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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Granola for BreadBakingDay

I made granola for BreadBakingDay. You may be thinking: Ahem, this is BBD, not BCD (BreakfastCerealDay). To which I would reply: True, but this granola is so much more than a breakfast cereal. Bear with me.

Ten days ago, I had never made granola. I hadn’t eaten granola in years. Granola was merely a faint shadow lurking at the periphery of my long-term memory. Then I read about Molly’s favorite granola on Orangette, and I thought, this looks good. In fact, this looks great! Not to mention ever-so-easy. And, modulo a substitution or two, I had all the ingredients on hand.

A couple of hours, a batch of homemade applesauce, and nearly three pounds of oats, nuts, and seeds later, I could confirm that Molly does not exaggerate: the stuff was amazing. My family thought so too. We ate it with milk. We ate it with the rest of the applesauce. We ate it with yogurt, with almond milk, and right from our hands. We ate it in the morning, yes, but in the afternoon and evening, too. We showed no restraint whatsoever. Within two days, it was gone.

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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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Spicy Polenta-Pistachio Flowers

Spicy Polenta-Pistachio Flowers

These blossom-shaped rolls are my entry for this month’s Paper Chef. The challenge presented by Ilva (Lucullian Delights) was to create a “flower”-themed dish using polenta, pistachios, and chili peppers.

Although Ilva helpfully suggested several culinary flowers one might incorporate, I chose to fulfill the theme through shape rather than ingredient. I hope this is considered an acceptable interpretation. Also, although the bin from which I scooped the coarsely ground cornmeal in the store was clearly labeled “Polenta,” I wonder if maybe it’s not technically polenta until it’s boiled. I didn’t boil it because I wanted to retain some bite to contribute to the bread’s texture.

But even if I’m disqualified on one or both of those counts, these are some tasty rolls that were fun to conceive and bake.

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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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Whole Wheat Pitas

Whole wheat pitas

If you’re anything like me, you may still be feeling the effects of those holiday indulgences that just kept adding up and up. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but it’s definitely time for a few changes for the healthier around here.

These 100% whole wheat pitas are not only 100% good for you, they also taste 100% better than the cardboard discs that somehow wind up in bags labeled “pita bread” on store shelves.

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