December 11, 2013

Mrs. Fitzhugh's Buns (from Dining with the Washington's)

As passionate as I am about cooking great food for my family, I'm just as passionate about history.  Combine the two, and I'm one happy Mama!  Anytime we visit a historical home, my favorite room is the kitchen.  It may be as simple as a rough table and spit in the hearth or something more elaborate for the time.  But the one place my husband will find me lingering, when he's ready to go, is the kitchen-the heart of the home.  One of my favorite places to visit is George Washington's Mount Vernon.  We had the wonderful opportunity to tour the estate during their hospitality exhibit last year.  Since photography is not allowed in this historic home, I was so happy to come across the recently released Dining with the Washington's.  Not only is it full of vivid photography and period recipes, it provides an intimate look at the decor, hospitality, and styles of entertaining of the beloved George and Martha Washington.  This is the first book I turned to while searching for recipes for a colonial meal I hosted.  The recipe for these deliciously spiced buns is likely to have come from Ann Randolph Fitzhugh, the mother-in-law of George Washington Parke Custis-grandson of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, through her first marriage.  My dinner guests really enjoyed these and my husband and I love them.  They're a little on the sweet side and a nice change from your typical dinner roll.  'Great with cranberry-orange honey butter.                

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2-3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup lukewarm milk

Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup of the water, add 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and set aside to proof until bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Sift the flour, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.  Stir together 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar with the butter.  Add to the spiced flour, mixing with your fingers until crumbly.  Whisk the egg together with the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the egg and sugar, proofed yeast, and milk.  Stir until well-mixed, adding enough of the remaining water to make a soft dough.  Place the dough in a buttered bowl, turning to coat top with butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled.  Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable shortening.  Push down the dough with a wooden spoon.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and divide into 12 pieces, shape into balls, and place in the prepared pan.  Cover with a towel, and set aside to rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Position the rack in the upper third of the oven.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the buns are lightly browned.  Watch carefully as they can easily burn.  Immediately remove the buns from the pan, and place on a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm.  Recipe used with permission from Stephen McLeod, Editor

Cranberry-Orange Honey Butter

1 pound salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup honey
zest from 1 whole orange
pinch of ground cardamon

In a medium bowl, beat the butter with cranberries, honey, orange zest, and cardamom.  Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.