Saturday, April 4, 2015

Of bikes, baskets, and buns

Test ride
Today was an unexpectedly lovely day, weatherwise, in Seattle and yet Scott and I did not go canoeing on Lake Washington nor even go for a walk over Pigeon Point to see the heron rookery (or "heronry," if you prefer) there. One day, about a month ago, since I was detoured from my usual route to work thanks to the work on Delridge, I did walk over the top of Pigeon Point, which always turns out to be a longer distance than I think it is, and I found myself at essentially eye-level with the herons. It was magical and beautiful and made me happy just to be alive in such a time and place. I was also very late getting to work but I'm sure I also stayed very late so it all came out even, or so I tell myself. But since then, I've been both wanting and not wanting to go by that way with Scott. It would be so nice to share the experience with him (or to have him have that experience) but just as you can never go home again or step in the same river twice, I'm not sure you can repeat unexpected magical moments. And, besides, it would mean getting up and out of the house and how much does that happen around here on a weekend?
Spoilery photo
  Today, however. I was going to write about today, or at least about today's notable adventures and accomplishments. Well, Bessie, I am happy to say, has at last had her new basket affixed. You would not think, perhaps, that it would take that long to manage what sounds like so simple a business but trust me, it wasn't easy. First there was the business of admitting that Bessie (Bessie being my bike, by the way) needed a new basket. That was a process that took some months, requiring bits of Bessie's old basket to break off at home, at work, on the bus, in the street, by the grocery store, etc., until I was forced to admit that it wasn't so much a basket as the base of what had once been a basket. Then I had to find a new basket and, of course, I couldn't just buy something new, designed for a bicycle, at a bicycle shop. No, Bessie's new basket was purchased, a few weeks back, at Wild Rose's Consignment store and then it sat around for a few weeks while we tried to determine how to affix it to my bike.

Bessie's new basket
 Some fancy u-screws were part of the plan for a while but eventually we went with the gear ties that I got free at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival last year, along with a length of copper wire we happened to have and the old bungee cord that had been holding the old basket in place. Scott also created a new mount for the blinky light on the back. I'm very pleased with the results.

The other business of the day seemed like it would be more straightforward. It being Easter weekend, and me liking a nice baked good, it seemed sensible to make some hot cross buns. As it happens, the hot cross bun recipe is opposite the recipe for pizza dough in my 1978 printing of Joy of Cooking so I've been well aware of it for the last year or so, what with making a fair amount of pizza these days. Sure, I had my mother's reliable recipe elsewhere but I vaguely remembered not being all that thrilled with the results of that recipe and so I decided to give the one in Joy a shot. (Mercifully, I think, I did not photograph the production of the resulting buns.)

The relevant page of Joy of Cooking
Well. Joy's recipe calls for only 2 2/3 cup of flour and includes the injunction not to stir in all the flour but rather to knead in the flour as soon as the dough can be kneaded. I found I had to add all the flour before the "dough" ceased to be essentially liquid. Maybe my flour, once sifted, was airier than Madames Rombauer and Becker anticipated, or maybe I just can't work a measuring cup. I ended up using more flour than called for, one way or another, but the dough rose nicely (while we were up the hill buying parts we ended up not using on Bessie's basket) which brought me to the "form into balls" stage with the dough. It was sticky, was that dough, and I had to apply a fair bit of butter to my hands to manage to form those balls but I was darned proud of myself once I'd succeeded. The second rising resulted in a couple of dish towels that are going to need to be washed but it seemed to go well enough. I then put the buns into a preheated 425-degree oven for the prescribed twenty minutes. Gosh, I wish I'd checked them at fifteen minutes.

Pagan Buns
The results are, well, a little dark and a little flatter than I might like but they taste okay. I guess. Not, really, a grand success in baking. Next time, I think, I'll stick with my mother's recipe. The Rombauer/Beckers, I've decided, are even less Christian than I am.


  1. I like the idea of hot cross buns, but I've never actually had one I enjoyed eating, even ones made by professionals. They're always sort of tough and dry, and that little cross on top isn't nearly enough frosting to compensate. Yours *look* right. Happy Easter!

  2. These aren't tough and dry--they actually taste okay. They're a bit chewy, like a proper host, perhaps. But, of course, there's nothing blasphemous about adding a little butter. Happy Easter back to you.