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    Entries in childhood (12)

    Monday
    Mar192012

    Not Cross Buns

    I love hot cross buns, but I still haven't figured out how to keep yeast alive.

    I am pretty good at making biscuits though. So, I'm sticking with my strength and messing with a traditional recipe.

    If you're not familiar with Hot Cross Buns, they're a sweetened, spiced, fruited bread, usually served in the spring. The utilitarian version of the story is that they are made with the last of the dried fruit stores; winter is over, spring is making new fresh food, and yet you still have food in the pantry! Yay! We didn't starve to death over the winter!

    Of course, like many other ancient traditions, they were appropriated by the newcomers, and added to that mythology.

    They were always an Eoster breakfast thing at when I was a kid, and this time of year makes me crave them. And until the bakery starts making them, I'm going to have to come up with something of my own. 

    Not Cross Buns

    What you need:

    • Biscuit dough
    • 1/4 c dried cherries
    • 1/4 c dried apricots
    • 2 tbsp ginger sugar**
    • any other dried fruit, candied peel, or spice you like

    ** I have ginger flavoured sugar leftover from making candied ginger, which would also work really well in these, but regular sugar will do fine, just add 1/4 tsp dried ginger with it.

    What you gotta do:

    Chop the apricots and cherries (and ginger, and orange peel, and whatever you want).

    Roll out the biscuit dough into a rectangle, just like you would if you were making savoury cheese biscuits.

    Put 1/4 of the fruits and sugar in a row in the middle of the rectangle.

    Fold the part of the rectangle closest to you up and over the fruit, and put another 1/4 on top, then fold over the other half.

    Roll this out and do it all over again.

    Roll into your final rectangle and cut into 8.

    If you want to have them look a little more like their inspiration, you can cut an X into the top of them. Or you can sprinkle some more sugar over top, or both, or neither. Whatever you have the patience for.

    Bake them at 400 for about 20 minutes.

    They'll be lovely and golden and glistening with the last of the winter's dried fruit.

    I thought these needed a bit more spice to them, so I mixed some cinnamon into the butter. Cinnamon butter!

    These taste like the end of winter and go perfectly with a lovely cuppa tea. Or coffee. 

    What signals the end of winter to you?

    Sunday
    Jan082012

    so, I still have a blog?

    Welsh Cakes to make amends for my lengthy absence.

    Yes, I know, I've been gone for a while. And yes, Taneasha is actually totally fucking awesome. Not only did she cover me with her lovely nuts, she also put together an epic year end clip blog of all the weird crap and awesome shit we did all year. Me, I was getting fucked. Proper fucked. And making all kinds of tasty foods. Everything from fancy Mexican late night dinners to desserts that make the kitchen look like a scene out of Dexter to elusive Italian cookies that you pay for then they somehow don't make it home in your grocery bag.

    And I introduced Recipe Guy and his family to one of my family traditions. Well, family recipe. The tradition kinda changed with the generations.

    My grandmother was Welsh and made these amazing tasty little treats to have with tea. Welsh Cakes. But when she made them, they were tiny, sugar coated, and you were damn lucky if you got 2 out of her. She was not the sort of plump cuddly grandma who stuffs you full of cookies and love that people like to imagine. She had a switchblade cane (okay, really, it was a little ice grip on the bottom, but we wouldn't put it past her at all to use it on one of us if we pissed her off).

    When my dad started making them things changed. No longer were single batches made. Not even double. Not triple. We used the large punch bowl to make quintuple batches. We didn't roll and cut them nicely, we formed great hulking patties with our hands. And we didn't begrudgingly hand them out as if they were made of solid gold. Oh no, we each got a large paper grocery bag with our name on it, and the Welsh cakes were evenly distributed among the bags for us to then hoard and eat at our leisure.

    They became fully negotiable currency.

    What my littlest brother wouldn't do for a welsh cake.

    And it seems it's not just Cymry that love these scone-like cookies (really, I think they're only called cake based on the archaic method of describing the shape of them), oh no, Southern Momma took a right shine to them.

    I'll bet you two that you do too.

