Friday, February 26, 2021

Pistachio Bundt Cake - doctored cake mix

This is a favorite recipe for dessert in a pinch.  I have had it for at least 20 years, modified from one that came with my original bundt pan, and is simply a doctored cake mix.  It really is a lovely cake though.  This one turns out very light and chiffon like, with a pretty pale green color and excellent flavor.  Hubby loves pistachio, so this is one that has always been a favorite of his.  Though he usually sugars out pretty quickly, this is one of those rare desserts he will come back and keep taking slivers of to snack on.

You could add a little extra green food coloring to this mix to give a nice St. Patrick's Day cake!

Pistachio Bundt Cake

1 pkg. yellow cake mix (18.5oz.) (Cake mixes are 16.5 oz nowadays, but this recipe still works fine.  If you want a slightly more dense cake, try one less egg.)
4 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup oil
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding mix

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, orange juice, oil, and pudding mix.  Beat using a hand or stand mixer at low speed for 1 minute, then beat at high speed 3 more minutes.  The batter will lighten in color and be smooth and thick.  Pour batter into a well greased and floured bundt pan and level with a rubber scraper.  Bake at 350ºF for about 45-60 minutes or until cake tests done.  (Time will vary by oven.)  Cool in pan 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Top with glaze.
~1¼ cups sifted confectioners powdered sugar (Use 1½-1¾ cups for a thicker glaze like the very top picture, and 1¼ cups for a slightly thinner glaze like the picture below, as desired.)
2 tbsp orange or lemon juice
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Stir together until smooth.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Non Bread for #BBB Baker's Dozen Anniversary!

Non is a traditional flatbread baked throughout Central Asia.  This bread is typically produced in a searing hot tandoor oven by slapping the dough against the clay walls to bake.  For those home bakers that do not have access to a tandoor, (raises hand), cranking up the oven as high as it will go and using a pizza stone or baking steel can help approximate the tandoor and give the characteristic chewy, elastic texture.  Also, it is cultural tradition to eat this bread by tearing off pieces, not by cutting. (If you hadn't guessed, Non was what we baked for the Bread Baking Babes' Baker's Dozen Anniversary!)

 One rather fascinating aspect of this bread is that it uses a spoked stamp, also known as a chekich, to decorate the bread before baking.  Sometimes these Uzbek bread stamps are used all over the dough and sometimes just in the middle for a single decorative mark.  They are not absolutely essential to the bread however, which can be imaginatively decorated using many kitchen implements, the easiest of which is simply a fork and shears or scissors.  I will add that the dough does need to be gently flattened all across the center, leaving just a small ring around the edge.  Otherwise the dough will swallow up the beautiful design of the stamp, as happened to me.  I used the floral patterned stamp in my center and surrounded it with little flowers using a wax stamp.  Those exterior patterns at least stayed in perhaps a lamentable pattern.  Fortunately, this is a nice little bread, easy to try again and easy to double when you decide you love it.  Some of our Babes have baked it dozens of times now!

I did do something possibly sacrilegious as I was looking at a Turkish bread recipe around the same time.  I added a little oil (1½ tbsp) to my dough to soften it a bit.  After all, the dough is kneaded on an oiled surface...  So my results are probably softer but still have a little chew to the bread.  At any rate, very tasty!

We would love for you to try this beautiful and tasty bread and bake along with us this month!  No blog is necessary to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished flatbread to our host by the 29th of this month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Non Bread
makes 1 flatbread


    190 g plain flour or desired blend of whole grain flour (I used all purpose and flax seed meal)
    1½ tsp fast-action dried yeast (I used instant yeast)
    ¾ tsp  salt
    ½ tsp caster sugar (optional)
    125 ml water
    oil or melted lard
    ½ tsp black onion seeds (Nigella, Charnushka), or sesame seeds

Allow 2 hours for the initial rise and 45-75 minutes for the final proving stage.

