Hazy Eyes

Not sure if any one else has this problem, but I spend a lot of my waking time day dreaming. I slip in and out of focus, hazy eyes staring off into a fuzzy parallel universe filled with all sorts of fantastical things… for me it’s dreams of a homestead, a flower farm, perhaps a few more degrees to add after my name, tenureship, my own bakery or coffeeshop, a non-profit start-up, a castle in the clouds. Maybe they’re driven by ambition, or perhaps worse, delusions of grandeur, or perhaps the worst – an underlying sign of discontentment. Whatever the case – they may seem harmless enough, but the reality is that they really do detract from the pursuit of one’s main goals. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to see through the fog or unclutter the noise… and what were daydreams get mixed up with real aspirations. There’s a part of me that acknowledges that time and energy are finite, and yet I am deeply conflicted in wanting to welcome and act upon each and every day dream. So what’s a girl to do?

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Craisin Buns
Source: King Arthur Flour
I don’t dare call what I made here a hot cross bun, as they do not remotely resemble the KAF final product. Instead, I call these craisin buns – incredibly soft little pillows of spiced bread dotted with juice-soaked craisins. They’re delicious hot out of the oven and slathered with butter. Else, if you can wait for the things to cool a bit, feel free to pipe some icing over and eat at room temp. I’ve been eating these as a quick breakfast snack, and love the re-heated buns with a bit of butter and jam. I didn’t have any other dried fruits handy, but would love to add dried apricots and dates to this.

Ingredients
Dough:
1/4 c apple juice [I used left over apple cider]
1 c mixed dried fruit [I used craisins]
1 1/4 cu milk, room temp
2 large eggs
1 large egg, yolk only [save white for below]
6 tbs butter, room temp
1 packet instant yeast
1/4 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1 tbs baking powder
4 1/2 c all purpose flour

Glaze:
1 egg white
1 tbs milk

Icing:
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 tsp milk, or enough to make a thick icing

Directions
In a small bowl, combine the apple juice with the dried fruit, and microwave just enough until warm to help the fruit absorb the liquid. Use a spoon and give the fruit a gentle toss, and allow to cool to room temp. Grease a 9″x13″ baking pan and set aside.

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Meanwhile, mix all the dough ingredients except the fruit, and knead using the dough hook of an electric mixer until soft and elastic. For me, this process never happened – it remained stubbornly shaggy, but still resulted in a delicious (albeit not pretty) bun. Next, add the fruit and any liquid that was not absorved, and use your hands or a greased wooden spoon to knead the fruit into the dough. I think I may have had too much liquid, thus a wetter, less kneadable dough – but again, still a delicious result. Cover the dough with a wet towel or piece of plastic wrap, and place in a warm place for about an hour until it’s bubbled a bit. For whatever reason, this dough doesn’t do much rising, but you can tell it’s done based on the bubbliness/puffiness.

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Pinch the dough into 3 oz balls (KAF suggests billiard ball sizes), and snuggle them on your greased pan, so they are just barely touching. Cover the baking pan, and let the dough rise for another hour or until they’re squished up on each other.

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Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, make the glaze by whisking together 1 egg white and 1 tbs of milk, then brush over the dough balls.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
When buns are completely cool, mix together all the icing ingredients, adjusting as needed to form a pipeable icing. Then pipe icing over the buns (in a cross if you must, but really whatever you like). Enjoy!

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Even as I’m sitting here eating my craisin bun, the back of my head is still running away with its fanciful imagination, day dreaming of a different reality. Again, ambition, delusion, discontent – all very fine lines between them. But whatever the catalyst – I appreciate it. I actually love it. For just a few short moments, I can escape and come back more rejuvenated to tackle whatever else lies ahead.

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

Thanks for reading,
AnhD

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