Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One - A - Penny...

Like most things around the world of food blogging, I am pretty slow off the draw when it comes to the whole festive Easter-baking thing. Actually, come to think of it, our family never really did the whole Easter-baking thing - after (or during) four solid weeks of birthday parties, back-to-back cakes and the yearly Easter bunny visit, rich pastries like Colomba Pasquale, pound cakes and Babkas were not anywhere near the top of our list of things we wanted to eat. Generally, by the time we got to May, even chocolate-hoarding me was craving greens and a big glass of milk. I remember more than once going on a self-imposed Lenten-style fast after the festivities because I was so sick of all the rich stuff!

One thing I do remember always being in the house were hot-cross buns. My dad, as I recall, was really the only person who enjoyed eating these (I know I loathed the currants and candied peel), but nevertheless my mom would faithfully return from the weekly shopping once a year with a bag of them. They were always the same brand - I don't think another kind existed at the time (ironically, they've nixed the currants for raisins) - and my dad would spend the next week toasting them in our finicky Black & Decker toaster oven and topping them with butter, honey or (if we had it) an odd cinnamon spread. If he was particularly fortunate, he's even be able to snag an extra bag on sale after the holiday rush, and he'd freeze them for the next month or so's breakfast.

But we never made them. Mostly due to a sheer lack of time during that point in the year... bread making was my mom's thing, and being a working parent with two young kids and a house to maintain, anything requiring mass amounts of time in the house babysitting something inhuman and immobile was restricted to Christmas and maybe once over Summer break when us kids begged to make a plain loaf of bread. These days, the major breadmaker in the household is yours truly, and though I don't have a ton more time on my hands than my mom did a couple years ago, I'm a little bit freer as to how I spend my leisure hours. Being my mother's daughter of course, I never developed a fear of yeast. Rather, I developed a love for it - the smell of it's initial fermentation in it's little stoneware bowl, the poofing factor it gave to a perfectly balanced dough, and finally the appearance and aroma of the fresh loaves it produced out of the oven.

Soon I graduated from a plain, white-flour pan loaf to sweet cinnamon-raisin swirl, dark whole wheat and molasses, and eclectic beet-spiked loaves, along with pretzels and most recently, the quintessential bagel! Nowadays I make yeasted breads regularly (mostly in the form of the aforementioned bagels), but no longer am I restricted to packets of dried yeast - though they are by far the most convenient bread starters out there, and I still keep several packets of quick-rise as well as a small bulk bag of "regular" active dry in my freezer. Nope, last year I discovered the blissful flavour and texture that is sourdough, and my young starter has made it's way into a ton of my past creations since!

The best part about having the starter is that it gives you a perfect base ingredient for quickbreads in the form of toss-off. It was out of my frugal (okay, miserly) nature a few days back that I began scouring the internet for some simple recipes to use mine, as it had been a good week and a half since I had even looked at my poor starter and even longer since it had been given a "proper" feeding. I had been giving the beasties nourishment in the form of a spoonful or so of flour and water, and occasionally a pinch of sugar, but I hadn't tossed any of the slurry in ages. Luckily, my need for a toss-off use coincided with my discovery of a new blog, Frazgo Feasting, which just so happened to have a ton of sourdough recipes on the front page! A few minutes of poking around later, I had my sourdough answer (and a sudden urge to make hot cross buns) when I found Sourdough Dried Fruit Scones. The ultimate bonus was that because I could make these buns myself, I could control the mix-ins, and not only that but the recipe had no fat at all in it. I know... scones without fat? Cream? Butter? Was it even possible, I wondered... but what did I have to lose other than toss-off I'd be ditching anyway? I decided to give it a shot.

And boy, was I glad I did. Of course, I played around with the recipe a tad to make it a little bit more "Eastery", including soaking the fruit (raisins only, though who knows down the road!) in amaretto liqueur for three hours and making almond-laced royal icing crosses on top of the baked rolls. Surprisingly, they did rise very well, and kept tender (though not as flaky as butter scones) - the perfect sweet roll. I have it on good, maternal authority (the yeast goddess of my youth!) that even a couple days old, you can slice 'em, toast 'em and drizzle on some honey, and the taste can still kick the bagged bun's... well... buns.

Sourdough Dried Fruit Scones
Makes 12
1 cup 100% hydration sourdough starter (can be "old")
1/4 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar (more, if you like... for these particular buns I used about 1/4 cup)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup assorted chopped, dried fruit (soaked in water, juice or liqueur)
Milk for brushing
  1. Combine starter, milk, flours, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Mix well, until it comes together into a ball.
  3. Add the dried fruit and mix for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Turn out onto a well floured board (I actually like to mix the dusting flour with cornstarch for a less "gluteny" result).
  5. Pat dough into a rough square.
  6. Cut into even pieces and place on silpat or parchment paper.
  7. Let rest while you preheat the oven to 375F (the 15 minutes or so it will take is perfect).
  8. Brush scones with milk and bake 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on the sheets, then move to a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 151.4
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 5.3 mg
Total Carbs: 33.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 4.0 g

I'm sending these to the YeastSpotting event at Susan's WildYeast blog this week.

1 comment :

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Looks beautiful, delicious, and fatless too! Just about perfect, I'd say.