Put the flour(s) in a large bowl or mixer, add the yeast to one side and the salt and sugar, (if using), to the other. Make a well in the middle and pour in 125ml water while mixing thoroughly. Add enough water to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes until no longer tacky and the dough is soft and smooth. Return to the bowl, cover, and leave to rise for about 2 hours, until at least doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough and form it into a wide, rounded disc.

Set on a wooden board or peel, lined with a piece of baking parchment or sprinkled with semolina, and cover again with the tea towel. Leave to rise for another 45-75 minutes, or until doubled in size again.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 260°C/500ºF, or as hot as it will go, and put a pizza stone or baking sheet in to heat up.  The oven and stone both need to be screaming hot. Make a wide indentation across the middle of the bread by pressing with the heel of your hand, leaving just a doughnut-shaped ring around the edge. Create a pattern in the middle using a non bread stamp or the tines of a fork. Brush the top with oil or lard and sprinkle with the onion seeds. Trim the excess parchment from the sides of the bread to keep it from scorching.

Put a handful of ice cubes on the floor of the oven – these will create steam. (I, of course, forgot this part).  Use the board to lift the bread to the oven and carefully slide it onto the preheated stone or tray. Bake for 13-15 minutes. The top should be golden and the loaf sound hollow when tapped underneath.

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Grilled Fruit Pizza #BreadBakers


I remember making little English muffin pizzas for an old bachelor neighbor up the road that we had invited over for dinner with our family when I was around 9 or 10.  It was a recipe in a cookbook for boys and girls that my Great Grandmother had given me for Christmas.  


I still have that book.  They were something new and I was immensely proud of myself.  I recall being a little crestfallen when he asked what it was, but we enjoyed them nonetheless.  When I saw the theme of Pizzas! chosen by our host at Karen's Kitchen Stories, I figured I would try something new again.

So this month I decided to try out a fruit pizza on the grill!  I would suggest doing this with in-season fruit or perhaps frozen fruit, but the options are many.  I didn't get my barbecue heated up quite screaming hot enough, so I finished mine under the broiler just to get the middle browned, but the crust was perfectly done on my baking stone in our small grill.  I wish I would have had some lime thyme to sprinkle on top, which is fabulous, but mine did not winter over.  It never does, I need to find a more sheltered place to plant some!

Fruit Pizza on the Grill 
makes 2 crusts

1 pound pizza dough (your favorite recipe or store bought)
Polenta, cornmeal or semolina for dusting peel (amaranth, ground up, makes a great corn free substitute!)
⅓ cup mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup whole milk ricotta (set on a paper towel for a few minutes if it looks at all watery)
1 tbsp crystallized/candied ginger, finely minced
2 tbsp honey, apricot preserves or marmalade 
zest of a lime, divided in half
fresh lime or lemon thyme, optional (it does need to be fresh, not dried)
stone fruit of choice, sliced fairly thinly - nectarines, peaches, apricots or plums could work
A handful of fresh berries of choice

Turn up the grill for high, indirect heat. Set a pizza stone so it’s not directly over the flame.  The grill should be heated to at least 500°F to 550°F.   Allow enough time for grill to preheat when assembling the pizza.  (If baking in an oven, set as hot as the oven will go, 500-550ºF.)

Stretch or roll out pizza dough to about 14-inches. Scatter a tsp of cornmeal over a wooden pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet and and move the crust over. Give a little shake to make sure the pizza slides freely. Add a sprinkle more cornmeal if necessary. 
Stir together the mascarpone, ricotta, half the lime zest, and the honey or preserves and then spread it over the crust. Arrange sliced fruit over the pizza and then scatter with berries and fresh thyme.

Slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone and close the grill cover for about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on the heat of your grill) or until crust is golden brown and blistered and the cheese mixture is bubbling. Remove from grill and scatter remaining lime zest evenly over and top with a drizzle of honey.  Slice, serve, and enjoy. 

Be sure to check out our other pizza participants this month!

