Fresh Fruit Danish

fresh fruit danish

Like desserts, pastries are not something I bake often. We eat crusty hearth breads around the clock, including for breakfast. But for some reason, the BreadBakingDay #10 theme of Breakfast Breads, hosted this month by talented baker Melissa (Baking a Sweet Life), put me in mind of Danish pastry. The flakier the better.

I intended to make a traditional laminated dough (many discrete layers of dough and butter). I don’t have a lot of experience with this, and definitely need to practice. Keeping the dough cold so the butter does not melt into it during the rolling and folding process is critical, and it takes the better part of a day because the dough has to be thoroughly re-chilled between roll-and-folds. So I set aside a day to work on this.

As it turned out, the weather on the designated day was uncooperative. A heat wave plus an un-air-conditioned kitchen do not create ideal conditions for laminating dough, and I chickened out wisely decided not to set myself up for failure. However, just as I convinced myself that I didn’t really want Danish after all, I serendipitously tuned in to the latest episode of the wonderful 1990′s series “Baking With Julia” [Child], which my PBS station has been airing lately.

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Hot Cross Buns: Not Just for Easter

Hot Cross Buns

One of the first nursery rhymes I remember learning was Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One-a-penny, Two-a-penny, Hot cross buns!

When my mother was ticked off about something, she always said she was “cross.” So when I sang the rhyme, an image of grouchy buns languishing in summer heat would paint itself across my mind’s little eye. I suppose I imagined they were cross because wasn’t being hot (in those days when that wasn’t a good thing) enough to make anybody cross?

I’ve understood for quite some time that “cross” refers to the buns’ decoration and not their state of mind, but it was only recently that I learned that hot cross buns are a traditional spring celebration bread.

Although hot cross buns have been associated with Easter for several centuries, they probably predated Christianity. Small cakes or loaves adorned with an equilateral cross were offered to deities in ancient cultures such as early Egypt and Greece. The feast of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring (from whom Easter derived its name), was celebrated at the vernal equinox. The cross on the sacramental cakes eaten during the feast may have symbolized the balance (between light and darkness) of the equinox, the four quarters of the moon, or the symmetry of the seasons.

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Time to Make the Baked Doughnuts

Baked doughnuts with cinnamon sugar

I made these doughnuts (my first ever; don’t know what I was waiting for) for Tartelette and Peabody’s Time to Make the Doughnuts event. They allowed baked doughnuts, although they warned against making a habit of it. Still reeling from holiday fat overload, I couldn’t bring myself to deep fry anything right now. Next time.

These were inspired by Heidi’s Baked Dougnuts at 101 Cookbooks, and my recipe loosely based on hers.

I experimented with different sugar/spice mixtures for the coating, in which the doughnuts are dipped after baking. My favorites were 50/50 brown sugar and granulated sugar with cinnamon (pictured above), and granulated sugar with cardamom. Another interesting one was granulated sugar with chipotle powder. The possibilities are limitless.

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Panettone

glazed panettone with almonds and pearl sugar

I’m not sure when it started, but sometime after my husband and I were married, my mother came for Christmas and brought us a panettone for breakfast. Ever since then, this rich, sweet Italian bread has been a part of our Christmas breakfast (along with bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon). Last year, I decided to try making my own. And now it’s that time of year again!

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Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto loaf closeup

The first days of November mark Mexico’s Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), a lively and rich tradition in which departed loved ones are honored and the cycle of life is celebrated.

Although I have never had the opportunity to visit Mexico during this festive time, I wanted to try my hand at making Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), which is traditionally sculpted in a representation of bones. I adapted this one from a recipe in Diana Kennedy’s My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients, as posted on Epicurious. My changes reflect what I discovered worked best for me in making the recipe twice.

The bread is sweet and eggy, similar in texture to a yeasted coffee cake. This one has no anise seed, although other recipes I have seen include it. I didn’t use orange blossom water, only orange zest, and the result was a subtly citrus-scented loaf. [Read more...]

My Take on Melon Pan

Last week I wrote about some of the interesting Japanese breads I met on my recent vacation. Melon pan, a soft, sweet roll encased in cookie dough and scored to resemble a melon, captured my imagination as soon as I tried it, and I knew I would attempt to recreate this adorable little bread in my own kitchen.

melon-pan-small.jpg

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