Month: June 2018

Sticky Buns: easier and stickier than ever

Sticky Buns: easier and stickier than ever

Sticky buns are a spectacular way to start any morning, and it really isn’t hard to make them if you start with 90  minutes or so free the night before. The result is hot, delicious  baked buns  in the morning that everyone will love. We usually start making the dough about 9 pm, and put the rolls together around 10:15 pm.

There are three parts to sticky buns: the glaze, the filling and the dough. Some recipes suggest a brioche dough, which is delicious, but quite a bit more work. Our dough is a simple yeast dinner roll dough that you let rise for an hour and then form into buns that rise over night. The overall buns are so rich that the kind of dough doesn’t actually matter much.

To make the dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 package regular yeast (avoid the rapid rise variety)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour (about)
  1. Add the 1/2 tsp sugar to the water and stir in the yeast. Allow the solution to stand until the yeast begins to bubble and foam a bit (maybe 4-5 minutes)
  2. Meanwhile, mix the milk, shortening and sugar, and heat in a microwave for one minute.(The shortening does not have to melt.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the flour to the work bowl of a food processor and pour in the warmed milk. Process until blended.
  4. Add the egg and mix in.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and mix in.
  6. Add flour until you have a soft dough.
  7. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, make the glaze and the filling.

To make the glaze

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and honey to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the glaze into two buttered square 9” pans, or one oblong pan, and sprinkle the pecans over top.

To make the filling

filling i n bowl

  • 4 Tb butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Melt the butter  for 30-40 sec in a microwave, and mix in the sugar and pecans

Assembling the buns

  1. When the dough has risen, punch it down in a floured board, and divide in half.
  2. Roll out each half to a 6 x 18” rectangle and sprinkle with half the filling.
  3. Roll up the dough lengthwise into a roll and cut each roll into 9 slices
  4. Place the slices in the two pans, cover with aluminum foil, and  let rise over night in a  cool place, such as a basement.
  1. In the morning, heat the oven to 375 º F and bake the buns for about 15 minutes, until the glaze is bubbling.

baked

Loosen the rolls from the sides of the pan with a small spatula, and then place a plate over each pan and invert it quickly. This is best done over the sink as some glaze will probably dribble out. The rolls should drop onto the plate.

Scrape any remaining glaze onto the rolls and allow them to cool a bit before serving,

one bun

Makes 18 buns.

Note: The overall flavor of the glaze is influenced by the honey, so be sure to choose a milder flavored honey.

 

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How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

You don’t have to scramble eggs a little batch at a time if you have  a large pan. We used a 13-inch All Clad pan to cook ours. The accompanying video shows it in detail.

Start at very low heat, and slowly the stir the eggs. You can go up to low heat if you want, but to make nice, creamy eggs, you want to cook them slowly.

Start with just the eggs, no salt and no milk. You’ll add the butter right away. We used a stick, or 4 oz of unsalted butter in this recipe. Slowly stir the butter into the eggs so it melts. Keep stirring until the eggs begin to thicken. At the end add a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and 3-4 Tb of crème fraiche or sour cream.

Decorate the plates or serving platter with some chopped parsley or chives.

 

Enjoy your breakfast!

 

“Flyin’ West” opens at Westport Playhouse

“Flyin’ West” opens at Westport Playhouse

Above: Keona Welch, Michael Chenevert, Brenda Pressley, Brittany Bradford, and Nikiya Mathis in “Flyin’ West,” by Pearl Cleage, Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Pearl Cleage’s 1994 drama Flyin’ West opened Saturday night at the Westport Country Playhouse, directed by Seret Scott. The play deals with a period in the latter 19th century when freed slaves struck out to create new homes in the West under the Homestead Act. Entire black towns were formed that welcomed new freed slaves for many years.  Of these, only Nicodemus, Kansas remains as an historical site.

The story centers around four strong black women who settled in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas in 1898. The matriarch, Miss Leah, is wonderfully played by Brenda Pressley, and her two interchangeable daughters Fannie Dove and Sophie Washington, well played  by Brittany Bradford and Nikiya Mathis. The director has them costumed and made up in a similar fashion, although one lives in Miss Leah’s house, the other apparently lives nearby. And honestly, it is difficult to remember which of the daughters is which. They both speak in exactly the same dialect, pitch and speed.

1_WCP_Flyin' West_Bradford_O'Blenis_byCRosegg_130

The love interest, Wil Parish is charmingly played by Edward O’Blenis.

In fact, while the men are easily understood from the balcony, the women’s rapid dialect exchanges are sometimes difficult to understand.
Brittany Bradford and Edward O’Blenis
Photo by Carol Rosegg

All of the action takes place in Miss Leah’s house, which in Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s conception, is a huge, vaulted ceiling home with at least two implied bedrooms just behind, and dominated by an enormous 2-story stone fireplace. Considering that most freed slaves came to Nicodemus with very little, it appears that Miss Leah has done very well for herself.

