As some of you will know (those of you who have read my Banana and Peanut Butter Muffins post, anyway), I often tire of my far too regular, yet sadly unbeatable, muesli + yoghurt + fruit breakfasts. I know that, as a freelancer, I could spend far longer than five minutes in the kitchen in the mornings, and concoct whatever my tired and aching body wanted for breakfast that day.
But I don’t.
Perhaps it’s the idea of lone, self-indulgence that stops me; the guilt that I would be eating homemade pikelets and jam (or the like), when my other half has had to wolf a bowl of cereal and rush out the door before the sun has even come up. Plus, if I were to indulge in decadent breakfasts every day, that would surely take all of the fun out weekend breakfasts. (Which are what weekends are all about, correct?)
So, to last weekend’s breakfast.
This one had actually had some prior thought, since I had decided to make it my (very first) entry to this month’s Sugar High Friday (SHF) (hosted by Pastrygirl Anita at Dessert First), the theme of which is Spices. And for those of you with a somewhat delicate disposition, who would immediately dismiss the thought of anything more than black peppered scrambled eggs as too spicy for breakfast, please allow me to convert you to the sweet, sticky and spice-ridden side of the road.
This year has seen a blossoming love affair between me and the quince. In previous years, I had bought a couple, felt their funny, furry skin and sniffed their perfumed bottoms and then cruelly left them to rot in the fruitbowl. A crime, I know. But this year, with a teensy bit more time on my hands, I seem to have gone a little quince-crazy. And my favourite spice pairing of the moment for anything quince related, has to be cardamom, so naturally, these were the two elements I wanted to incorporate into this month’s SHF entry.
The recipe itself is a teeny adaptation of a Nigel Slater recipe from the January 2004 Observer. His version uses dried apricots and apricot jam and I’m assuming (having not attempted the original) that his would be a little more scant in the filling department than mine. But hey, more filling means more quince, and that’s what I like.
Ah, but since the quince is a tricky fruit, you may want to do a little cooking in advance for your weekend breakfast. I actually made these on Thursday evening and before they had had their final rise, I popped them, tray and all, into a freezer bag, sealed it and slid them into the freezer, where they stayed until I went to bed on Friday night. Then they were whipped out, placed somewhere warm and left to defrost and rise overnight beneath a clean tea towel.
Believe you me, I felt smug the next morning, when all I had to do was pre-heat the oven, anoint my beautiful buns with sugar and bake them. All done within an hour of getting out of bed too, which meant that my stomach hadn’t been alerted to the fact it was empty and therefore hadn’t started to get angry.
Anyway, to the recipe. Makes 6.
For the dough:
Strong white flour – 300g
Salt – ¼ tsp
Unsalted butter – 50g, cut into small pieces
Dried yeast – 1⅓ tsp
Caster sugar – 20g
Small eggs – 1, lightly beaten (or about 2/3 of a large egg)
Milk – 150ml, warmed
For the filling:
Quinces – 2 medium
Lemon juice – ½ a lemon’s worth
Caster sugar – 20g
Rosewater – 2 tbsp
Quince jam – 3 tbsp
Cardamom – seeds from 4 green pods, finely ground
Demerara sugar – ½ tbsp
Quince jam – 2 tbsp
First, prepare your quinces. I’m sure there are 101 ways to prepare a quince and if you have your own, favoured method, then by all means stick to it. This is my way.
Clean the quinces thoroughly and place them in a large pan of water with the lemon juice. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and simmer the quinces gently for half an hour. (I do this so that I’m less likely to lose a finger when trying to chop them.) Remove from the pan and when cool, peel, core and dice the quinces fairly finely (scant 1cm cubes is about right).
Place the cubed quince into a wide, shallow pan, add the rosewater, caster sugar and 2 tbsp of water, then bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Allow to simmer until there is little or no liquid left and the cubes of quince are tender. If necessary, drain and chop a bit more finely, and leave on one side to cool.
Grease and line a 24cm round baking tin/tray.
Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and then (my favourite bit) rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the yeast and caster sugar, then beat the egg into the milk and pour it into the dry ingredients.
Using a wooden spoon or your preferred implement, stir until all the ingredients come together. Then lift the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead (and this is a wonderful, satisfying dough to knead) for a scant 5 minutes, until very smooth and springy.
Rinse the mixing bowl in warm water (to give the bowl a bit of added heat), dry very well and place the dough back into it. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for an hour, until it has doubled in size. (I managed to perch my bowl on top of the radiator and then wedged it in place with an armchair. An airing cupboard or a sunny draught-free ledge would be just as good.)
While the dough is rising, mix together the cubed quince, quince jam and ground cardamom seeds.
When the dough has had it’s time, punch it down (again, terribly satisfying) and roll out to a squarish rectangle, about 25cm x 20 cm. Spread the quince filling all over the dough, leaving a couple of centimetres worth of space along one long edge. Dab this edge with water and begin rolling from the opposite long edge into a sausage, pressing the wet edge to seal.
Cut the sausage into 6 equal slices and place them into your tin, so that they are almost touching. If like me, you are planning to freeze these ahead of the weekend, then do as I did: bag them, place them into the freezer and remember to take them out the night before you want them for breakfast. The next morning, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius/gas mark 7 and when it’s heated, sprinkle your buns with Demerara and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
If, however, you want to bake them now, now, NOW, then after you have placed the buns into your tin, cover them again with the tea towel and return to their warm spot for 20 to 30 minutes. Then proceed as above with oven-heating, sugar-sprinkling and baking.
Once you have removed the buns from the oven (so to speak), heat the quince jam in a small pan with a tbsp of water and bring to the boil. Use a pastry brush to paint all over the tops of the buns and, if you can, allow them to cool for half an hour or so. (They definitely taste best when slightly warm.)
Gently pull your chosen bun away from its quincey chums and eat, licking your sticky, spiced fingers as you go.