Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a delicious paschal tradition. When we were living in seminary, they were provided on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to break the severe fast. Although my fasts this year are not very food-related because of breastfeeding, I wanted to bring this tradition to our parish. On a whim, I soaked the fruits (I used raisins and cranberries) and spices overnight in brandy, and it did wonders for the flavor and moistness of the buns. I adapted a gluten-free muffin recipe for some of the buns, and for the others, I tweaked one of my sourdough recipes. Sourdough is highly beneficial to the gut, and I greatly prefer it to commercial yeast, although I do have some of that on hand that I use in a pinch. If you do not have sourdough starter, you can purchase it through a co-op, a health food store, or online, or if you have the patience to wait a week, you can make your own. Check out Sourdough Home for great tips and recipes.

  
Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

3/4 to 1 cup sourdough starter

4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled, or oil 

1 egg

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried blueberries are a good place to start)

1 teaspoon orange zest

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/4-1/3 cup brandy

The night before, mix fruit, zest, spices, and brandy thoroughly in a glass bowl, and lid tightly to protect from snitching fingers.


{Update: in 2017, I started them a few days before, adding small amounts of brandy and stirring well each day}

In the morning, whisk fruit mixture together with sourdough, water, milk, butter or oil, salt, sugar, egg, and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the remaining flour. You may need to use your hands to incorporate the last bit. Your dough should be soft, but not sticky. Cover and let rest for 3-4 hours.

Dust dough with flour and divide into 16 portions. Shape each portion into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet or glass pan. Use a sharp knife to create a cross in the top of each bun. Cover and let rest 1-2 hours.


{Yes, I know, these are divided into sixths. I tripled the recipe in 2017 and had the dough rising in two bowls. It was easier to divide each bowl into 24 rather than 27. Forgive me? Also, as huge as the batch was…they lasted less than 24 hours. Cue the great sadness of my people.}

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. While still warm, ice with orange glaze along the cross cuts.

Orange Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 Tablespoons orange juice or milk

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Dash nutmeg

Mix all ingredients well. Add milk or orange juice as needed to obtain the proper consistency; you don’t want it too thin, as it will melt and thin quite a bit when put on the warm buns.

 
These very hot cross buns were hustled out to the car and away. Not a one of them returned. (There were some from the other pan that made it back, but even they did not last long). 

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Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Granola bars are handy. We’re on the go a lot, and have to be very flexible with our expectations of how long we’ll spend at any given place on any given day. It comes with the collar, y’all. Because I’m breastfeeding, and don’t eat heavily at meals, it’s important that I eat on time or have something on hand to tide me over until the next meal if I get hungry, so I like to keep a few granola bars tucked into the diaper bag. My only problem with most granola bars is, they’re too sweet. Somehow, I never grew out of my sugar sheriff uniform (which either utterly confuses my husband or remains invisible to him), and while I do like super sweet things sometimes, it’s too easy to get addicted to having sugary stuff multiple times a day, and besides, my teeth hurt when something is too sweet. So I wanted a granola bar that wasn’t just candy, that had protein, but wasn’t flavorless. After a bit of tweaking, I came up with this. They’re not exactly like candy, but it’s hard to stop eating them.

Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 egg whites

1 cup chunky peanut butter

2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 cup butter, melted

4 cups oats

1/2 cup peanuts

2/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350*F. Line your big cookie sheet with parchment paper and oil it lightly (I used coconut oil; cooking spray or shortening or butter would work fine, too).

Beat egg whites until fluffy. Add peanut butter, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon; mix well. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Spread on parchment paper to desired thickness (I usually make it approx. 3/8 inch thick; I use the parchment paper to help press in and even out the sides, because it doesn’t fill up the whole pan).

Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool for at least one hour until cutting. Store in airtight containers.

Note: if you throw these in sandwich bags into your diaper bag, they will be crumbs before long. They hold their shape just fine when not overly jostled, though.


I was going to take pictures of them cut up, but then life happened. They’re almost gone now. Maybe when I make some more…

Pastries and Potatoes

I discovered that I don’t bake much in the first trimester of pregnancy.  In fact, I don’t do much of anything but try to eat enough protein frequently enough to keep my body from deciding that since I thought I could go for five minutes over the limit without eating, I would just have to suffer the miseries of nausea until I finally lost the food (that I dutifully ate anyway).  Suddenly, I didn’t like food.  Food was gross.  In fact, I remarked on this new-found truth multiple times a day, especially when I had to eat it or (far worse) prepare it and THEN eat it. *shudder*  BUT!  Good news!  I like food again!  And I have energy to cook and bake again!  This miraculous development may not last for long, but I’m loving it while it does last.  Which brings me to my subject for today.  For the last several years, I’ve gotten up early on Easter Sunday (well, last year, not so early) and put together a big blueberry lemon curd pastry to serve hot with breakfast.  This year, however, we’ll be in a bit of a hurry Easter morning, and my body doesn’t believe in getting up at five to bake.  No, sirree.  At five, I’m dreaming about innovative new ways to surf (in the ocean AND in snow…really, though, I think it was a dangerous idea, and I’m lucky to have made it out of that dream alive).  So this year, I’m taking my pastry to our late night Easter feast.  I wanted to make individual pastries to make them easier to serve, so first I tried just making foldover pastries.

P1000491I got this far before I realised these puppies wouldn’t be very pretty.  I had visions of their volcanic potentialities.

P1000497And I was right.  But that’s okay.  I needed to taste test, anyway.