 #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Toasted Oats Bread #BBB

Oat breads have, for some unknown reason, been a hit or miss item for me.  Sometimes I get amazing results, sometimes I get intolerably dense loaves.  This one was a hit.  And have I mentioned how much I love my sourdough starter?  I haven't used it since a day before Thanksgiving and it still doubled within 12 hours of a feeding where I discarded a full cup to bake with and only had ¼ - 1/3 cup left to feed up.
This particular bread was described by our host this month as "beautifully lean (but not at all dry) and slightly nutty tasting."  My loaf, which I baked to bien cuit status, still had a perfectly moist interior with a very textural crumb, but not really porridge like.  Actually would probably pull it earlier by five minutes next time as it was already golden when I pulled the lid off, but as it was it was a perfect European style bake with a deeply golden and beautifully caramel colored crust that sang as it cooled, oh it did sing.  A crisply well done crust that you can leave out to cool overnight and not worry about staling.   Eldest loved it, youngest said pass.  She loves oatmeal, but the texture in this bread was a bit much for her I think.  It is a filling loaf and sticks with you, good for breakfast toast!  Good for dipping in soup and stew and I am tempted to try it as French toast.

I did, in typical Babe fashion, completely choose my own method for the dough as suited my mixer and preferences.  I also got to use my grain roller for the very first time, which was pretty cool.  It means I can keep whole, sprouted oats on hand and just roll them fresh when we want oatmeal or need it for baking.

If you like a hearty loaf with a shatteringly crisp crust, do try this out and bake along with us this month!  No blog is necessary to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished loaf to our host by the 29th of this month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Toasted Oats Bread
makes 1 large round

Leaven: (prepare the night before baking)
60 grams whole wheat flour (I used Kamut)
60 grams water
dessert spoon of starter from the fridge (about 30 grams) 

Oat soaker: (prepare the night before baking)
100 grams rolled oats, toasted
100 grams boiling water 

Final Dough:
100 grams 100% whole wheat 'no additives' flour (I used half freshly ground sprouted Kamut and half freshly ground Edison hard white wheat)
400 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
5 grams wheat germ (I used the bran I sifted twice out of my fresh ground flour)
5 grams malted wheat chops (I used steel cut oats instead)
325 grams water
all of the leaven from above, when a small forkful floats in a glass of cool water
10 grams salt + 25 grams water
all of the rolled oats mixture from above 

Topping (optional)
quick oats

For the Leaven: In the evening of the day before making the bread, put the starter, flour and water into a small bowl. Mix until the flour is stirred in well. Cover the bowl and set aside overnight.  If the kitchen is cold, leave in the oven with only the light turned on. 

Flaking the oats for toasting:


For the Oats: Pour rolled oats into a dry cast iron frying pan and place over medium high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time. It takes about about 7 minutes to toast the oats. (They will start to turn golden and smell nutty.) Transfer the toasted oats into a medium-sized bowl and pour the boiling water over top. (I actually needed ~115g water to moisten all the oats.)
Cover with a plate and leave overnight in the oven with the leaven.
Kamut on the left and Edison hard white wheat on the right.
For the final dough:  On the morning of the day you will be making the bread, once a small forkful of the leaven floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, proceed to making the dough. Sift the whole wheat flour into a large mixing bowl, reserving the bran for after shaping. Add all-purpose flour, wheat germ, malted wheat chops, and 325 water to the sifted whole wheat flour. Stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside for a moment.

Weigh the salt and 25 grams water, whisking it together in a small bowl and set aside. (I used 15g water.)

Add the leaven to the large bowl.  Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mix these ingredients together to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.

(For my dough I combined the Kamut and Edison flour, water, and leaven along with the sifted bran instead of wheat germ, and steel oats into my mixer and mixed to a smooth batter.  I let that sit for 15 minutes to hydrate the bran.  Then I added the all purpose flour and kneaded until the dough was smooth and fairly well developed.  I waited the 30 minutes to add the salt mixture and proceeded with the stretch and folding.)

