Bookends by Jane Green, quite possibly one of my favourite books, is about a group of friends from university who have continued to be friends now they've moved to London and got proper, grown-up, jobs. Well, all of them except one. Portia.
There is Cath, who works at an advertising agency but is ready to try something else. Si, who loves a bit of drama and bows down to the cooking queen that is Queen Delia. Then there is Posh Josh, who married Lucy after uni, who happily settled herself into the group of friends.
Portia, who they all radiated around at university, is now off the scene. Because, even though the group were established around her, she also drove a wedge through them by what she did with Josh and what she did to a girl called Elizabeth. And this is what Cath is remembering, along with the iced buns.
There was a fission of excitement running through the group of friends because Elizabeth is coming to their university town to stay with them for the weekend. They're all looking forward to meeting her. All of them, that is, except for Portia. Don't you want to meet her? asks Cath.
She could picture exactly where she was when she asked that question. She was in an old seaside cafe that would always be filled with either students or old ladies, eating iced buns, drinking tea or coffee. And she remembers asking that question – even though it didn't occur to her that Portia would have feelings other than joy at this girl, a great friend of one of their great friends, arriving.
For Cath, an iced bun reminds her of happy, carefree, student days and of her best friend, Portia, sitting in the cafe where they would chat and laugh. But it also reminds her of the distance that grew between them.
For me, these iced buns remind me of my childhood. And they are so simple to make.
Mixer with a dough hook would be great as it minimises kneading time. Of course, you can just use your hands. You also need 2-3 baking trays rubbed with cooking oil, and some cling film.
500g bread mix premium white (e.g Wrights)
100g caster sugar
250ml warm water
icing sugar, about 250g
- Tip the flour mix and sugar into the food mixer with dough hook and mix.
- Add the egg and enough water to make a dough.
- Mix until it is smooth for about 5 minutes. If using your hands to knead this will take slightly longer.
- Cover in cling film and allow to rise until doubled in size, in a warm place. About 1 – 2 hours.
- Knock the dough back, then divide into 18 pieces. You can either make them sausage shaped or in rounds.
- Place onto oiled baking trays and cover in oiled cling film.
- Leave to rise again.
- Once they've doubled in size, heat oven to 180c fan.
- Bake for 8 minutes or until golden. (They change colour very quickly on those last few minutes so be careful.)
- Remove and cool on a wire rack.
- Make icing sugar up according to instructions.
- Put icing on the top of each bun.