The first reference to calling these little buns Chudleighs (which happens to be a small town in Devon) is in the collections of Florence White, founder of the English Folk Cookery association during the 1920’s. There was a famous bake house in Mill Lane in Chudleigh that burnt down in 1807 but there are no references to link it with the recipe. It is more than likely that buns became associated with the town name because they made particularly good ones there, but we have only the name to prove it.
They are also known as Devon (or Cornish) Splits, the use of the word split simply describing a bun or roll that has been split to be filled.
In Devonshire, my lovelies, this can only mean ‘to be filled with clotted cream’ and home-made jam. Shaun, the baker at the farm shop at Powderham Castle made them for the food festival shoot we did last week as they are the early form of scone, and scones are Devon’s signature tea cake. Older recipes called for the use of cream, later ones use milk, but all use yeast to rise not self-raising flour like scones. If you eat them with cream and treacle they are known at ‘thunder and lightening’ and are wickedly good.
I’ve used this recipe below by Florence White but I halved the quantity as three pounds of flour seemed excessive unless I was having a Chudleigh party and I used dried yeast because I live in the middle of nowhere and do not have fresh at hand.
1 1/2 1b 680g 5 1/4 cups flour
1/4 lb butter 115g 1 stick
1 oz lard 30g
1/2 gill full fat milk 70 ml 1/3 cup
1/2 tsp salt I teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 pint warm water 142ml 2/3 cup ( I needed to add 2 tablespoons more)
- Put yeast in basin with sugar, then add warm water and add a tablespoon of flour.
- Cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place (I did the same with dried yeast but I only left it for 5 minutes as it is fast acting)
- Put milk/cream, butter and lard in a sauce pan to get warm.
- Warm the flour and put in a mixing bowl. Warming flour was a popular instruction when flour was kept in cold pantries, warm flour helps the yeast to wake up. I warmed my flour in a low oven for a few minutes.
- Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk etc., and yeast mixture.
- Mix all into a nice soft dough and put to rise as before.
- When well risen, (in one hour) knead and place on the baking tin in small rounds and let them rise again. (1/2 an hour). I made twenty Chudleighs.
- Then bake in a moderate oven.
- Take out and rub all over while hot with slightly buttered paper to give them gloss.
10. Place them in a warm blanket or cloth, and cover lightly with the same. This makes the outside soft instead of crisp.
Warming flour was a popular instruction when flour was kept in cold pantries, warm flour helps the yeast to wake up. I warmed my flour in a low oven for a few minutes, I also added the salt at this point which is missing from the instructions. The melted butter, milk and lard mixed in easily but I had to add a little more milk to make it ‘nice and soft’. The dough doubled in an hour and I kneaded it like any bread, the texture was springy and it felt like it was rising in my hands. The butter and lard made it easy to bring together but it was a little difficult to make into perfect rolls as the dough was so elastic. The rolls took 1/2 an hour to rise again and probably would have risen more but Chudleighs are not meant to be large so I popped them in my moderate aga and they took 25 minutes. I then buttered them with paper but the butter sank straight in rather than making them glossy. Finally, I wrapped them in a warm cloth, put them in a basket, zipped the basket into a rucksack, and we went on a walk along the river to Fingle Bridge.
The lovely aroma of bread wafted behind us, causing a lot of dog action from other walkers. We stopped for a picnic and out came the clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Chudleighs were to be tested by the severest critics – three little girls aged between 9 and 11 who, having been brought up in Devon, are nobody’s fools when it comes to a proper cream tea.
I bought some treacle too as I wanted to test ‘Thunder and Lightening’ on the kids. This combo was considered far too sweet (though I loved it and I normally don’t go for really sweet things) and strawberry jam was declared the winner as it made a tart contrast with the cream.