick to the recipe!
I have been making raisin buns for quite a while now, and I think I have tweaked and tried the recipe to my satisfaction. Raisin buns are called ‘krentenbollen’ in Dutch, although they are usually made with a combination of raisins and currants (‘krenten’ means currants (for a lecture on the difference between currants and raisins, see end of this post)). I usually make double the amount of this recipe. The buns keep wonderfully well in the freezer and you can give them a quick ‘pick me up’ in the microwave, have some fresh butter at hand (also good without though) and away you go. But nothing can beat eating them slightly warm, fresh from the oven of course. The following recipe is a slightly ‘tuned down’ version of the one I use myself, because I work with prefermented dough and different types of flour etc. But if you want to try raisin buns for the first time, this recipe is a great point to start.
Before you start!
You need to prepare a so called ‘sweetener’ which gives the raisin bun dough it’s distinctive and pleasant taste. For this you mix 40 grams of sugar with the zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and one unwaxed orange. You can store this mixture in your fridge, it will keep for a long time. You also have to wash and soak your raisins. First wash them and then leave them for 10 minutes in warm water. Rinse with cold water and leave to dry on a plate for two days (cover them against dust). If you do not want to wait two days, or you forgot, just drain them well and roll them lightly in flour before using. The amount of raisins used is usually the same as the amount of flour used. It seems like a lot, but you need this amount to get a good raisin bun so you do not ‘have to bicycle from one raisin to the next’ as we say. As you make them more often, you will come to your own preferred amount.
Note: if you use American bread flour you probably need 3 to 5 % more milk than we use with our European flour.
Ingredients for the Raisin Buns
makes 12 raisin buns
400 g bread flour / all purpose flour / French type 55 flour
40 g fresh yeast or 14 grams instant yeast
8 g salt
50 g fresh dairy butter
1 egg yolk
220 g milk
10 g sweetener (sugar and lemon/orange zest mix, see ‘before you start’))
400 g raisins, washed and soaked (you can also use a mixture of raisins and currants)
Making the Raisin Buns
Make the dough with all the ingredients (except the raisins) and with 170 g of the milk. Then gradually add the rest of the milk and knead the dough until well developed. If you are using fresh yeast, first dissolve it in some of the milk, before adding it to the other ingredients. With a KitchenAid type mixer, mix for about 8 to 10 minutes, by hand it will take about 15 minutes of good kneading. Make sure the dough is not too sticky or too dry. Aim for a bit tacky, which means that when you poke the dough with your dry finger it should stick for a second but then peel of as you remove your finger. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Then add the raisins and ‘pinch’ them through the dough very carefully by hand, so they are evenly distributed. If you are lucky enough to own a spiral mixer, you can use that instead and it will only take one minute to add the raisins. If not, just do the work by hand.
Shape the dough into a ball, transfer to a greased bowl, cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Now press the dough down with both hands into a flat disc, roll it up tightly, cover it and again leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and make rolls. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Now press the rolls with your hand until slightly flat and round the dough again into a smooth ball.
Place the rolls on a baking tray covered with a baking sheet (we use our reusable thin fiber baking mats).
Now the rolls are ready for their final proofing. Loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Depending on your room temperature and the temperature of the dough this should take at least 1 hour, but more likely 1.5 hours or even more. Just be patient and check regularly. When you think it has risen enough, use your finger to carefully make a very small dent in the dough. If the dent remains, the bread is ready to bake, if the indentation disappears, the dough needs a little bit more time (10 to 15 minutes).
During the proofing process preheat your oven to 200 ºC /390 ºF conventional setting. At what point you do this depends on the oven you use. Most ovens need between 10 and 30 minutes. Our stone oven needs around 1.5 hours for the stones to heat through.
When ready place the buns in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. They should have a nice golden brown shine. You can brush the tops with some melted butter while the buns are still warm, this way they also stay softer and get extra taste. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Eat with fresh butter!
Note: The difference between raisins and currants
Dark raisins: These are the most common variety found in most markets, usually made from Thompson seedless grapes. Although they start as green grapes, the fruit naturally darkens as it dries.
• White or golden raisins: These are also called muscats and are generally made of white muscat grapes which are seeded, specially oven-dried (rather than by sun), and treated to retain their light color. Some golden raisins are dried Thompson seedless raisins which have been kept light by the use of sulfur dioxide.
• Sultanas: More popular in Europe, these raisins come from a seedless yellow grape and are usually softer and sweeter than other varieties. The American variety of sultana grape is the Thompson seedless.
• Currants: Although there is a gooseberry relative known as the currant, the dried currant raisin is actually made from Black Corinth grape called Zante. They are tiny, seedless, and very sweet but do bear a resemblance to the currant berry. The name confusion comes not only from the currant raisin’s similar appearance to the currant berry, but also due to the similarity of the sounds of the fruit names, ie., currant sounds like Corinth, the variety of grape. Tiny dried currants are extremely sweet and aromatic. (source Wikipedia)