Ħobża ta’ San Martin is a sweet mildly spicy soft bun that makes the traditional bag (borża) of St. Martin complete.
On the Sunday nearest to November 11th, Maltese celebrate St. Martin. Traditionally, for this feast children are given a string cloth bag filled with in season fruits and nuts together with some sweets and a sweet bun; popularly known as ‘il-Borża ta’ San Martin’ which translates to St. Martin’s bag. Although in the past it was customary to give this to children by placing the bag on their bedside, unfortunately nowadays this practice has diminished abundantly. However, teachers are still keeping this tradition alive as most schools still provide this bag full of treats annually to the children.
What goes in the borża?
A guide to tell you what goes inside, is in the Maltese rhyme that children sing during this time:
“Ġewz, Lewż, Qastan, Tin, Kemm inħobbu lil San Martin” – Walnut, Almonds, Chestnuts, Figs, How much I love St. Martin
Therefore, the bag is filled with shelled walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, dried figs, in season fruit such as; apples, oranges, tangerines and pomegranates, and lastly the sweet San Martin bun. Also, additional sweets can be included.
Ħobża ta’ San Martin
St. Martin’s bun is a sweet soft bun spiced with aniseed which has a sugar glaze on the outside and a liquorice pastel placed on top in the middle. As soon as November hits, you’ll see bakers and shops selling this sweet bun, so that people start preparing their borża or else to enjoy this little in season treat. Personally, this bun has always been my favourite part of the traditional borża ta’ San Martin, and as a child I always begged my mother to get me more than one bun.
As I’ve been away from Malta for a while now, I haven’t had this bun in ages. This year, encouraged by the idea of sharing its recipe with you in this blog, I decided to give this a go and actually do the bun myself. At first it wasn’t an easy task, as the first hurdle I encountered was finding the liquorice pastels! Even though in Luxembourg they love their liquorice it was almost impossible to find these typical cylindrical shaped ones in the shops, but luckily online shopping exists! To achieve the soft light and airy bun, took me several tries but finally I managed to perfect it and can’t be more proud of how these turned out! 🙂
Hope that you manage to make a borża ta’ San Martin for your children or for yourself as I did 😉
Ħobża ta’ San Martin (St Martin’s Sweet Bun)
- 400 g bread flour
- 75 g butter room temperature
- 90 g sugar
- 250 ml milk lukewarm
- 1 sachet yeast 11g
- 1 tsp whole aniseeds
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Syrup and decoration
- 20 ml water
- 20 g sugar
- sesame seeds
- liquorice pastels
- In a small bowl mix the lukewarm milk, yeast and 15g of sugar. Let the mixture foam for about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix the flour and the butter until you get a crumbly texture. Once ready add all the remaining ingredients together and knead the dough for about 15 minutes.
- Cover the dough and let it rest for an hour in the warmest place in your kitchen until it doubles in size.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Once the dough is ready, punch it down and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and form into balls.
- Place the buns on the tray keeping a good amount of space between each one. Cover and let rise for another 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 390°F. Make the syrup by mixing together the water and sugar.
- Before placing the buns into the oven, brush them with the syrup and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the bun have a nice golden brown colour.
- As soon as you take them out of the oven, place a liquorice pastel in the middle of the bun. Let the buns rest and enjoy!
- Ideally, the buns are to be served on the same day or the day after as they dry out easily.
- You can also cook them in an air fryer: 170°C or 340°F for 8 minutes.
- Don’t forget to include these buns in your St Martin’s bag of treats 🙂
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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