Frosty mornings can look beautiful… best viewed from inside a warm house with the first cup of coffee of the day. A bit of sunshine makes all the difference, and knowing that someone else has already been down to feed the hens, so there’s no need to venture out before the air warms up a bit, is pretty important too. But, much as I hate being cold, staying indoors too long means missing out on all the frost-edged details in the garden.
The parsley doesn’t really mind a bit of frost. It soon thawed out, and later in the day I picked a bunch to add to a pot of soup for tea. The flowers, on the other hand, probably aren’t going to bounce back just as well. The borage, which has done so well all summer and attracted so many bees, was decidedly droopy after a chilly night. The rudbeckias were more upright. They started flowering later than the borage, but have been brilliant as cut flowers – looking like mini sunflowers and lasting for days in a vase. They might not produce many more blooms now, but they do look good with a light dusting of frost.
I don’t grow a lot of roses in the garden, although if I can find a space I would like to plant more… one summer I want to grow enough to make rose petal jam. The roses I do have were bought a few years ago when we were asked grow flowers for a wedding. The bride was lovely, and wanted a natural, country garden look to her flowers. Her favourite flowers were peonies, and she said she would love to have some in her bouquet – not an unreasonable request I hear you say… but the wedding was in September. I spent a while researching peony-like flowers and found a couple of varieties of rose that would make good substitutes. One was ‘Brother Cadfael’, but I can’t remember the name of the other. This is a bud of the other one, looking sophisticated and stylish as it defrosts in the early sun.
And then there are the marigolds. Seeing them all frosty and sparkling reminded me that it was probably my last chance to pick some petals for baking with. I’ve been wanting to use calendula petals in place of saffron to make some saffron/marigold buns, but just haven’t got around to it yet. If I didn’t experiment with them now, it would be next spring before I got another chance.
When I say saffron buns, my version is so far from the traditional Cornish recipe that I’m renaming them – raisin buns isn’t very imaginative, but is a much more realistic description. The recipe that I’ve used, both in its original form and now adapted here, comes from ‘The book of buns’ by Jane Mason. It’s a great collection of yeasted buns, sweet and savoury, from all over the world. Having tried marigold petals in the place of saffron, I’m not sure that they add that much to the overall effect. They do give the milk a lovely, warming orangey colour but that’s about it… which may be just as well – I don’t want to have to wait until next spring before making these buns again.
The ingredient for November’s One Ingredient Challenge is fruits of the vine, so I’m linking this recipe with it. The challenge is jointly hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen and Laura at How to Cook Good Food, and this month already has a fair old list of seasonal (and festive) recipes.
150 ml milk
1 tbsp calendula petals (optional)
350g plain flour
1 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tsp fine sea salt
40g caster sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 lemon and ginger tea bag
milk to brush the tops of the buns
Warm the milk, calendula petals and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to heat until the milk is just below boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
While the milk is cooling, soak the raisins and tea bag in enough boiling water to just cover the fruit.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, salt and caster sugar, and stir to combine.
Strain the cooled milk into a jug and whisk in the egg and melted butter. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is nice and smooth and soft. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rest for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes, drain the raisins, remove the tea bag and add the fruit to the dough. Using your hands, work the raisins through the dough by kneading it or folding it over the fruit. Cover the bowl again and leave to rise for 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces, shape each into a round and put them gently onto a greased baking sheet. Cover and leave to rest for about 45 minutes. Toward the end of this last resting, preheat the oven to 220oC, 425oF, gas 7.
Brush the tops of the buns with a little milk and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.