Jane Austen's Favourite Bath Buns Recipe

Elaine Lemm
  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 12 Servings (serves 12)

Bath Buns are a lovely sweet enriched yeast dough bun synonymous with the city of Bath in south-west England. Bath is also the city of Jane Austen, the world famous author.

Jane Austen was only too familiar with Bath Buns. She often found it necessary to sneak them surreptitiously into her room to augment the rather meagre meals given by her well-meaning but rather stingy Aunt Leigh Perrot, according to the Jane Austen Society.

Here she addresses her sister, Cassandra

"Your going I consider as indispensably necessary, and I shall not like being left behind; there is no place here or hereabouts that I shall want to be staying at, and though, to be sure, the keep of two will be more than of one, I will endeavour to make the difference less by disordering my stomach with Bath buns; and as to the troyle of accommodating us, whether there are one or two, it is much the same:"
Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1801.

This modern recipe uses Caraway seeds and crumbled sugar to create a lighter version of the famous bun. Serve them warm, split and spread with salty butter and you will understand just why Jane loved them so much. 

What You'll Need

  • 4 oz./15g butter (unsalted, at room temperature)
  • 1 lb/450g flour (strong, white)
  • 1.4 tsp./7g sachet of instant yeast
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 1 cup/230mL milk (luke-warm)
  • 2 large eggs (free range)
  • 1 tablespoon Caraway seeds (generous portion)
  • For the Glaze:
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • For the Topping:
  • 3 sugar cubes (white, roughly crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon Caraway seeds

How to Make It

  1. In a large baking bowl, rub the butter into the flour. Once you have created a crumbly mixture, add the yeast on one side of the bowl, the salt and sugar on the opposite side (it is not good for the yeast to come into direct contact with the salt). Stir thoroughly.   
  2. Add the milk to the lightly whisked eggs, and pour this into the bowl with the caraway seeds.  
  3. Then, using either your hand or a wooden spoon, mix really well to create a sticky dough.
  1. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 – 8 minutes (you can do this part in a mixer with a dough hook if you have one).
  2. Put the dough to rise in a large, covered bowl until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
  3. Once the dough has doubled, tip back onto the floured surface and flatten lightly into a round.  Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces, roll each into a ball and place onto a baking sheet covered with greaseproof paper or a non-stick mat.​
  4. Cover the tray with a damp tea towel and leave to rise again for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
  6. Generously brush the risen buns with the glaze, then bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes (depending on your oven). The buns should be golden brown plus light and hollow when tapped on the bottom.  
  7. Remove from the oven and then place the buns onto a cooling rack. Paint on the milk and sugar coating while still warm and immediately sprinkle on the Caraway seeds–you may want to gently press them into the glaze to prevent them slipping off. Repeat with the sugar bits.
  8. These buns are lovely eaten warm, cut and spread with a salty butter.