Monday, May 9, 2016

I was lucky enough to visit Jasper Tree recently to enjoy the spring bloom. Though we were, repeatedly(!), told we had missed the best-in-100-year bloom, we still saw scads of wonderful desert flowers.
Hedgehog or Calico Cactus
In California, we have a lot of different ecosystems
  • Deep Green Forests of Redwood and Douglas Firs
  • The Mediterranean Look - Oaks and Chaparral
  • An Extensive Coastline
  • The Great Central Valley - A huge agricultural area that feeds not only the state, but many others as well
  • Deserts

Joshua Tree National Park is in an area, in Southern California, where the High Mojave Desert and the Low Colorado Desert come together

Read More About.... Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday, May 1, 2016

California Immigrant Raisin Buns

I love the raisin rolls in the bread-for-the-table baskets at Max's Opera Café  (I ask for only raisin rolls to avoid getting half white rolls) and thought I'd make my own. However, it was harder than I'd thought, finding a recipe for raisin rolls in any of my bread books. I found the original base recipe for these delicious rolls at a Dutch site, Weekend Bakery -

When these rolls immigrated to CA, they developed some new ideas. They altered. That's the way it is when you move to a new country. So enjoy the new version, as well as the old.

Features of the original base recipe I found appealing :

1) The picture looked right!
2) What is more Californian than raisins? We grow tons of raisins in the Great Central Valley of California. Well apparently if I were Dutch, I'd feel the same way. The original baker uses a very goodly number of raisins He/she says...
 "The amount of raisins used is usually the same as the amount of flour used. It seems like a lot, but you need this amount to get a good raisin bun so you do not ‘have to bicycle from one raisin to the next’ as we say."
3)What is more Californian than lemons and oranges? Our Dutch friend includes a sweetener made from orange and lemon zest, something I often include in my own bread recipes.  

However I altered the original recipe - which I make in a bread machine.  I only make my bread dough in the machine. (The Dutch version has by hand instructions you can follow) I then shape that dough into rolls, proof them in a 200 degree oven and then switch the oven to 350 degrees for baking. That is how I always use my bread machine. I never use the baking cycle, because it came out weird when I first tried, and it's so easy to do the baking in my own pans in the oven. It's the kneading and temperature setting right that is work/challenge when making bread.

A) I converted the European measurements to American cups, teaspoons etc. I rounded some things up, and just changed a few, based on my own experiences making break. I think I increased the butter just a touch, and maybe the flour. (When I ran the measurements through the European to American converter, I did not get an equal amount of raisins and flour, btw) I may have changed some other things...
B) I noted that the Dutch baker suggested using more liquid for American flours. I used more than twice as much liquid - though he had only suggested 10-20 percent more. That was based on the taste I was going for. I like airy bread. 
C) I used more yeast. Again - I like airy bread.  If you want to be more rustic, use less and check out the amounts in the original recipe. 
D) I use a combination of buttermilk and water (half and half) and, as I said I use a lot more liquid than in the original. I use buttermilk a lot. Buttermilk makes dough rise more. Did I say, I like airy bread? I love the taste too.

The original baker uses milk.
E) I use a mix of CA black raisins and CA golden raisins. The Dutch baker has an interesting writeup in the original recipe, about raisins, currents and more,  that is definitely worth reading.
F) I do the hurry-up version of prepping the raisins, alluded to by the original baker (see 'Prep 1')

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Here is how I make these California Immigrant Raisin Rolls - They are delicious

Bread Machine Note: (Different machines require different  ingredient order. In my machine you put in the dry stuff and then the liquid. My old machine was the opposite)

Prep 1
- Put on tea kettle to boil water
- Measure out 2.5 cups of mixed raisins (Today that's 1/2 cup golden , 2 cups black - but whatever I have on hand)
- Pour boiling water over raisins. Let them soak 5-10 minutes or more. Strain in colander/strainer. Add enough flour to take away any residual moisture. This is by feel. I don't want wet raisins. Work them by hand till they feel relatively dry. Do this in the colander/strainer over the sink so that extra flour falls through.

Prep 2
Grate peel from one big  CA lemon and one CA navel orange, Mix with 4 T sugar.

Measure out another 1T sugar, and set aside

Dry  Stuff 
4 cups bread flour (has higher gluten) I admit when I run out of bread flour I use all-purpose.
1 and 1/2 teaspon salt (don't skip this) - but remember that salt retards yeast growth - so I always put the salt far down in the machine or at least not near the yeast

Wet Stuff
1 egg yolk
1/2 stick (4 T) butter I use unsalted 


Primero/ I put the dry stuff in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the raisin mix in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the orange peel mix in the machine
Entonces/Then I put in the wet stuff in the machine
Entonces/Then I add that last 1 T sugar to the machine
Entonces/Then I put about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons  of GOOD FRESH YEAST in the little trap on the top of my machine . My yeast goes in a trap door on the top of the machine. OR If you add the yeast to your dry ingredients inside your machine instead, then I recommend making a nest in the flour and putting the 1T sugar and yeast together. Yeast likes sugar to grow

(2 1/4 is a typical package of yeast sold in grocery stores around here. (Also my machine won't hold more than that amount of yeast!) However, I buy large bags of yeast at Costco and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. I always smell my yeast and if it doesn't smell yeasty, I get fresh yeast. Those Costco bags are so economical that even if you put half of it in the compost bin, it's still more cost effective than the packages - Watch the expiration dates on the packaged yeast too. If if doesn't smell like yeast. It won't do the job.)

* * *
Because this is a high rising recipe - you need to make sure you don't just assume your dough cycle will stop on time. I messed up my old machine leaving dough in for too long. So set your machine to the dough cycle, but start checking around 1 hr 30 minutes and keep an eye on it to avoid the dough rising out of the canister and into your machine. I let my dough rise as high as it will go. You can stop sooner for denser bread. Same thing when you proof it. I think some bakers might think that I over rise my bread. I think it's a matter of taste and what you like.
* * *

About 1 hr 30 minutes after I start the machine... I turn my oven onto 200 degrees and spray my muffin pans with cooking spray. The original recipe made 12 regular rolls. My version makes 15 very large rolls. I think you could get 20  (or more) out of this with no problem.

Once the dough cycle is done  to my satisfaction (I run mine for 1:40 - 1 hr 50 minutes) then I take the dough out. Shape the rolls in the muffin pan. The dough is very sticky - because I use so much liquid I think. Watch out for the dough spilling into your oven if you overfill pan (I put a cookie sheet below in case of dough drips, because we like the bigger rolls)

I put the rolls in the 200 degree oven to proof for 20 minutes. You can go longer if you forgot to set your oven early, or if they just look like they need it.

Reset the oven to 350 degrees - It's OK that the rolls are in the oven as the temperature changes.

I last baked them at this temperature for 28 minutes. I checked them around 20 minutes, and simply stuck a good old fork in to test.  Ovens vary. Pan thickness varies. Check them early, maybe eat a sample roll or whatever works to get the right bake on your rolls.
* * *
These rolls don't need anything on them. But I'm sure cheese, peanut butter or butter would be good.