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When French Huguenots moved to South Africa in 1688, they started using grape must as a raising agent (leavener). Must, along with anise seed, gives mosbolletjies a unique and subtle flavour, and because it rises slowly, it has a beautifully delicate texture.
The bulk rising, during which the dough should triple in volume, can take up to 36 hours, depending on the weather. After that the dough is knocked back and formed into balls, and allowed to rise again, before baking.
Mosbolletjies are best eaten fresh and still warm from the oven, served with butter and moskonfyt (must syrup made by reduced must). If you want to, you can also dry them in a warm oven, because they make wonderful rusks if dried.
For a small batch of two loaf pans:
- 300 gram grape must
- 1kg high grade flour
- 125 gram butter
- 160 gram sugar
- 200 gram milk
- 1½ teaspoons to 2 tablespoons anise seed, according to taste
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- Make the pre-ferment (also known as poolish): mix 300 gram high grade flour and the must together, cover, and allow to stand for a while, up to 3 hours.
- Heat the butter, sugar, and milk together in a bowl or saucepan. When the butter has melted, let it cool down again to room temperature.
- Add the rest of the high grade flour to the pre-ferment, and then then the anise seed, nutmeg, and salt. It is important to keep the salt away from the pre-ferment, which is why we add it last.
- Make a well in the flour, and add the butter and milk mixture and the egg into it. Mix well.
- Knead very well. You can use a bread maker if you have one: use two subsequent "pizza" cycles.
- Place the well-kneaded dough in a large container. We use our stock pot, and cover it with a lid and a blanket.
- Allow the dough to rise slowly, until it has doubled, or even better, tripled in volume. This is called bulk rising. Bulk rising can take 36 hours, or more if it is cold.
- When the dough has doubled or tripled in volume, knead it down.
- Form balls and place them into greased or lined loaf pans. We use two 20cm x 10 cm loaf pans, and arrange balls of dough, each weighing about 60 gram, in three rows of five balls each.
- Cover and let the balls rise, to at least double their original volume.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 180°C.
Pull the buns apart: they are delicious fresh from the oven, served with butter. If you have moskonfyt, you're in for a treat.
If you want to, you can dry them overnight in an cool oven (of about 80°C).
Although we love traditional methods and kneading can be good therapy, we use kitchen appliances to help us with the kneading. The recipe above is adapted, to make it suitable for mixers and bread machines that can knead up to 1 kg of dough.
If you have a large enough mixing bowl and would like to knead the dough by hand, here is the original recipe, from which our recipe was adapted.
From the book "A Culinary Visit to Stellenbosch"
- 2.5 kg cake flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon anise seed
- 3 cups (750 ml) sweet must - grape juice in it first stage of fermentation
- 250 gram butter
- 400 gram sugar
- 2 cups warm milk
- 2 eggs
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the must. Sprinkle a little flour on top, cover and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
Melt the butter and sugar in warm milk, and leave until lukewarm. Beat the eggs into the mixture. Add to the dry ingredients and knead well. Grease the top with a bit of melted butter, cover, and allow to rise overnight. Next morning, shape the dough into buns and pack them closely together so that they will rise high. Allow to rise to double and bake at 180°C. Break apart and dry.