Adding the salt and knead: Pour the salt mixture over the dough.  Use one of your hands or a mixer to mix the salt and water into the dough.  Continue to mix until the dough becomes cohesive again.  Keep folding the dough over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Stretching and folding: Add the oats over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl as you fold and re-fold the dough into the center, to distribute the oats.  Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (use the oven light again for a cold kitchen).

Continuing to stretch and fold: Repeat the folding step about 3 times in all at 30 minute intervals. After the final time of folding, leave the covered bowl in a draft free area until the dough has almost doubled.

Pre-shaping: Scatter a dusting of all-purpose flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Fold the dough over in half, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Turn the dough a quarter turn and fold in half again. Continue turning and folding in half until the dough is shaped in a ball. Leave it seam side down on the board and cover with a large overturned mixing bowl (or a tea towel) and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the brotform: Liberally coat the insides of a brot-form with rice flour. 

Shaping and optional topping: Scatter a very light dusting of flour on top of the round. Gently press down with the palms of your hands to create a disc that is about 4 centimeters deep. Carefully turn the disc over.  Without breaking the skin on the bottom, use the dough scraper to fold the dough in half. Turn the dough a quarter turn and continue folding until a ball is created.  Leave it seam side down and use the sides of the dough scraper to tighten the dough ball further. Once it has been tightened, wet your hands and rub them gently over the top. Scatter quick oats over the top.  Now carefully put the shaped loaf seam-side UP into the brotform. Scatter the reserved bran evenly onto the seam area. (I skipped that.)  Cover with the tea towel or an overturned mixing bowl and let sit for an hour or so to allow the loaf to almost double. "Almost" is the key here....

Preheat the oven: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread and leave it on the counter for another 15 minutes of so. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, leave the bread on the counter. Put a baking stone on a lower shelf of the oven. Place a cast-iron combo cooker (or lidded casserole dish) on the middle shelf and preheat the oven to hot.  (I use the lid of a granite roaster, which is much thinner than a cast iron cooker, and so my loaves require either reduced time or temperature.  Spray the inside of the lid with water and do not place until the loaf is in the oven.)

(At this point I had to completely reform my loaf and let it rise again because I missed my timer and over-proofed my loaf.  So my original oat topping was also incorporated into the dough.  This is a very forgiving loaf for timing though, I worked on it all day with a couple hours between the final folds because I had appointments.)

Scoring: When the oven is thoroughly preheated about fifteen minutes later, transfer the round into the hot shallow pan of the combo-cooker. (I place a piece of parchment over the brotform and my peel or a baking sheet over the top and gently flip it over onto the peel or sheet to transfer to the oven.)  Using a lame, sharp knife, or scissors, score the bread in the pattern you like.

Baking: Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and without stopping to stare in amazement at the amazing oven spring, close the oven door to continue baking for another 15-30 minutes, until the crust is a lovely dark golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when knuckle-rapped on the bottom.  (If the loaf is already turning golden at 30 minutes, check earlier.)

A singing crust sounds like a crackling fire when it is amplified.
(I took out as much hiss as I could.  You can hear the clock ticking
and the oven tinking as it cools down as well.)

Cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating.  The bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven so do not slice in order to avoid a gummy crumb. If you wish to serve warm bread (and of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF.  Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

 The rest of the Bread Baking Babes

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Matcha Milk Bread Turtle Buns with Dutch Crunch Topping #BreadBakers

Our bread bakers theme for this month is animal shaped breads, chosen by Stacy of Food Lust People Love.  With the option to make one large animal or smaller animal shaped rolls, I went with the smaller option.  This is such a fun little recipe and makes 6 large turtle shaped buns that can be split between two people or enjoyed as a larger treat by one.  (Turtles were a popular choice for this theme, but of course turtles are super cute!)

I had this recipe pinned to try for the Dutch crunch option, which I had never tried before, but it is totally cute and I love that it fulfills this month's theme.  The dough was nice and soft, though a little bit sticky to work with.  I might add another couple tbsp flour, maybe 20-30g next time.  This could have been due to the spirulina I had to use as a portion as I learned it increases elasticity and softens firmness of crumb in breads.  Or perhaps not with that small amount but I found that study interesting!

