Yesterday morning I was up at 4:30 and couldn’t manage to fall back asleep so I went downstairs through the sleeping and silent house to the kitchen. I have probably mentioned that my kitchen is my second favorite, maybe my favorite, room in our mostly light-filled and slightly crumbling house? It is cozy and large and unsurprisingly I spend many hours there. As the sky infintissimally lightened outside and the wind rattled both windows and palm trees I put together the dough for a batch of not very traditional
hot cross buns glazed sweet rolls because, I don’t know, when in Morocco make a version of an English morning bun? Perhaps I’d seen a recipe whilst on one of my quick trawls across the Internet, perhaps I remembered the neighbor bringing some over when I was a kid, perhaps it’s all the old Masterpiece Theatre shows we’ve been watching, perhaps I wanted to commemorate Easter, as non-religious as we may be. More likely it was that I had the idea of a Sunday run followed by lots of coffee and a little treat and once my mind fixes on these things, well, it’s best to just go with it.
And so I did do both of those things: I made the dough for what I will call ‘glazed sweet rolls’ (rather than ‘hot cross buns‘ because a) I didn’t glaze them with a cross and b) my version is a bit different from what you might be used to) and set it to rise. Then I gave S her breakfast and went out into the blowy morning to run 7 miles along the very blue and wind-roughened Atlantic. I have been trying to eek out a ‘long’/er run once a week outside and my body is remember all of those years of 6-12 milers (occasionally more) milers logged on Sundays. I have always loved a long Sunday run: it somehow sets the tone for the week and even if I can only manage a short run or two the rest of the days I have that solid bit anchoring me at the start. Here you want to get out early particularly on Sundays as it gets pretty crowded along the Corniche, but if you can and do you are rewarded with less congested sidewalks and streets and are surrounded by ‘your people’ — aka other runners, walkers, and bikers.
But anyway — the sweet rolls.
You can see immediately in this photo that my rolls do not include currants and raisins; I was lacking in the first because I don’t think you can get currants here and I was lacking in the second because I forgot to look for them. However I did have dried cranberries and dried blueberries thanks to the powers of the DPO, and anyway I prefer those to any others.
I incorporated a bit of whole wheat pastry flour (of course!) and some ground ginger and cardamom instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg found commonly in hot cross bun recipes (there’s still cinnamon here, but a little less of it). It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, and looking at the ingredients you might wonder why you’d bother to make these at all. And really, I also had rather low expectations when I took my first bite. Or not low expectations exactly but I didn’t think I’d enjoy them as much as I did. I credit the yeast, which distinguishes these rolls from muffins, the other standard of the weekend morning table, and the drip of sugary glaze across their tops which is ever so slightly reminiscent of a cinnamony morning bun.
In terms of timing these were right up my alley; they performed their second rise while I was out getting my exercise and anticipating my second cup of coffee and when I returned I was able to heat the oven during my (tres vite) shower. Having a tiny person in the house means you cram in what you can when you can, and knock wood I think/hope I have found a particular rhythm these days that no doubt will change again just as soon as I’ve learned to count on it. But I think the key is to be fluid, to go with it, to be glad when you can bake off your cake/roll/biscuit/whatever and then enjoy it for a stolen 10 minutes while said tiny person naps or is happily occupied looking around at the scenery. It is definitely possible, is what I’m saying.
We slightly bundled up and took our coffees and our treats outside and admired our California blooms — the poppies are going like gangbusters, even better than the more native nasturtiums — and the neighborhood was lovely and quiet. We sat for awhile outside, actually, long enough that I made another half-pot and Sierra joined in to listen to the wind rustle the foliage. It was just what a Sunday morning should be in my world — a little exercise, a little (or a lot) coffee, a little treat, a little sun and drifting clouds.
Then we went 20 minutes down the coast to the beach for a tiny excursion, some of us napped (hint: not me), we drank tea and ate more rolls, and I roasted potatoes and tomatoes for dinner and served them alongside a pile of sauteed green beans, spinach, and white beans. I blame the good start to Sunday morning for how well I slept that night. It’s the little things.
Again, you may use solely all-purpose flour here and if you don’t have cardamom a bit of extra cinnamon or a little nutmeg will do. Still, this is one of those rare occurrences when I think subsituting for it will be felt; cardamom has a very unique flavor and I love its subtle note in these rolls.
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, 1 separated
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 large egg white, reserved from above
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
enough milk to make a thick icing
Lightly grease a 10″ square pan or 9″ x 13″ pan.
Place the dried fruit in a small boil and cover with the boiling water. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, mix together the milk, butter, 2 eggs and one egg yolk, yeast, brown sugar, ground spices, salt, baking powder, and the flours. Work it together using a wooden spoon until the dough is soft and elastic. When the fruit is cool, mix it in along with any liquid that did not absorb.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for one hour (it should become puffy but may not double).
Divide the dough into baseball-sized pieces or into however large rolls you would like. Lightly oil your hands and roll each into a ball. Arrange them in the prepared pan.
Cover the pan, and let the rolls rise for 1 hour, or until they’ve puffed up and are touching one another (note: mine did not do this. It didn’t matter.). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the rolls.
Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly cracked. Remove pan from oven and transfer rolls to a rack to cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together the icing ingredients. When rolls are completely cool, brush the glaze thickly atop each one.