     

    Welsh Cakes

    (we made a double batch, this is the recipe for a single)

    What you need:

    • 2 c flour
    • 1/2 c sugar
    • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 c butter
    • 2/3 c currants
    • 1 egg
    • 2-3 tbsp milk

    A couple notes on ingredients:

    1) Yes that is all the liquid in it, and yes you will panic your ass off as you mix, but yes, it will work. You'll see.

    2) Currants. Currants are not raisins, contrary to what the morons and bastards at SunRype would have you think.

    Despite what it says on the package, these are not currants. They are just small raisins marketed as currants. The US doesn't seem to have proper currants. Dried fruit and candied citrus peel are typical, but I really don't think raisins work in these. Even tiny ones claiming to be currants. So we opted for dried blueberries and a bit of lemon zest.

    What you gotta do:

    In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, zest (we used about a tbsp), and nutmeg.

    Now, you're going to have to "cut" in the butter like you would if you were making a pastry or a scone. You start with smallish chunks of cold butter just dropped into the bowl.

    Taneasha tried this with two knives, and really the woman needs a pastry cutter. If you don't have one, you can try the knife thing, or just use your hands, like she did. I would also suggest a food processor for the cutting of butter into flour, but only once you have an idea of what it's supposed to look like so you don't over mix it.

    The first few times you use a pastry cutter you're going to think it's totally fucking useless because this happens.

    But then you realize that you just have to use a knife to scrape the chunks off and keep going until you get something that looks more like fine bread crumbs.

    And when you squeeze a handful

    it should do this, and hold its shape

    but it should easily disintegrate when you poke it. 

    Whisk in the blueberries. Or currants. Or candied orange and lemon peel. Or any combination thereof that you think would be tasty with a nice cuppa tea. I still don't recommend raisins.

    In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together. Yup, that's all the liquid you need. I really recommend starting with only 2 tbsp and adding the third a few drops at a time if you really feel like you need it.

    Make a well in the dry stuff and pour in the egg.

    In not too long your wooden spoon will be caked and need to be scraped with that knife you still have handy.

    And then eventually you're just going to dig in with your hands.

    This dough can tolerate a bit more handling than a real pastry, but still, best to get it out on the counter as soon as possible and just press it together.

    I forgot to take a pic of the dry, crumbly looking mound of dough, but I think you'll get and idea of what it looked like before I started rolling when you see this:

    Yup, cracked and floury, and you are totally sure it's completely bitched. But, you keep rolling anyway. And ... wtf, you have to actually add flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin? I know right. Totally bizarre seeming.

    But for some reason, the more you roll it

    the more it starts looking like a cookie dough.

    This is one of the strangest recipes and Recipe Guy was well past skeptical.

    You can break off little chunks and roll them then flatten them in your palms, or you can just cut a grid with that knife and make square ones, or you can use a wine glass to cut rounds and make "cakes" of dough.

    No, I did not forget to preheat the oven.

    These are cooked on the stove top. A good cast iron pan, a wide flat nonstick, or an electric frying pan (does anyone even have those anymore??) will work just fine.

    Medium low was all we needed to get them nicely browned.

    And you can just leave the dough on the counter and it won't dry out. And you can just press the scraps together and roll them, and you'll probably even need a bit more flour to prevent the rolling pin from sticking.

    Dude, I'm not making this shit up. It's a weird old-school, old-world recipe that defies modern, North American conventions and beliefs.

    They puff up significantly when they're in the pan. That's one way to tell they're ready to be flipped. The other is that the edges will start to look white.

    They only take a few minutes on each side to get nicely golden. You don't want the heat too low, or they'll dry out in the pan before they get brown enough, so you'll probably end up sacrificing the first couple to get the right temperature.

    Really, the dark ones are good, but they don't make for the nicest presentation, so you may as well just eat them yourself.

    And you don't want them too pale. They seem to look nicer when they're more brown than golden.

    If you don't have people hovering around you waiting for them to be fresh and hot right off the pan, pile them onto a plate. 

    This will likely be the one and only time you get to present them like this. Next time, they'll be waiting.

    What kind of cookies did your grandmother make for you?