We all liked these, the chocolate crunch helps cut some of the sweetness.  Definitely happy I cut the sugar back and I think the dough would be very good with some lemon zest to complement both the matcha and white chocolate.

Matcha Milk Bread Turtle
Adapted from ful-filled.
For the tangzhong: 
3 tbsp (24g) flour
¼ cup (60ml) water
¼ cup (60ml) milk 

For the dough:
270g bread flour (I used all purpose)
100g sugar (I only used 75g, plenty sweet, especially with the white chocolate filling)
12g matcha (I didn't have enough matcha and used my 6g plus a ~tsp of spirulina powder)
5g instant yeast
4g fine grain salt
4g non-fat dry milk powder
70g whole milk, room temperature
1 tsp (4g) vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature & whisked
28g unsalted butter, melted & cooled 

For the filling, eyes, & Dutch crunch:
90g white chocolate, finely chopped
12 black sesame seeds
1½ tsp (3g) active dry yeast
¼ cup (60ml) warm water
1½ tbsp (18g) sugar
1½ tsp (12.5g) vegetable oil
¼ tsp (1g) salt
1/3 cup (50g) rice flour (use white or brown rice flour- not Mochiko sticky rice flour)
1 tbsp (7.5g) cocoa powder
sugar for sprinkling

Make the tangzhong: 
In a small saucepan, whisk together the water, milk & flour until no lumps remain .  Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture thickens to a fairly thick consistency, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Make the dough:
Whisk together flour, sugar, matcha, instant yeast, salt, and milk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer.  In a bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, egg, and cooled tangzhong mixture.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix for a few minutes until just combined (shaggy dough is fine).  Add melted butter and knead for about 7-10 more minutes.  It should feel elastic and just slightly sticky.  Shape dough into a ball, cover and place in a warm area to rise for 1½ hours.

When the dough is done rising, weigh and divide it into eight equally sized portions.  Reserve two pieces to make the heads and feet of the turtles.  Flatten each remaining piece of dough into about a 4-5" circle.  Add 15g of chopped white chocolate to the flattened dough, and press into the dough. Fold the dough up and around the white chocolate, pressing the dough together in the center to ensure it is well sealed.  Flip the bun over so the sealed side is down and repeat with the other five pieces of dough to finish the bodies.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2" in between each turtle.

Take one of the reserved balls of dough and divide it into six equally sized pieces to form the heads.  Roll each piece into a sphere & gently pinch one end of the sphere, slip the pinched end under the turtle body and press the body down at their meeting point, repeat with each piece to give all the bodies their heads.  (I recommend placing all the heads toward the center of the sheet to protect them from browning too much.  Mine that faced outwards browned significantly more than the center ones.)

Take the remaining ball of dough and divide it first into six equally sized pieces and then divide each of those pieces into four small pieces, giving 24 small feet pieces.  Shape each of the four small balls of dough into an oval, pinching one end of each oval. Slip the pinched ends under the turtle body placing them in front and back where the turtle's feet need to be.  When all turtles have heads and feet, place the eyes by taking 2 black sesame seeds and placing them onto each head, pressing them into the dough with a toothpick.  Place them deep enough that they will stay attached when the dough rises.

Cover the completed turtle shapes with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.  While the turtles are rising, make the dutch crunch mixture.  In a bowl, whisk together all the dutch crunch ingredients until smooth.  Cover and leave to rise while the turtles are rising.  After 30 minutes, pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Stir the dutch crunch topping down until it is smooth and then coat the top of each turtle body with the dutch crunch topping, spreading a spoonful evenly with the back of the spoon until all of the topping is used.  (I used most but not all, my mixture was just a touch loose and I might withhold 5g of the water next time to check consistency.  I used brown rice flour.)  Sprinkle the dutch crunch coating with sugar and then bake the rolls for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and place turtles on a rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes.  The turtles are best enjoyed while still warm from the oven, otherwise store in an airtight container.  Reheat in the microwave for about 20 second, wrapped loosely in a paper towel.  The Dutch crunch topping is absolutely best on the first day.

