Sunday, April 11, 2021

Hot Cross Buns for our Reunited Easter!


 We had a wonderful Easter!  Since all the adults were vaccinated we could reunite and gather at my house for dinner again this year. What a great feeling! All the grandchildren had a wonderful time together.

 I made Hot Cross Buns for the first time as part of our dessert buffet and was very pleased with how they came out.  Baking at high elevation, especially yeast bread, can sometimes be a challenge as I live over 6,000 feet, so I wasn't sure if they would be as light and fluffy as I hoped. Happily, they were, and they had enough spices and preserved fruit bits in them to be very flavorful but not overly sweet. If you'd like to read the history of Hot Cross Buns and why they are often eaten during the Easter season click here.  The buns are good to enjoy year-round, not just at Easter.  I know I'll be making them often! 


Hot Cross Buns


Ingredients:

Buns:

3 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast (9 grams) 
1/2 cup (110g) sugar 
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk, warm, full fat, or low fat 
4 1/4 cups (640g) bread flour (or plain/all-purpose) 
2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (210g) raisins
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Zest from 1- 2 oranges
3.5 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg at room temperature

Glaze:

1 tbsp apricot jam 
2 tsp water

Sugar Crosses:  

One cup powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and a drop of vanilla flavoring

Instructions:

Place flour, yeast, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Briefly mix with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Add butter, milk, egg, raisins, finely chopped apricots, and orange zest.

Stand mixer: Mix until a smooth elastic dough forms - 5 minutes on Speed 2 of a stand mixer. After 1 minute, add an extra 1/4 cup flour if required, just enough so the dough comes away from the side of the bowl when mixing and doesn't stick terribly to your fingers. 

Hand kneading: Alternatively, dust a work surface with flour and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
The dough is kneaded enough when it's smooth and does not break when stretched.

Dough Rise #1:

Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with cling wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in size. This will take anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how warm it is.

Line a 9 x 13" tray with baking paper with overhang.
Remove cling wrap and punch dough to deflate.
Dust work surface with flour, place dough on the work surface, shape into a log - this will deflate the air. Cut into 12 equal pieces.
Take one piece and press down with your palm, then use your fingers to gather into a ball, then roll the dough briefly to form a ball. 
Place the ball with the smooth side up on the tray. Repeat with the remaining dough. Line them up 3 x 4.

Dough Rise #2

Spray a piece of cling wrap lightly with oil (any), then loosely place over the tray.
Return tray to warm place and leave 30 - 45 minutes until the dough has risen by about 75% (less than double in size).
Partway through dough rise #2, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  (180 C) 

Bake for 22 minutes, or until the surface is a deep golden brown. The surface color is the best test for this recipe.

Glaze: 

Meanwhile, place jam and water in a bowl, microwave for 30 seconds. Mix to combine.
Remove buns from the oven. Use overhang to lift buns onto a cooling rack. (If you do not have apricot jam you can substitute honey or maple syrup as a glaze.) Brush buns with jam mixture while warm. Allow buns to cool before icing.

Icing Crosses:

Mix  
1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
3 Tablespoons of milk and a splash of vanilla extract for plain icing
Pipe a thick cross made from icing on each bun after baking, when buns are cooled and glazed.
Use a piping bag– no piping tip needed– or a zipped-top bag. Snip the corner off. Allow icing to dry before eating.  Enjoy!



As you can see, the grandchildren enjoyed having both sets of grandparents to celebrate with this year.  They are all getting so big!





I made lots of holiday favorites--we had a table full of appetizers to start, followed by stuffed macaroni shells. eggplant rollatini, pineapple glazed spiral ham, leg of lamb and lamb chops, corn pudding, asparagus, broccoli, mixed mushrooms, and batter-fried cauliflower.  



Besides the Hot Cross Buns, I also made a lemon cheesecake, cupcakes for the grandchildren, a blueberry Bundt cake, and my daughter-in-law brought a tray of chocolate pretzel nests that she made with the children.  Needless to say, we were all stuffed!  Happily, everyone took home a tray of leftovers so nothing goes to waste.  

