Monthly Archives: March 2021

Hot Cross Buns–Sonoran Desert style

Do you remember the old gradeschool song “Hot Cross Buns–Hot Cross Buns…”? It refers to a traditional Easter-time holiday bread served in many English-speaking countries. Variations of similar festive sweet citron breads abound on every continent.

Prickly-pear-glazed Hot Cross Buns for Easter breakfast–using wild desert foods in a spring ritual

Tia Marta here to share this old favorite with a Southwest twist–not your typical Easter bread, but indeed a celebration of desert foods and an adaptation to local cultures!

When I was young we always had Hot Cross Buns served at this time. I thought they looked like eggs with a cross on top.  Traditionally they were made with white flour, and citron in the dough, topped with white crosses.

Now, in my imagination, I’m envisioning how Tucson’s Presidio women of the late 1700s might have prepared celebratory sweet citron buns.  They would have used Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat flour and perhaps citron prepared from orange or sweetlime rinds grown at the original San Augustin Mission Garden by the missionaries.  For sweetener, perhaps in place of rare sugar or honey, maybe they used syrup made by neighboring Tohono O’odham harvesters from mesquite pods or agave heart, or maybe molasses from African sorghum introduced in the San Augustin garden.

Cross Bun ingredients: White Sonora Wheat, amaranth flour, diced citrus peel, dried saguaro fruit, ManoYMetate Adobo mole mix spice, and agave nectar….add amaranth flour for flavor and nutrition

Inspired by these imaginings…. in place of citron I used my candied citrus rind from Tucson’s Mission Garden sweetlimes and Meyer lemon (see my post from Nov.2020). Then I got crazy and added bits and pieces of dried saguaro cuñ (pronounced choon) frozen from last summer’s harvest. For the dough, I made a mix of white Sonora wheat and amaranth flour.  For the glaze cross, instead of standard milk-glaze I used prickly pear juice (frozen from squeezed tunas last August) as the liquid to make a glorious pink instead of white design. I enjoy making yeast breads and this one is relatively quick.

 RECIPE–Muff’s Sonoran Desert Hot Cross Buns

Here’s what you will need:

1)   little bowl for the sweetener mix

2)   big mixing bowl for the sifted flour and dough prep

3)   small sauce pan to scald the milk

4)   greased baking sheet

5)   little bowl for making glaze

ingredients: 

2 Tbsp warm water (105-115F)

1 Tbsp active dry yeast

For sweet additions: ¼ cup agave nectar (or mesquite syrup), ¼ cup dried saguaro fruit with seeds– cuñ (or desert hackberries), ¼ tsp ground cinnamon OR ManoYMetate Adobo Mole powder mix, 2 Tbsp finely chopped citrus rind from your favorite local citrus (or rind-candy)

For liquid mixture: 1 cup milk to scald, 1 additional Tbsp agave nectar or sugar, 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 lg egg

For flour mixture: 1 cup white Sonora wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour, and 2/3 cup amaranth flour (OR 2 cups white Sonora wheat flour and 2/3 cup amaranth flour)

For glaze: 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, 2 tsp prickly pear juice or syrup, and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: In a large (warm) mixing bowl, put 2 Tablespoons warm water (105-115F)

Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon or 1 package of active dry yeast.  Agitate and stir with wooden spoon then let stand to activate.

In a small bowl separately to make the “citron” sweetener,  mix:  agave “nectar” syrup, dry saguaro fruit, cinnamon or Mole Adobo, and chopped citrus rind.

Into a large bowl, sift flour mixture.

In the small saucepan, scald milk, then stir in 1 T agave nectar, butter and salt, then pour into mixing bowl to semi-cool. Beat in egg. (Next step with this liquid mixture….)

For dough: Gradually mix flour into liquid mixture. Mix the sweet ingredient mixture into the dough. Cover dough bowl with tea towel and put in warm place to rise to double in size (ca.35-50 minutes). Turn dough out on a floured board to knead several strokes. With buttery fingers, form dough into balls. Place dough balls (about 18 of them) on a greased cookie sheet to rise again covered, until doubled in size. If desired, brush dough with melted butter. Preheat oven to 425F while dough is rising.

Dough balls brushed with butter and rising

When dough balls have risen, bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown. While buns are baking, make your glaze: Mix sifted confectioners’ sugar with prickly pear juice and vanilla to a thick creamy texture. When buns are still warm, apply glaze in a cross across the tops, or another design of spring’s rebirth.

