These tall-domed sweet bread-like buns are traditionally made with the must gathered in the first stage of fermentation in wine making. The dough is shaped in small buns and packed tightly together so that the buns rise upwards rather than sideways during baking. The mosbolletjies, which literally translated into English would mean “must buns,” were first introduced into the Cape in 1688 by the French Huguenots who settled in the winelands.
When fresh grapes are out of season, mosbolletjies are made using the fermented liquid drained from large seeded raisins, which are chopped and soaked in warm water. The traditional preparation of mosbolletjies is a lengthy three step process: preparing the must or fermented raisin liquid, making the sponge or yeast mixture, and finally the dough, a method which can take from 24 to 36 hours. Rich in butter or lard and flavoured with whole aniseed, the buns are brushed with an egg and sugar water glaze before baking to give them a golden sweet crust.
The time honoured tradition of making mosbolletjies needs to be preserved as increasingly bakers are turning to a quicker method by making mosbolletjies using a commercial yeast or baking powder and costs are cut by replacing butter or lard with vegetable margarine. Mosbolletjies made in the traditional way form a significant part of the history of the food and wine culture in South Africa, and the rich legacy of the French Huguenots who settled in the country.
Mosbolletjies are either eaten fresh, straight from the oven, broken apart by hand, never ever cut with a knife, and served spread thickly with butter and sweet jam or moskonfyt, a sweet grape jam; or preserved by drying them out in a warm oven overnight and then enjoyed with coffee as a mosbeskuit or rusk.