Dorset Wiggs are baked buns traditionally flavoured with the ‘older’ type of spices, spices often found in Medieval, Tudor and Stuart recipes: cloves, mace and nutmeg. They make great buns to cut in half, toast and then spread with a little butter, traditionally eaten this way in Dorset for breakfast. From the famous diary of Samuel Pepys we also know that on Good Friday in 1664 he ate ‘wiggs’ but rather than for breakfast he had them just before he went to bed, with some ale, which he called a ‘Lenten supper’ – “So home to dinner, and had an excellent Good Friday dinner of peas porridge and apple pye … then to walk in the garden with my wife, and so to my office a while, and then home to the only Lenten supper have had of wiggs and ale, and so to bed.”
This recipe comes from: ‘Favourite Dorset Recipes’, by Amanda Persey, published by J Salmon Ltd., and printed in 1993. “These rich, spiced buns are traditionally served at breakfast time”. The weights and measures have been adapted for the modern kitchen and the method expanded.
Dorset Wiggs Recipe
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 15g of dried active yeast (or 30g fresh yeast)
- 300ml warm milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 60g butter, softened
- 60g caster sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
In a jug pour in the warm milk, a tsp of sugar and stir in the yeast to activate it – leave it for 5 to 7 minutes in a warm room. Over the five minutes the yeast will start to multiply and froth up the top of the warm milk.
In a large mixing bowl sift in the flour and the ground spices – rub in the softened butter until the flour resembles fine breadcrumbs – then stir in the caraway seeds and the caster sugar. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
After 7 minutes, when the yeast in the milk is fully activated, pour it into the well in the dry ingredients and then add the beaten egg.
Using a wooden spoon bring all the ingredients together to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. If it is too wet add in a little extra flour, if it is too dry add in a little extra milk.
Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and start kneading the dough for about 4 minutes. Kneading dough is a ‘push-pull’ technique to break the gluten and starches down in the flour.
Kneading Technique: Dorset Wiggs do not require as much ‘strenuous’ kneading as normal bread – hold one end of the dough with one hand and then with the palm of your other hand push the dough away from you, stretching it gently out a small way. Once stretched (without breaking the dough) pull the dough back in and over with your fingers into a bigger lump once more. Give the dough a quarter turn then repeat. Giving the dough a quarter turn before stretching it back out works all of the dough over the 4 minutes and stretches the gluten out in different directions.
If sticking to the work surface or the dough is a little wet sprinkle over a little extra flour, it will probably need a few casts of extra flour over the 4 minutes, but do not over do it as too much extra flour will make the buns tough.
When ready the dough will become satiny and elastic, and when pressed with a finger tip the indentation in the dough will rise back out. Form the dough into a large ball, place it back in the floured bowl, cover with a clean, light cloth in a warm room until the dough has almost doubled in size – this could take up to 2 to 3 hours (depending on the temperature of the room).
Grease a flat baking sheet with a little butter.
Once the dough has nearly doubled in size take the dough out of the bowl and shape it into 6 large flat buns – place them on the greased baking tray and leave for a further 30 minutes so the buns can rise for a second time.
Preheat the oven to 230C
Once the buns have been allowed to rise for a second time bake them in the oven for the first ten minutes at 230C then turn the oven down to 200C. Bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes until golden.
Remove them from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack once baked.
Serve warm or toasted – sliced in half and buttered.