We always want better for our kids, right?
Sure, I want my son to have more than I had growing up. More opportunities, more experiences, more everything. But that’s not to say that what I had wasn’t good enough. Quite the opposite, really. In fact, as spring settles in and a sense of renewal hits the new land we now call home, I find my mind flooded with my own childhood memories of spring.
Funny how the season seemed so long as a child, isn’t it?
Not so much any more. The days are flying by. As I watch my son change from a baby into a little boy before my eyes, I realize more each day that I have to make the most of this. It won’t be long until he has no time for dear old Mom, so this spring I plan to share with him all the wonderful spring things that made such an impression on me as a child. Gardening, cooking with my mom, exploring the outdoors. Now that he’s two years old, he can really get down and dirty with us…and let me assure you, he is.
Spring has always been my favorite season. I recall so vividly the days spent helping my parents ready the garden so we could grow all my favorite things…
Fresh sweet corn, cucumbers, broccoli, kohlrabi, tomatoes…I loved them all. Especially if I got to help plant, grow and pick them!
I have great memories of exploring our vast (or so it seemed to my little self) 1/2 acre of land, discovering all the neat treasures nature had to offer…
…and yes, I’ll admit it. I even look back fondly on the most dreaded chore of all: picking up sticks. We had a seemingly neverending supply from our big trees, and it was my job to pick up each and every one. Oh, how I loathed it! (But at least now I understand what that lesson in stick-to-it-iveness was all about…)
But, looking back, if I had to choose one single spring memory as my absolute favorite, I think it would have to be the bunny buns.
My mom and I spent countless afternoons creating in the kitchen, and much of that time was spent baking (which led to a 15-year bakery career that paid my way through college!) I still have some of those old cookbooks, with their sticky, flour-dusted pages. It’s funny how you can get so attached to something like a recipe, but I did. There were many that we made again and again, but my favorite of all was a very special Easter recipe for individual yeast-raised breads, spiked with fresh orange and shaped like the cutest little Easter bunnies.
We mixed and kneaded and carefully shaped them, giving each one little bunny ears and a little bunny tail. I learned a little bit about patience waiting for that dough to rise, but it was worth it when the whole house smelled of fresh bread and fragrant oranges. To me, that’s still the scent of Easter.
And then, when they were still warm, we covered them in a sweet orange glaze. Even now, so many years later, I still think of these bunnies every spring. Those were the days when my love of cooking, baking, and real food was born, and recipes like this one will always hold a special place in my heart, making me feel like an 8-year-old little girl again.
So yes, this long-awaited spring will come and go, and as any parent will tell you, the days all seem to pass by far too quickly…a but at least I know that, like my mother, I’m using them to make memories that will last a lifetime.
And what sweet days they are!
Yeast-raised Orange Bunny Buns
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup dry milk
- 1/4 tsp orange zest
- 4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur Flour)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
- 1/2 teaspoon butter, softened
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients, mixing until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it’s smooth. If you’re kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; nead for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for about 1 hour (until puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.)
If making round buns: transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into 24 golf ball-sized pieces, about 1 3/8 ounces each. Shape the pieces into smooth balls and plaec them in two lightly greased 9-inch round cake pans (they’ll be close together, but this is ok. Rolls will bake just fine if touching.) Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap or a dough-rising cover, and allow them to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. They won’t quite double in size.
If making Bunny Buns, transfer dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide dough into 13 pieces. Shape 12 pieces into 12-inch ropes. Fold each in half; twist top half of the open end twice to form ears. Place 2 inches apart on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Shape remaining dough into 12 balls. Place one on the loop end of each roll to form a tail. Press into dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Bake the rolls in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until they are a light, golden brown. Remove from oven, remove from pan, and allow to cool on a wire rack. While rolls are cooling, combine glaze ingredients and blend until smooth. When rolls are only slightly warm, drizzle with glaze as desired.
(Yield: 24 rolls or 1 dozen bunny buns.)
What’s your favorite spring tradition? I’d love to hear about it!