Plums, Memories and a Special Birthday
My father remembers that there would often be a plate of buchty waiting for him and his brother on the kitchen table when they came home from school in Prague. They would race in and grab one or two of the little buns which they considered to be the perfect snack: sweet dough wrapped around pitted and sugar-filled fruit.
Our mother used to make it every summer, first with apricots and then later with prune plums. I remember watching her make it ~ and loving the sweet scent of buchty baking ~ but I had never tried making it myself until this past week when my sister suggested it when we celebrated our father’s 99th birthday. It was his celebratory dessert one night, and then became his breakfast every day thereafter, until they were gone. I’d say that was a successful “birthday cake” and it was the one that gave me the most pleasure to make: kneading, shaping, intoxicating aroma, memories, all in one dish.
We did not have the old recipe, but I created one, using a sweet dough found on the internet that was written in grams, and improvising with the filling. There is enough dough to make 20 buchty, with some left over to roll into cinnamon buns. Freeze the remaining dough, if you like, then thaw it and make the buns another day.
3 c. all-purpose flour, plus @ 1 cup more when kneading
5 oz. (1/4 c. + 2 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 T. + 2 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. milk, lukewarm
1 1/2 T. instant yeast
1/4 t. salt
3 egg yolks, room temperature
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest
2 t. vanilla sugar (see note below)
20 prune plums
about 1/4-1/2 c. apricot jam (recipe here)
1 egg white, beaten
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. soft unsalted butter
icing sugar, for finishing
In a small bowl, mix 2 t. sugar into lukewarm milk, then add the yeast and stir. Let sit for 10 minutes to proof the yeast (to make sure that the yeast is active). In a medium bowl, mix 3 c. flour, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, then add proofed yeast mixture, then flour mixture. Add diced soft butter, lemon juice and zest and knead the dough until smooth, adding about 1 cup more of flour, or until the dough is soft and smooth and no longer sticky.
Place dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled.
Wash and pit the plums, leaving them in one piece, and fill with 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of apricot jam. Cut off 2″ pieces of dough, roll each into a ball, and then on a lightly-floured surface roll them into about a 4″ circle, about 1/3″ thick. Place the plum in the centre, bring the edges of the dough around it, and seal it well by pinching the dough together. Cut off any excess dough and place them, seam side down, in a large, buttered baking pan.
Brush surfaces with beaten egg white, sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and dot with softened butter.
Cover the pan and let rise for another 1/2 hour. Bake at 375ºF for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack, dust with icing sugar, and serve. Makes 20 buchty.
Note: The vanilla sugar that the recipe calls for can be easily made and kept on hand. Cut a vanilla pod in half lengthwise and bury it in a container of sugar. You can also use a pod from which you have already removed the seeds for something else, as you can see that I have done in the photo below. This will keep for a very long time, and the vanilla flavour will intensify. If you do not have any vanilla sugar for the buchty, you can just use regular sugar.