A classic Bohemian recipe, buchty are baked buns made of a yeast dough, containing a sweet filling, and brushed with a generous amount of melted butter. They’re one of the traditional Czech sweet pastries (like koláčky), sold in bakeries or made at home on weekends, and consumed with coffee or tea. But they’re also associated with one of the most famous Czech fairy tale characters: Český Honza (Czech Honza, also referred to as Silly Honza, Lazy Honza, or Poor Honza).
Many legendary dragon-slaying (and generally princess-loving) figures are portrayed as proven fighters with strong personalities. Siegfried, either the son of a king or a wandering warrior, bathed in the blood of his firedrake prey (and later married the princess Kriemhild). Saint George, a soldier, killed a dragon to save the king’s daughter from being offered as a sacrifice to the beast. Saint Michael, an archangel, no less, speared a maleficent serpent because it symbolized Satan (no princess was involved).
But Český Honza is more like Bilbo Baggins. An inherently lazy boy who spends his childhood in a cottage lying on a stove, he decides to leave his family home and see the world when adulthood comes. His mother doesn’t let him leave empty-handed, baking him buchty to take on his journey. Honza then shares the buns with other fairy tale characters he meets on the road, and eventually, in most versions of the story, he kills a dragon, and saves and marries a princess. Bilbo cannot claim the same.
But let’s get back to the kitchen… The recipe I’m offering below is quite traditional. My main goal here was to create a texture that’s as airy as possible while providing plenty of the buttery flavor for which buchty are known. In addition to a dough that’s leaning halfway towards the brioche end of the spectrum (which means more butter than most recipes), I’m generously brushing my buns with the golden fat not once, not twice, but three times!
Common buchty fillings include poppy seeds, farmers’ cheese, or plum povidla, a kind of preserves obtained by cooking fresh or dried fruits to the consistency of a spreadable paste. I’m going with the latter, but my version replaces long hours of cooking with just a few minutes of steeping and blending. I’m also adding some rum, cinnamon, and lime zest to pair with the dried plums; and to make the flavors a bit less in-your-face, I’m mixing my instant prune povidla with pastry cream.
Lastly, buchty are often finished with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, and so are mine, with a bonus hint of almond powder. Slaying the dragon and marrying the princess are optional.
Yields 9 buns
Total preparation: 4 hours 45 minutes
Active preparation: 1 hour
115 g milk, lukewarm
5 g active dry yeast
60 g sugar
80 g butter
310 g bread flour
4 g salt
75 g (about 1 1/2) eggs
- Pour half of the milk into a bowl. Stir in the yeast and about 1/10 of the sugar. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes.
- Melt the butter in the microwave and let cool for a couple of minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, remaining sugar, and salt. While mixing on low speed, add successively the remaining milk, melted butter, eggs, and yeast mixture. Continue mixing for 5 minutes, until the dough becomes sticky.
- Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.
- Punch down the dough, cover again, and let rise for another 45 minutes.
30 g (about 2) egg yolks
12 g sugar
6 g AP flour
110 g heavy cream
7 g pure vanilla extract
150 g pitted prunes, halved
0.1 g finely grated lime zest
1 g ground cinnamon
60 g black tea, hot
15 g dark rum
- In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar to a ribbon, then mix in the flour.
- In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Add the vanilla extract, then slowly pour over the egg yolk mixture while stirring. Return to the saucepan, and cook for 2 minutes over low heat, still stirring constantly, until the cream has thickened. Transfer the resulting pastry cream to a bowl placed over a larger bowl of iced water. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool.
- Meanwhile, place the prunes, lime zest, cinnamon, black tea (any kind, e.g., English Breakfast), and rum into a bowl. Microwave for 1 minute and let steep for 5 minutes.
- Transfer the prune mixture to a blender, process until smooth, and mix into the bowl with the pastry cream. Cover and refrigerate again.
55 g butter
AP flour, for dusting
5 g confectioners’ sugar
5 g almond powder
- Melt the butter in the microwave. Use some of it to grease a 20 cm wide square ring mold placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Reserve the rest of the butter.
- On a floured surface, roll the buchty dough to approximately 32 cm x 32 cm, then trim the edges to get a (nearly) perfect 30 cm wide square. Cut the dough into 9 equal squares of 10 cm each.
- Proceeding one bun at a time, place some prune filling (about 35 g) in the middle of each square of dough, then fold up the corners like a purse, and cut off the tip. Gently shape each finished bun between your palms, and place seam-side down in the mold on the baking sheet.
- Cover with plastic wrap and proof in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Place a dish of water on the bottom rack of a 160 C / 320 F oven.
- Uncover the buns and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown, brushing with butter again around halfway through. The internal temperature of the buchty should reach 85 C / 185 F.
- Take the buns out of the oven and brush with the remaining butter. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then unmold onto a cooling rack.
- Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond powder in a sugar shaker, and sprinkle the buchty with the tant pour tant (the pretentious name for the almond-flavored sugar). Eat the buns while they’re still warm.