Visions of an open fire, flickering gold, cindered orange and terracotta red capture the fullness of my senses as I watch, delighted, at the passionate, sultry dance of its flames playing before me, slave to the beat of its temperamental crackling, their feather-like flares beckoning me closer to bask in the warmth and glow of their spirited hunger.
Come closer, come closer.
With outstretched hands, the lambent glow welcomes me nearer to listen to their Delphic, arcane whispers and enigmatic weaving of stories, tempting all who come close enough to catch the treads of their words, knowing all too well, the futility of such a game. And yet, even in its playful, elusive manner, the harnessing of Hestia’s sacred fire, the art of the heath as it were, grants all those who skilfully and respectfully use it, the ability to transform nature’s bounty into a feast of cooked delights.
The most tempting of all the pleasures of the archetypal warmth of the hearth, remains its most basic and sustaining creation: bread-making. Elementary. Nurturing. The foremost example of simplicity. In many respects, an art that can be traced back to the ancient, esoteric lands of Sumer, to the cradle of civilisation. With the bringing together of water, ground grains, salt and a leaven, a dough can be fashioned and worked on to form the basis of creating an array of breads where each loaf has uniquely been shaped by the hands of its makers, enriched by culture, history and the lands upon which their essence are sown.
Our Daily Bread, is fundamentally a means to which one can honour this simplicity and joy of creation, a repertoire if you will, to exhibit and document simple baking stables and creativity. It is about being mindful of each stepping stone that a loaf will take towards the oven and the experiences of utter pleasure on its emergence. Over the coming year, an assortment of breads will be baked, many of which will showcase our rich heritage, traditions and lands of which we have travelled and have grown to love through the years.
Pecan Rose Buns
Cooking Time: 4+ hours
Makes: 8 large buns
These buns were inspired by the beautiful roses that are in abundance this time of year. If you wish to create cinnamon rolls instead, simply discard the cardamom and the rosewater, and exchange the rose petals in the filling for a further 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon.
4 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup whole milk
1tbsp fresh yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
2tbsp dried rose petals (for decoration) (optional)
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and sugar together and set aside. Place the whole milk, yeast and butter into a saucepan over a low heat. Stir continuously until the butter begins to melt and the milk feels warm to the touch (approximately 5 minutes – do not allow it to go over body temperature as this will kill the yeast). When ready, take off the heat and pour into the flour mixture and with a fork, stir the mixture together until it begins to bind together. Add the egg and continue to mix until the dough is easy to handle. Dust a clean surface with some flour and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.
When the dough becomes smooth and elastic, roll into a ball and place into a clean, greased bowl and set aside in a warm place covered with a tea towel for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the caramelised pecans and, 20 minutes before the end of the first rise, make the rose pecan filling. Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down once or twice. Flour a clean surface and roll out the dough into a 24cm x 38 cm (approximately 9 inch x 15 inch) rectangle. Brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough and then liberally dusting the rose filling evenly over the buttered surface (even right to the edges). Scatter the 1/2 cup of pecans (not the caramelised pecans) on top.
Beginning from the 38cm (15 inch) side, roll up the dough and cut the ends off to create a clean edge. Using a sharp knife (or an unscented dental floss) cut the rolls into 8 pieces (tip: to get even sized buns, I firstly cut the roll into two pieces, before cutting these in half, and then cutting these again).
Place a sheet of parchment paper into a 8 inch cake tin or cast iron pan, before placing the slices into it (Note: If you are wanting to make these in advance, you can place the cake tin into the refrigerator overnight at this stage, tightly wrapped in clingfilm, and simply continue the recipe the next morning).
Place the cake tin in a warm place covered with a tea towel and allow to rise for a further 45-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan-assisted) 350ºF. Place the cake tin into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Meanwhile, make the glaze.
When the buns are ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool slightly before pouring over the glaze. Decorate with the caramelised pecans and rose petals before serving. Eat immediately whilst still warm.
Rose Pecan Filling
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: enough for 8 buns
I used rosa rugosa here as their petals come in the most gorgeous dark magenta pink, but feel free to use any dark coloured and heavily fragrant roses. This filling is best made just before rolling out the dough as it will keep its dark purple colour better.
1/4 cup melted butter (for brushing the dough)
1 1/4tsp cinnamon, ground
1 1/4 cup fresh dark rose petals, white ends removed (tightly packed)
1tsp cardamom, ground
1tsp ground vanilla bean
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light muscovado sugar
1/2 cup of pecans, roughly chopped
Place the pecans aside (they will be scattered onto the rose sugar filling later). Place the roses and sugar together into a coffee grinder and pulse until the sugar turns a beautiful purple colour and the roses are finely ground. Place the rose sugar into a bowl along with the cinnamon, cardamom, rosewater and vanilla bean. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients. Set aside until needed.
Rose-Cinnamon Caramelised Pecans
Cooking time: 5 minutes, plus 10 minutes cooling
Makes: 1/2 cup caramelised pecans
1/2 cup pecans, chopped roughly
1/4tsp cinnamon, ground
6tbsp granulated sugar
1/4tsp ground vanilla
Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a medium/low heat. Stir the contents of the pan occasionally, ensuring that all the pecans are coated in the caramel and spices. When the sugar has completely melted, take immediately of the heat and pour into a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before chopping into smaller pieces with a knife.
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Makes: enough for 1 batch of buns
1 cup confectionary sugar
10-12tbsp milk (or until desired consistency is achieved)
1/4tsp ground vanilla
Place the butter, sugar and vanilla into a bowl. Whisk until the consistency of sand. Whilst continuing whisking, add the amount of milk, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. Set aside until needed.
Thank you for reading.