It was a wonderful day after a week before that was very sad.  Thank you to all who commented and consoled me on the terrible tragedy that happened in nearby Boulder, Colorado. That really shook me to my core in its senselessness. I keep praying for a better, kinder,  world for my grandchildren to grow up in. 


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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Tears for Boulder

 

Postcard of Boulder, Colorado

Evil came to Boulder, Colorado this week.  On an early spring day when the sky was filled with impending snow that was in the forecast, ten people went about their morning routine never dreaming that it would be their last day. They were young; twenty years old, and seniors in their early 60's.  Some were going to work at a grocery store in their scenic front-range town. Perhaps they smiled at their view of the pretty snow-filled Flat Iron mountains in the distance.  Some were thinking, "I have to pick up my prescription today at the grocery store," or " I have to remember to pick up more eggs for the weekend" or "I think I'll stop into the grocery store to pick up lunch today, instead of bringing it from home."  A police officer put on his uniform and Boulder Police badge said goodbye to his wife and seven children and reported for work. 

Evil was at his family's home in the next town. He prepared his assault rifle weapon, put on a tactical vest, and drove his brother's car to a Kings Sooper grocery store in Boulder, where over 58 minutes he willfully shot to death ten innocent people. 


The Boulder Police Department released the names of the deceased the next day: Police Officer Eric Talley, 51; Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Teri Leiker, 51; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray. 62; and Jodi Waters, 65. 

You can read about them all here.

Officer Talley's Patrol car has become a memorial covered with flowers

The first recorded mass killing by gun in the USA occurred in 1949. In 1966 Evil climbed to the top tower of the main building of the University of Texas at Austin and opened fire with a gun indiscriminately at the people surrounding the campus. Fifteen died.  In 1984 Evil walked into a McDonald's restaurant in San Diego, California, and fatally shot twenty-one people to death.  I could go on and on and on. In the last five years, there have been at least 29 shootings with four or more fatalities, according to a database compiled by the Violence Project.  In 2020, gun violence, of all causes, including suicides, killed 43,536 people in the United States. We are not the most violent country in the world--right now many countries in South America lead in that distinction, but that is little consolation for all the victims.


A memorial of flowers and notes and candles grew day by day on a

 fence that was placed around the parking lot of the grocery store in Boulder.

Evil keeps rearing its anger, its hate, its mental illness, and its paranoid delusion in senseless mass killings of innocent people. In my state of Colorado, 47 people have died from mass shootings in seven incidents since 1991. 

How many more incidents are to come? What is the answer? Do we provide better mental health services, prevent bullying in schools, ban violent video games, ban semi-assault rifles, do extensive background checks during gun sales, promote Red Flag Laws, stop media coverage to discourage copycat events...pray harder? 

As long as there are guns there will be gun violence. As long as assault weapons are sold there is the potential for mass casualties and killings. No place, be it a church, school, theater, fast food restaurant, community center, concert, highway, etc., is safe from danger.

 


A posting Colorado Governor Polis placed on Facebook this week encouraging readers to reach out to their family and friends. 

When a mass shooting occurs, especially nearby, everyone's anxiety rises, and someone reaching out to say "I care" can make a big difference and give that person a chance to talk and express their sadness. Other suggestions to help deal with anxiety can be read here.

I know that each incident in which a person goes to work and never comes home triggers extreme sadness in me.  That happened to my father. When I was a teenager, he went to work one day and a mentally ill person at his job took his life along with wounding two others.   When a tragic incident like this happens I feel pain all over again and extreme sadness. I truly feel empathy for what victim's families go through. Trauma like this never goes away. 


Boulder, Colorado, is a special place for us as our son went to graduate school there and lived there for a few years afterward. It was the first place we visited in Colorado when we lived in New York. We all fell in love with Colorado and made the decision to live here. But no matter where one lives a tragedy such as the one that happened in Boulder can happen. We cry for Boulder today and know the week ahead will be full of sorrow for the families of the victims as they are laid to rest. Please pray for them and pray for our nation. Deliver us from evil. Amen.

It has been a very sad week. With Holy Week and Easter approaching, I'll be taking a short blog break. 

Have a very Blessed and Happy Easter!

 

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