P1000499You see that?  It’s stained purple because of the blueberries, but it’s actually screaming “LEMON!”  I’m not a big fan of screaming, except when it comes to lemon curd.  If you haven’t had lemon curd before, you really should.  Even if you don’t want to stick it in pastry.  It’s good on scones, English muffins, toast, fingers…

Blueberry Lemon Curd Pastry

Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes 32 pastries

Lemon Curd (a.k.a. Edible Sunshine)

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (or lemon extract, if you don’t have fresh lemons on hand)

1 stick butter, cut into narrow slices

Whisk together all ingredients except butter in bowl of double boiler (if you’re a normal person like me and don’t have a double boiler, you can use a mixing bowl and saucepan; you’ll need to make sure the bowl fits (is big enough to rest against the edge but not so big that it can’t reach the water) and you don’t put so much water in the pan that the bowl bobs up and down).  Place the bowl in a saucepan of gently simmering water.  Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides, until the curd starts to thicken, about ten minutes.  Add the slices of butter and continue to stir until it is completely melted and the curd is quite thick and smooth.  Place in a container and press plastic wrap against it; refrigerate until needed.  (Seriously.  If you don’t taste it before you put it in the fridge, something’s wrong with you).

Brioche Dough

3/4 cup lukewarm water

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

2 1/4 teaspoons salt

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup honey

3/4 cup melted butter or oil (I use oil, but it makes the dough a little harder to manage)

3 3/4 cups flour

Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon; cover lightly and let rise for two hours.  Refrigerate until needed, at least two hours or up to five days.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Dust the surface of your dough heavily with flour and pull out one fourth of it.  The dough is very moist and sticky, so you will need plenty of flour for your work surface, the dough, and your hands.  Knead the chunk of dough just enough times to give you the ability to shape it into a circle or a square; divide into eight equal pieces.  Working with floured hands or on a floured surface, roll each piece into a 1/4-1/2 inch wide rope.  Beginning at the centre, twist the rope into a coil, tucking the end underneath and pinching it to hold it together.

P1000492Repeat for remaining dough; arrange coils on the prepared baking sheets.  Let rise for half an hour.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water and brush lightly onto pastries.  Using three fingers, make a deep indentation in the centre of each coil.

P1000501Place a teaspoonful of lemon curd in each indentation and top with a few blueberries.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

P1000503The blueberries will pretend to look like caviar.  Don’t let that gross you out.  You’ve gotten this far, you’ll get to the glorious end.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

P1000509Cool on a cooling rack.  Or serve immediately.  You’re old enough to be making them, you’re old enough to choose how long you must exercise self-discipline before digging in.

P1000496Mmmm.

And, because I was too creative and caffeinated to have just one project going, I made twice baked potatoes for lunch.

P1000511Not just any twice baked potatoes, either.  These bundles of joy included tomatoes.

P1000508Potatoes are good things, but these potatoes were more than just good.  They were the answer to my potatoey yearnings.  And with that, I shall leave you to your lemon curd.

Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza

I love pizza.  I love making pizza, a tiny bit differently every time, yet always the same.  I love the way I can break down the making of pizza into little time boxes, and have my mess cleaned up entirely before the pizza makes it out of the oven.  I love the rich scents of pizza permeating the house, the crusty crust my stone creates, the toppings blended together, yet delightfully distinct.  Sometimes I go a bit crazy and spend more time making a Super Pizza, which can mean pretty much anything, but the common denominator of all Super Pizzas is that that start with my brother-in-law’s unbelievably delectable sauce, which I happened to make last night, for a celebratory meal as we reveled in rejoicing in God’s merciful protection of us in a near-accident yesterday morning.

This is magic stuff.

This is magic stuff.

Since Stephen was officiant all week last week, we didn’t sleep in on Saturday as we usually do, so today was our “lie-a-bed” day.  We read for a couple of hours – I getting almost half-way with N.D. Wilson’s Empire of Bones, and Stephen digesting the Book of Occasional Services 2003.  Once we finally got up and had morning prayer, I asked Stephen what he wanted for brunch.  I know by now that it’s a silly thing to ask, because he generally just wants whatever I’ll make, but I still like giving him the choice, since it’s such a treat for me to be able to cook breakfast for him (since during semester, he eats breakfasts and lunches in the refectory with the other students and the faculty).  So of course I had to go through the list of all the different breakfast foods I can make in a reasonable amount of time with the ingredients that we have, and as a wild card at the end, threw in breakfast pizza, even though I’d never made one before. Since we both love experimenting with food…well, we decided to go with a Mediterranean breakfast pizza.

Breakfast Pizza Completed

It was a keeper.  And it was pretty.  And delicious.  And delectable.  Mmm.

Ingredients for MBP

Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza

Dough for one pizza (I had pain d’epi dough in the fridge, so I was lazy and used that, but your favourite recipe will work fine)

2-3 Tablespoons basil pesto

2 cups fresh spinach

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

5 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped

5 sundried tomatoes, chopped

4 eggs

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

sea salt

Preheat oven to 475*F with your stone or pan inside, the rack centred.  Roll out your crust thinly.  Place crust on stone, and smear with pesto.  Yum.  Get it as even as possible; it will be fairly thin.  Layer spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, and sundried tomatoes on top.

Pile it on

Now stop and take a picture because the colours are so nice.  Or am I the only one that does that?

Delicious Layers

Mmm.  Drool.  Now break the four eggs, trying to centre them on each of the four corners of the pizza.  If you are like me, you will fail that task.  That’s okay, though.  There’s always tomorrow.  Please don’t try moving the eggs around to get them positioned properly.  It will spoil the messy-elegant look.  It will probably also make a mess.  Sprinkle sea salt over the entire pizza.  Scatter cheese over the top, and stick it in the oven.

Breakfast Pizza in the Oven

See, it’s even pretty in the ovenlight!

Slice of yumminess

Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until eggwhites no longer jiggle when you move the pan gently.  At 13 minutes, our yolks were solid, too, but still tender.

Cheesy Crust

Eat in the sunlight, if you have any.