The Kentish Huffkin is a traditional bread roll with a dimple in the middle popular in Kent, UK. Originally baked for the cherry pickers, who would eat their huffkin with jam and a dollop of cream.
I’m always fascinated by historic recipes and their stories and this one is no different. The first huffkin was baked by a farmers wife from Faversham who baked it for their cherry pickers.
The idea is that the thumb indentation in the middle of the roll is to hold a cherry from a cherry jam (so that it doesn’t roll out as you eat it).
I’ve started to make this recipe about 10 years ago, when I was researching local recipes for my bread baking class. The Kentish Huffkin rolls were a great hit with my students, so I thought I’d share it with you here too.
Kentish Huffkins history background
From what I can understand, the roll, although not very sweet itself was ment to be eaten with fruit jam and cream. These days, I’ve seen in local Kent pubs served instead of bread with Ploughman’s lunch and eaten with cheese, meats and other savoury fillings.
The Kentish Huffkin history goes back to the 16th century, when the King Henry VIII become fond of cherries when visiting France and wanted to have the same cherries in England.
The land around Faversham in Kent was suitable for growing cherries (which need quite a lot of sun), so the King decided to give the land to a local knight called Richard Harry, so that he can grow cherries for him.
Over the years the cherry growing become very important for Kent and each year the farmers needed a large amount of people to come and pick the cherries.
There was not enough labour locally, so many people arrived from London to work on the farms for few weeks in the summer.
These cherry pickers were usually women and older children from poor areas of London. As much as work, this was a welcome break for them from the smoke and dust of London and the families would come year after year for their ‘annual holiday’!
The main difference from other types of bread rolls is the use of plain flour instead of bread flour in this recipe.
You can also use a blend of plain or low gluten or naturally gluten free white flours such as lupin flour or potato flour. I would add a maximum of 10-20% of gluten free flour to the regular white plain flour mix to make sure that your dough structure still works.
Plain flour has less gluten in (or less strong gluten) than bread flour, which means that the roll is deliciously soft and light.
Because the roll is fairly flat, the gluten is not that necessary to provide structure, so this is an ideal recipe to use if you have any leftover plain flour (or you run out of bread flour).
Milk & Water Mixture
To make up the dough, you’ll need a mixture of milk and water. To make the dough a bit richer you can use just milk, but if you are either running out of milk or want to save a bit, use 50% water and 50% milk.
Any milk will do. My guess is that because this recipe was originally made by a farmer’s wife they had plenty of leftover milk, which she mixed with water to make the milk go a bit further.
She might also add the milk in because the rolls were for children as well as adults (women mainly) and milk was added to bread because of the calcium (to make the rolls or bread more nourishing for the children).
You can use plant based milk with this recipe, if you want to make these rolls for your vegan friends, but bear in mind that some milks (like coconut or even soya) are quite strong flavour wise. I’d probably go with something like oats milk.
Butter makes these rolls extra soft and it also adds a very creamy texture and delicious flavour. Traditionally, you would use lard with this recipe, because it was cheaper. These days, you’ll probably have a butter in your fridge rather than a lard, so just use that.
If you don’t have butter or want to keep this recipe vegan friendly, leave it out all together. The recipe will still work, it will just change flavour slightly.
This recipe is originally quite sweet because it ment to be eaten with jam. If you prefer to eat your Huffkins with cheese or meats, add less sugar (or leave it out all together).
Few tips on making this recipe
The Kentish Huffkin recipe itself is fairly simple, it’s not much different to a white bread recipe in terms of dough structure, shaping and baking.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces (weigh them if you are not sure). Shape them like a rolls to start off, then flatten them slightly and leave them to rise for the second time.
Just before they are ready to go to the oven, make a deep thumbprint in each roll.
I’ve previously made about 6 very large huffkins (probably too big!), so now I divide the dough into about 8 pieces. The final size ment to be around the size of a bagel.
The baking time will depend on the size of your huffkins. Smaller ones will be baked within 15 minutes, but if you prefer large ones they might need extra 5 minutes.
Your oven should be a a constant 220C or even lower if you want your rolls to be golden rather than brown in colour.
Keeping your rolls soft
To make your huffkins nice and soft, cover them with a clean teatowel (or even plastic) when then come of from the oven.
Put them on a cooling rack and cover with tea towel. This helps the steam to escape at the bottom (which keeps baking the huffkins), whilst the steam that’s escaping from the top bounces back to the dough and keeps it nice and moist.
These rolls can be easily made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months.
They usually last about 3 days and they keep soft. When they are getting to the end of their shelf-life you can always toast them. They are delicious with butter and jam or savoury homemade butter with herbs and patte.
Kentish Huffkins Recipe
- 7 grams instant yeast one sachet
- 220 ml warm fresh milk mixed with water
- 450 grams plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar (less for savoury option)
- 50 grams lard or butter
- Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl and rub in the lard or butter.
- Make a well in the centre, then pour in the warm milk.
- Mix everything well together to form a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.
- Turn out onto an oiled kitchen surface and kneed well for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Place in a clean bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
- Leave to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces, depending on how big you want them to be.
- Roll each dough piece into a firm roll first and then slightly flatten.
- Place on greased baking sheets, giving each huffkin plenty of space.
- Lightly dust with more flour.
- Cover and leave for about half an hour until double in size.
- Heat the oven to 220C/435F/Gas 7
- Just before putting the huffkins in the oven, make a deep thumbprint in each roll.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown.
- Wrap in a warm clean tea towel (this helps keep the crust soft) and leave to cool.