Monday, April 5, 2010

Soft And Bittersweet


The situation in my kitchen early yesterday morning may be the only circumstance where anyone would be upset because their buns were too firm. To paraphrase a favorite movie, "We're going to need considerably softer buns!".* Here's the lowdown: I have two recipes from my mom for hot cross buns. I made one of them last year and it was a smashing success (they were just like mom used to make). This year, I couldn't remember which of the two recipes I had used before.** So I picked one. I may have picked wrong. Or perhaps it was user error and the fault lies in my execution of the recipe in question. We may never know. Everything seemed to go like clockwork, without a hitch, every step of the way. Uh, except that the dough didn't rise. These were for brunch on Easter Sunday, and well, with yeast breads as well as with Easter, the rising is the most important part. They tasted fine (we ate them all up), but they were firm and dense when they should have been soft and wonderful. Clearly I'll need to make these again soon in order to figure out what went wrong. Oh darn.

One thing that went right was the candied orange peel I made to put in the buns. We were fresh out of candied orange peel, but you just can't have hot cross buns without it. We did have a box of oranges though... so I looked up a recipe and gave it a go. A little messy for sure, but it turned out fantastically well. The only thing better would be to dip them in dark chocolate. But then, what wouldn't be improved by that? The syrup that the orange peel cooked in, was infused with orange essence and I just couldn't see pouring it down the drain. I used a little of it to sweeten some plain yogurt, then drizzled it over the fruit salad we served. I'll probably try it in my tea next and if it gets warmer out (which I hope will be soon), it would be great in lemonade. It should work pretty much anywhere you would use simple syrup. When all was said and done, the only things I didn't use up were the pith and the membrane from the oranges, and those went into the compost. A little fuss, a little muss, but no packaging, and no waste whatsoever. Sweet.

Hot Cross Buns page 56, Sunset Cook Book Of Breads, 1975
Here's a similar recipe, also from Sunset magazine... Orange Hot Cross Buns at MyRecipes.com

Notes: Plum out of currants, I used 1/3 cup each of golden raisins and chopped dried cranberries in addition to the chopped candied orange peel that I made (see below). I also put a tsp of dried lavender flowers in the scalded milk as it was cooling. I liked these changes/additions to the flavor, they were subtle but noticeable. And I don't believe they had anything to do with the dough failing to rise. That just may have to remain a mystery.

Candied Orange Peel, page 679-680, How To Cook Everything, Bittman, 1998

Notes: Recipe called for a small amount of corn syrup but said it was optional. We were out of corn syrup, so I opted not to buy a bottle of it right now and made the recipe without it. There is a lot of the candied peel left. Maybe I'll try dipping it in dark chocolate after all.

* The movie was Calendar Girls and it was the scene in which they were in need of "considerably bigger buns" for the sake of modesty (if that made no sense, go rent the movie and it will).
** This here is pretty much the reason I started this blog in the first place.
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