23 March 2009

breadroll-bashing at the breakfast table

Rituals are a nice thing.

Those little things we do, just because that's the way it's done, every time again. Comforting, reassuring, and something pretty essential to feeling 'at home'.

This weekend, I fear, I ruined one for good.

See, since my in-laws and we moved in together, we try to have a family breakfast each Saturday morning together. Every time it works out, my father-in-law drives to the bakery, fetching some bread rolls. And every time, with confounding regularity, something is less-than-optimal with the bread rolls.

Either they didn't pack him those he ordered, or too few, or too many. One Saturday, the bread rolls were hard and tiny, another one they were oddly light and airy and dried out already during breakfast.

Over the time, we changed our bakery several times, but the peaceful bickering around the breakfast table has become something of a charming little family ritual by now, at least for me.

Most of the times, it's the raisin buns that we find lacking somehow. There's the occasional chocolate chip bun in between, or the already day-old raisin bun. The crust too dark, too little raisins, the crumb too dense, the dough sticky, you name it. The final straw was the raisin bun that contained exactly one single, solitary, mortally depressed raisin.

As we already have home-made ciabattini on the table by now, my wife asked me to make raisin buns next. And so I did, and they turned out great. Definitely better than the slightly industrial fare we get from our local bakers.

And another step taken towards self-sufficiency! Well, at least in terms of bread rolls and buns...

But I am afraid the days of friendly bread roll-bashing at the breakfast table are finally numbered.

Most amazingly, this saturday also was the first really sunny day of this year!

raisin buns
(makes 16 buns)

1kg all-purpose flour
0,5l milk, lukewarm
190g sugar
200g butter, softened
1 sachet dry active yeast
a pinch of salt

200g raisins (sultanas)

four tablespoons condensed milk

The day before baking, mix all the ingredients except the raisins and the condensed milk in a large bowl. Knead until well combined (no visible butter pieces left), but no longer. Leave to raise in a cool room over night.

At least two hours before baking, knead the dough one last time, incorporating the raisins.
Usually, you can use the raisins straight out of their box. If they are especially hard and dry, though, you might want to soak them in a few tablespoons of water before.

Cut the dough into sixteen pieces of equal size (that is, halve four times in a row). Roll into buns, and leave to raise on a floured tea towel for about 90 minutes in a warm room. The buns should have increased visibly in volume (about 150%), but do not need to have doubled.
Pick off raisins remaining on the outside of the buns, they would only burn in the oven. But, as you can see in the pictures, I was rather sloppy on this myself. To my excuse, I have to say it was very early on Saturday morning when I made these.

And once again the old mangle linen is in good use...

Preheat the oven to 190°C, and put an old baking tray onto the bottom.

Right before baking, transfer the buns onto a baking sheet and brush with the condensed milk.
You can theoretically substitute the condensed milk with eggwash, but then the buns wouldn't smell the same... I'd use eggwash only in a dire emergency here.

When the oven has reached temperature, open the door, swiftly pour a small glass of water onto the old baking tray, put in the buns (somewhere in the lower third of the oven) and immediately close the oven door again.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are well browned all around. Leave to cool on a rack.

They are best when still slightly warm, with some jam or plain butter, though my wife seriously eats them with cheese. With some filling and a little bit of frosting, I can even imagine one of them making an adorable emergency cake.

These raisin buns freeze and re-toast well, so you can make a whole batch in advance and get out just a few for each weekend breakfast.

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