Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yeast, Hot Cross Buns, Homemade Pizza

I finally got the ingredients together to make my great grandmother's hot cross buns. I had never made anything that used yeast before or anything that needed to rise before I made it, so I was pretty intimidated by this less-than-helpful recipe. Nonetheless, I am never one to let fear stand in the way of my cooking adventures, so I bought a couple yeast packets and went to work.

Lucky for me, my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook also has a recipe for hot cross buns (p. 157), so I pretty much followed the entire second half of that recipe as a guide for the missing half of my great grandmother's. Interestingly, the Better Homes and Gardens recipe started with "These slightly sweet rolls often are served during the Easter season," which made me realize that they are actually hot CROSS (as in Jesus) buns. More information about traditional hot cross buns can be found here.

Anyway, here is my modified recipe all in one piece:

1 c. scalded milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/3 tsp. salt

Combine above and cool to lukewarm. Mix 1 tsp. sugar with 1 yeast cake, dissolve in 2 Tbsp. warm water. Add to above mixture, then add:

1 beaten egg
1/2 c. raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3 1/2 to 4 c. flour

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 2 hours).

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease two baking sheets; set aside. Divide dough into 20 pieces. Gently pull each piece into a ball, tucking edges under to make smooth tops. Place balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Cover; let rise until nearly double in size (about 1 hour).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a sharp knife, make crisscross slashes across the top of each dough ball. Brush egg whites over rolls. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove buns from baking sheets. Cool slightly on wire racks.


Not gonna lie, this is pretty much what you would get if you made cinnamon raisin bread into buns, but they are delicious (particularly when they're fresh from the oven). Also, yeast is not that bad to work with (other than the smell...). I took the remainder of my batch to work the next morning where they were quickly gobbled up.

But before that, I decided to use my remaining yeast packet to try out Better Homes and Gardens' homemade pizza recipe (p. 150):

2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup warm water (120°F to 130°F)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, and salt; add warm water and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease two 12-inch pizza pans or large baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a 13-inch circle. Transfer dough circles to prepared pans. Build up edges slightly; prick dough with a fork. Do not let rise. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Spread pizza sauce onto hot crusts and top with desired meat (pepperoni), vegetables (skip), and cheese (smoked mozzarella). Bake about 10 minutes more or until bubbly. Cut each pizza into eight wedges. Makes 8 servings (2 wedges). 

NOTE: You can take half the dough and freeze it to use later and just make one pizza.

Now, this recipe was ridiculously easy and I didn't get a picture because I gobbled up that pizza so fast there was none left to photograph. This happened both times I made it. It was that delicious.

Also on the subject of breads, the co-op was having a sale on extra-ripe bananas, so I decided to remake my banana bread. This time, I baked it at 325°F for about 80 minutes and it came out perfectly. So, now we know.

Also, after much thought, I've decided to retire my goal of cooking one thing out of my grandmother's cookbooks each week. The main reason being that upon further inspection, they were not the best cookbook choices for this experiment. The PTA cookbook and my grandmother's handwritten cookbook were almost nothing but desserts, the omelets and crepes book was just omelets and crepes (and all of them had too many weird ingredients), the Pomeranian cookbook was hardly Pomeranian at all, and my Julia Child manual was more a lesson in how to cook than what to cook (and, quite honestly, I seem to do better developing my own style of how to cook than listening to Julia, or anyone else for that matter). Also, I'll be moving for school in the next couple months, so I'll probably have to give the cookbooks back to Grandpa before long anyway.

I think, in the stead of this goal, I'll make a new goal to make one new recipe each week, regardless of its origin. The point of the previous goal was to make healthier food, and I can better make that point if I have more sources available to me.

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