December 31: Hogmanay
Highlander grew up eating fruit cake, mince meat tarts and shortbread during the holiday season. Following Scottish tradition, he also snacks on slices of black bun during Hogmanay (Scottish word for “last day of the year”). The dessert gets its name from the dark and dense rich filling of raisins and currants. Moreover, ground black pepper is one of the dark spices included in the ingredients.
A popular tradition on Hogmanay, which is celebrated all night on new year’s eve until the wee hours of new year’s day, is “first-footing.” If a tall, dark-haired male is the first visitor to enter one’s home after midnight, he is considered the bringer of good luck in the coming year. The first-footer also brings presents, such as a coin, bread, salt, coal, whisky and, of course, black bun. These lucky gifts represent fortune, bounty, warmth and good cheer.
Celebrate the new year with a sweet Scottish black bun. Happy Hogmanay to all of our HI Cookery blog readers!
(Adapted from “Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking” by Carol Wilson and Christopher Trotter)
For the “bun” pastry
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened and cut into cubes
- cold water
Generously grease an 8-inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the cubes of butter. Mix with fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Moisten with enough water until a dough is formed. Roll into a ball.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough thinly, making sure it is large enough to line the pan with a little overhang. Trim excess dough and roll out another piece large enough to cover the top of the pan. Set aside and make the filling.
For the “black” filling
- 4 cups raisins
- 3 cups currants
- 1 ½ cups plain flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup almonds, chopped, sliced or slivered
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten (1 for the filling, 1 for the glaze)
- 1-2 tablespoons brandy
- 5 tablespoons milk
In a large bowl, combine the raisins with the currants. Mix in the flour and brown sugar.
Stir in the almonds. In a small bowl, combine the cream of tartar, allspice, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Mix the spices into the filling. Moisten with one beaten egg, brandy and milk.
Spoon the filling into the pastry, pressing down to pack it all in. Moisten the edges with a little water and cover with the remaining pastry. Trim with a knife as necessary. Press the edges to seal well.
Prick the top with the tines of a fork. Brush with egg glaze. Bake in a preheated oven at 225 degrees F for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Remove from the pan and wrap in foil. Store in an airtight container until Hogmanay.
When ready to serve, place onto a cutting board and slice to reveal the black filling.
- Black Bun is traditionally made several weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container to allow the flavors to develop and mature. Then it is served on New Year’s Eve and Day.
- See our shortbread recipes (traditional, chocolate and lemon) on January 6 (National Shortbread Day).