Flor’s famed all-fat sultana-studded pastry
“All of the fats.” It’s not exactly the sort of one-liner you’d expect in response to a request for a cake description, is it? There’s no image management here; no affectations of healthy goodness; no pretending that this plump, darkly golden pasty is enriched with vitamins, minerals or anything other than butter and pork fat. But then, it’s a lardy bun. The clue’s in the name.
The clue, too, is in the no-frills, bare-all nature of Flor—now in its third month at Borough Market. Best known for those prawn heads, the bakery and restaurant has also been known to dish up pigeon with the talons still attached and its menu is rarely without offal of some description. Its co-owner, James Lowe, is a smart, straight-talking chef who calls a spade a spade and a liver a liver—so hardly surprising that his pastry chef Anna calls a lardy bun a lardy bun. Her heartily honest approach to baking is a delectable riposte to our prevailing tendency to justify every treat we have with fervent exclamations of “we earned this” or “look, raisins! One of our five!”
Old school baking
In fact, Flor’s lardy buns are as steeped in history as they are in their eponymous grease, as Anna proceeds to tell us. “Old school baking involved animal fat like lard frequently—it would’ve been cheaper than butter, in the day.” Lardy cake, the lardy bun’s predecessor, is a spiced and sweetened dough enriched with lard and dried fruit. Flor’s lardy buns “are made with our croissant dough, rolled out and spread with pork fat, brown sugar and mace, then scattered with tea-soaked raisins,” Anna continues, the buttery croissant adding a certain je ne sais quois to the traditional British melange.
“The dough is rolled up, baked, then glazed in a mace spiked caramel”—hence the bronze sheen, which demands you eat the bun in a single sitting, away from your keyboard. The result is very sticky, spicy; rich and buttery. Yet—perhaps thanks to the croissants?—peculiarly light. When we ask Anna if we should have black tea with the bun “to counteract the fattiness” she looks blank. “Not necessarily. Why not have milk, if you want it? Get another fat in there.” It’s Friday, the weather’s been foul, and the week’s long. But really, the only ‘excuse’ you need for going the whole hog today is that you can.