The Easter bunny joins us for breakfast festivities

Hopefully this colorful recipe and its ideas might inspire you—indeed liberate you!— to take your own favorite recipes and use wild desert foods and heirlooms in place of commercial ingredients where they easily fit.  Happy experimenting with desert ingredients!

Flor de Mayo white Sonora wheat-berries available at Mission Garden and NativeSeedsSEARCH

Ideas–There will be a harvest celebration at Mission Garden in May of Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat–not to miss! Find White Sonora Wheat-berries available for milling (or for planting next fall) at Tucson’s Mission Garden and NativeSeedsSEARCH grown organically by Marana’s BKWFarms. Milled flour is sometimes available fresh from Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour is available from Bob’s Red Mill or Natural Grocers. For prickly pear juice, make plans to harvest tunas next August when ripe, or try Cherie’s Desert Harvest’s syrup.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Pipian Empanadas

Good morning, friends! Amy here playing in the kitchen, not a recipe in sight. With an idea to make empanadas, I started with dry corn masa meal (aka Maseca, Minsa). I don’t know where to get organic in small quantities, but I have it on hand that I use as an ingredient in Mano Y Metate mole powders. It is a starchy flour corn treated with lime and used for tortillas and tamales.

I added a pinch of salt and enough warm water to make a soft dough.

Then I kneaded in a splash more water to make a smoother dough.

It’s important to let the dough rest for the corn rehydrate.

For a filling, I made some Pipian Picante. Made with Santa Cruz Hot Red Chile, it’s only medium spicy. It’s only picante compared to the original Pipian Rojo made with Santa Cruz Mild Red Chile. My latest way to make mole powder into a sauce is to put the unmeasured quantity of mole powder into the pan, then add oil slowly until it looks like a paste consistency.

After cooking the paste, I added turkey broth and cooked turkey. Of course you could use veggie broth and a combination of whole cooked beans or vegetables you like.

I wanted a thick sauce that would not leak out of the empanadas.

Now that my dough had rested, I took a small bit and formed a ball. I placed it on sheet of plastic grocery bag, cut open and flattened to the counter. (If you wanted to put fun additions in to the masa, now would be the time.)

I folded the bag over the ball, sandwiching it between layers of plastic. Then I pressed the ball with a dinner plate.

Most plates have little rim on the bottom which makes for a uniform disk in a good thickness!

My guide is to add just less filling that it seems will fit.

After crimping the edges, I transferred to a hot, dry cast iron comal, flat side down.

Flip!

For extra insurance against raw dough near the interior, I covered with a lid to steam a bit.

If it was still doughy, my backup plan was to fry after or instead of dry cooking. But I didn’t need to do that, it was totally cooked and delicious.

It seems like a miracle that the filling squeezes out when bitten but not before. And that I didn’t need to fry. That was so much easier than I thought and really good. Here’s wishing you fun in the kitchen and Spring miracles all around!

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Broccoli Leaves Make Chips, Not Compost

Crispy, salty broccoli chips are low calorie, and high nutrition and satisfaction.

For my winter garden, I always buy broccoli plants rather than growing my own from seed. This year, my little four-pack included a strange variety. One was a typical broccoli plant and the others were odd but fun variants, including a Romanesco.

The variants have huge leaves. I was going to chop them up for compost or give them to a friend with chickens, but then I decided having committed inputs like water and fertilizers, I should get some benefit. A quick internet scan introduced me to broccoli chips. 

First step is to tear them into chip-sized pieces, put them in a bowl and drizzle just a tiny bit of olive oil on them. Just a tiny bit and rub it all over.

 

Then lay the pieces on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt or seasoning. Go for a Southwest flavor with red chile, chipotle, or cumin with the salt but use a light hand.  The spoon is there to give you an idea of the size. I lined my pan with foil because the pans are new and I don’t want them stained like my old pans. 

 

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. They need to be absolutely dry and crisp or you’ll end up with a mouth full of fiber when you eat them.

 

Put them out as snacks. They go fast.  Every chip comes with lots of fiber and Vitamin A. 

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I’m thrilled to announce that since my last post my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has won two awards. It was named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year list and also won a PubWest award for design. The latter was particularly satisfying because it honored Leigh McDonald and Sara Thaxton who did the extremely complex layout that makes the book so visually stunning. It was as if they entered my brain and executed exactly what I had been hoping for.  Order your copy from your local book store, from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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