Recently I was enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with my daughter and mentally scrolling through the contents of our refrigerator, planning her lunches for the upcoming week, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t made her anything particularly cute for lunch in a while. Since she had just put on her little apron for a session in her play kitchen, I thought she might want to help me with this project– and of course then I knew that it had to feature cats in some way.
Remembering my previous piggy bun project, I thought I might try a variation on it and make “kitty buns.” Since I didn’t have any savory fillings ready I decided to use my currant bun recipe for the dough. All was going well– the dough mixed up just fine, rose nicely– and then it was time shape the kitties.
I grew up reading a lot of classic kids’ stories by British authors, and one thing that it took me some time to adjust to was how the characters would eat “pudding.” Remember, to an American kid, pudding means “thickened dairy-based concoction, usually flavored with chocolate or vanilla, often served in individual cups.” But these British puddings were clearly not the puddings of my childhood. For starters, “pudding” appeared to be an all-purpose word for dessert in general, so kids in the books would ask “what’s for pudding,” much in the same way people in certain areas of the U.S. might ask “what kind of Coke do you want?” to refer to flavors of sweetened carbonated beverages. In other contexts, puddings were described as “steaming hot” and being served in “slices,” which didn’t jibe with my idea of pudding at all. The most commonly-referenced type was plum pudding, served at Christmas, and get this– it was often set on fire???
Anyway, while the idea of a flaming dessert was of course intriguing, I never gave it much thought until recently, when I was challenged by a friend to make “Christmas pudding” this year. How could I say no?
I’ve already mentioned my love for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess— quite apart from the doll reference, Sara was a character I could relate to (at least in some respects), always telling stories and imagining things.
There are several references to food in the book– rich, savory soups, hot muffins, sandwiches, cakes– but the most prominent takes place when Sara is out on a cold winter day. Tired, cold, and extremely hungry, she daydreams about being able to buy some hot buns, when suddenly she happens upon a lost four-penny piece!
And then, if you will believe me, she looked straight at the shop directly facing her. And it was a baker’s shop, and a cheerful, stout, motherly woman with rosy cheeks was putting into the window a tray of delicious newly baked hot buns, fresh from the oven—large, plump, shiny buns, with currants in them.
As a child, I didn’t really know what currants were, but “large, plump, shiny buns” sounded delicious. I figured that these buns would be lightly sweet, studded with rehydrated dried currants, with a shiny egg wash and perhaps even a light sugar glaze over the top.