Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chelsea Buns

I just got back from my son's science trip with his school for 8 days last week, and I'm exhausted!  Not so much physically but mentally because there's so much to think about during the trip, the safety of the kids was always the paramount.  The constant vigilance of where they were and what they're doing, and the long drives wore me out.  But it didn't mean I didn't have good time because I got the chance to visit my bestie and my alma mater.

The kids went to Catalina Island Marine Institute to study marine biology and we stopped along the way, first at San Fransisco and second at Knott's Berry Farm.  The kids bonded and the chaperones bonded as well; the women I know were really wonderful and we got to know each other more.

With that trip behind me, I can now enjoy my spring break!  So need a break from a routine even though the typical springtime weather is back, days of grey and mist.  Ah, that's Oregon...

Maybe this Chelsea buns will cheer me up?  These are tasty buns, chockfull of moist dried fruits which my husband and I love.  My son still chose cinnamon rolls over this but he still ate a handful :)

Chelsea Buns

Yields about 12 large buns or 24 small buns

For sweet bread dough:
3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup (2 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) plain yogurt--regular or Greek, can be substituted with sour cream or buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups bread flour
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)

For the filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit

For the icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 2 teaspoons sugar.  Stir to dissolve.  Stir in the yeast and 1/2 cup flour.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly and active, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a bowl of a mixer or bucket for bread machine, combine the yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture.  Add 4 1/2 cups of flour and knead the dough--by mixer or bread machine--to make a smooth, supple, and soft dough.  Add the extra flour only if needed, 1/2 cup at a time.  If using a mixer, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.  If using bread machine, let it rise in the machine until the end of the Dough cycle.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface.  Roll the dough into a 16" x 24" rectangle.

Spread the dough with the 1/3 cup melted butter.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough.  Scatter the mixed dried fruit over the cinnamon sugar and lightly press it down onto the dough.

Starting with a long end, roll the dough into a log and cut it into 12 slices for large buns or 24 slices for small buns.  Whatever the size of buns you cut, they'll turn out delicious!

Place the buns in lightly greased baking sheets.  Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they're nearly doubled, about 45 minutes.

While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 375F.  Brush buns with egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  While the buns are baking, make the icing by stirring together confectioners' sugar with cream or milk.

Remove the buns from the oven.  Drizzle the icing on the buns while they are warm.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Butternut Squash Bread with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

Last year when my parents traveled to Indonesia, I had to take care of their house and yard.  I didn't have to do much with the yard though but I had to make sure the plants were watered well and picked a few handful of produce from their vegetable garden.  One day, as I was looking out the window from their living room, I noticed there's a vine that's growing over and around the short hedges lining up the front pathway.  It seemed like a squash plant tried to grow.  My parents and I love kabocha squash very much and there was a talk in the past of planting one or two plants in the vegetable garden.  We just love the sweet and smooth texture of this squash that when it's in season, my mom would buy one or two.  She then would slice it thin, dredged it in tempura batter, and deep-fried it.  That was our afternoon snack, and between us, we could probably eat the whole squash ourselves.  My mom wouldn't choose an overly big one, but she smartly picked the small one.

That plant was growing like weed and there's also one in the backyard, but when I asked my dad about it, he said he actually didn't plant any in the front yard so that was a surprise.  As summer progressed, I watched it bore fruits; the one in the front bore green fruit and the one in the back bore bluish-colored fruit.  From the look of it, one must be blue kuri squash and the other one was kabocha squash.  When my parents came back home, we waited until the stems became corky and the shape went blocky.  My dad loves it plain, steamed, and would eat it with a spoon.  I baked my share until soft and divided the flesh into several freezer bags.  These can be frozen for 3 months.

And here's one way to use up the squash, I made a quick bread with dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries.  I adapted the original recipe by using all-purpose flour instead of wheat flour because that's what I had at home at the time.  This won't last long in my house, everyone would eat slice upon slice with a drink of their choice!

Butternut Squash Bread with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

Yield 1-9x5 inch loaf

2 eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
7.5 ounces peeled, seeded, steamed and pureed kabocha squash
2/3 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purposed flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 generous teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup lightly toasted walnuts, plus extra for decorating top
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350 F.  Coat a bread loaf pan with coconut oil or butter, or spray with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sugars, cooked/pureed kabocha squash flesh, and oil until smooth.  In a second bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips, walnuts, and cranberries.

Fill the prepared loaf pan about three-quarters full with batter.  Gently tap the bottom of the filled pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.  Sprinkle additional walnuts over loaf, using your hand to gently press them into the batter.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 1 hour before slicing into thick chunks.

Source:  adapted from Breadtopia