While part of the first act is chit-chat among Leah, her two daughters and Wil, the story kicks off when her third daughter Minnie Dove Charles (played with great poise by Keona Welch) arrives from London with her new husband Frank Charles, a sometime poet (played as a terrific villain by  Michael Chenevert).  Frank is dressed to the nines in an elegant 3-piece suit and seems to be quite light-skinned. You quickly realize that he has been “passing for white” for some time even though his naïve wife doesn’t seem to pick up this. What she does pick up on is several bruises, for it seems that Frank is, in addition to a mediocre poet, a wife-beater.

The central part of the story is that Frank believes that white “speculators” are willing to pay thousands of dollars for Leah’s property and in which his wife holds a part interest and he tries to force her to sell her share.  The second act resolves this incredibly by descending to the Arsenic and Old Lace story line, but without Teddy in the basement.  Oh, and while Sophie carries a rifle in Act I, it is never fired, violating the Checkhov gun rule.

While “Flyin’ West” is an entertaining enough evening, it isn’t a particularly strong or credible play. Cleage’s dialog lacks any poetry or elegance of language. The one exception is one of Leah’s second act speeches, which is briefly compelling. And from what I have been able to find out, the real Nicodemus was never a target for speculators, since the railroad was never in town as the play indicated, but some six miles away on the other side of the Solomon River.

Flyin’ West runs through June 16 at the Westport Country Playhouse, with performances on Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays at 2 and 8, Thursday and Friday at 8, Saturday at 3 and 8 and Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets are available on line or by calling 203-227-1477. The show is in two acts, with one 15 minute intermission. The first act is about 75 minutes, and the second about 45 minutes, ending around 10:15.

Soft-boiled eggs and egg cups

Soft-boiled eggs and egg cups

You probably have made soft-boiled eggs for breakfast once in a while. Here is a simpler and more reliable way to get perfect eggs, along with some serving suggestions.

We have found that you can cook a number of eggs at once in a vegetable steamer basket, instead of soft-boiled eggs? Yep, wait and see.

To cook the eggs, let them sit out of your refrigerator for 5 minutes or so, so they aren’t ice cold. Then, put a vegetable steamer basket in a saucepan and fill the pan with water so the water level is just below the basket. Bring the water to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. This only takes a minute or so, because there isn’t much water in the pan.

steamer white eggsUsing a slotted spoon or other long handled spoon, quickly lower the eggs into the basket, and cover the pan.  Let them cook for 6 ½ minutes. Then run cold water into the pan, drain and run in cold water again to stop the eggs from over cooking. Don’t worry, they’ll still be plenty warm.

Now is where international opinions diverge. If you are American, you probably put the soft-boiled eggs in a bowl with some toast, cut them open and dig out the eggs with a spoon, and eat them right away.

Egg cups

If you are British or Australian, or have immediate ancestors who are, you probably serve your  soft boiled eggs in egg cups.  The outrage Brits and Oz people feel about vulgar American soft-boiled eggs can be absorbed here, here and here.  Their point seems to be “Do you just let the eggs roll around on your plate?” and “Where does the drippy yolk end up?”

In the British approach, you put the just cooked egg in an egg cup, cut off the top, and serve the cup on a plate with strips of toast (called “soldiers”) or toast points. No crusts here, of course. We found a few egg cups around.

Our neighbor brought us one made for Fanny Farmer in the 1940s, that originally came with a chocolate egg in it. We also found a nice porcelain one that will hold a conventional hen’s egg, or in the larger part of the base, a duck’s egg.  In fact, if you turn the egg cup over, there is small cup in the base that might hold a quail’s egg.  We also found that there are a number of egg cups on Amazon including 4 plastic ones for about $10.

Egg cups go back as far as 3 CE, where they were found in the ruins of Pompeii, but were distinctly for the ruling classes, until the advent of the railroads, when both British and American shops along railroad lines sold souvenir egg cups at each stop. There were also sterling silver egg cups, intended to be baby gifts, but weren’t too practical as the sulfur in the egg tarnished the silver.

There is also a cute video from Martha Stewart showing a huge variety of egg cups. Apparently they are seriously collectable.

topperSo, how do you open this egg? Experienced egg cup users just flick the top of the egg with a butter knife and cut it open. You can also get an “egg topper,” that will score the top of the egg when you pull on the handle and let go. It may or may not take the top off, but once it is scored, you can lift it off easily. So here they are, with eggs in the cups. And we’ll have to admit, they do look elegant.

 

 

Peeling the eggs

Now, one of the points of the egg cup is to hold the shell still, so you can eat the egg conveniently. But, what about peeling the just-cooked egg and serving it in a bowl with soldiers or toast points? If you cook the eggs in a steamer as we did, you will find that you can easily peel them under cold running water, and still have  a warm egg to eat with your toast.

two shelled in bowl

But, the ultimate solution could be to put those warm, peeled eggs back into the egg cups and eat them that way, dipping toast into the warm yolk. We tried that, and they were delicious!

shelled in egg cups