 Don’t forget to check out all the amazing breads baked by our talented bakers:

 #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussekatter) #BBB

Our December Bead Baking Babes challenge was the easy and delightful saffron bun known as Lussekatter.  St. Lucia's Day is celebrated most commonly in Italy and in Scandinavia. In Scandinavia, it falls on December 13th, considered to be the shortest day of the year (Julian calendar). Lucia means light, with the saffron providing the color of light. In Swedish tradition, young girls wear a crown of candles and wake their families bearing Lussekatter, special sweet yeast buns flavored with saffron and studded with currants or raisins. The shape is said to resemble the curl of a cat’s tail.  They are soft and light as a feather, with a beautiful creamy yellow from the saffron.

I was a Lucia Princess once, a long time ago, in a play about Christmas traditions around the world.  I explained about the Lucia, Queen of Light tradition and sang a solo.  It was the first time my parents had ever heard me sing.  Mom still talks about it; they didn't know I could sing. Somewhere under their house, we still have my wreath of candles that I wore.  I grew up in a town with strong Scandinavian roots and tradition, with a festival and royal court each year.  I was never a princess in that court but have a strong appreciation for Scandinavian baking!  This dough is soft and beautiful to work with and I love anything with cardamom in it.

These lovely little buns are not something to be missed, no matter what shape they come in.  Do try them out and bake along with us this month!  No blog is necessary to participate, a picture will do. Just send a picture or your post of your finished focaccine to our host by the 29th of this month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

St. Lucia Saffron Buns (Lussekatter)
Makes 12 to 14 good sized buns

¾ cup milk (175 ml)

½ teaspoon saffron threads (I crushed mine with a mortar and pestle to release more color and flavor)
¼ cup (50 g) + 1 tsp white, granulated sugar, divided
One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
3½ to 4 cups (490 g to 570 g) all-purpose flour (I only used the 3½ cups 490g)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup (1/2 stick, 4 Tbsp, 56 g) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup of sour cream (I imagine yogurt would work or quark if you can find it)
2 large eggs
Raisins, currants, dried cherries or cranberries

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water

In a small pot, heat the milk, saffron, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar together until the milk is steamy.  (Scald the milk.) Remove from heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the butter and stir until melted. Let cool until about 110-115°F.  That's warm to the touch, but not hot.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 3½ cups (490g) of the flour, yeast, remaining ¼ cup of sugar, salt and ground cardamom (if using).  Add the milk mixture, the eggs, and the sour cream. Mix the ingredients until well incorporated.

Switch to the dough hook of your mixer (if using, otherwise knead by hand). Start kneading on low speed. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.  (I did not need to add any additional flour beyond the 3½ cups.)

Cover dough with plastic wrap. (Note at this point you can make ahead and refrigerate overnight if you wish.) Let sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.  (This time is forgiving, I forgot to set a timer and went long, mine had more than doubled.)

When the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide.  (I divided my dough into 12 portions of ~76g each.) Roll the ball out into a long rope, about 14 inches long.

Curl each end in opposite directions, forming an "S" with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and place in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size.  About 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Using a pastry brush, gently brush the egg wash over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns. Place raisins or cherries in the centers of the "S" spirals.  Press down lightly.

Place in the oven and bake at 400°F (205°C) for about 10 to 11 minutes (turning halfway through cooking to ensure even browning), until the buns are golden brown.  (I probably should have used two trays as my buns puffed up enough to touch at the ends and the middle row needed a couple more minutes to brown properly.)

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

The only picture of all my Lucia buns.  The cats decided
they were very tasty and nibbled the tops off of seven!

You can't prove anything.

I'm too cute to be in trouble.

Soft and light as a feather. And we
salvaged the nibbled ones!

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes