When I’m cruising Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks or magazines, it’s usually the photos that pull me toward a recipe. I consider myself a writer much more so than a photographer or baker, so I do feel a bit shameful in admitting that I’m so easily influenced by visuals first and words second, but when push comes to shove, we’d probably rather eat a gorgeous-looking cupcake than a wonderfully worded ode to its light and airy texture.
Pictures are powerful, though it’s good to remember that there are always exceptions. Every so often I happen across a lovely recipe whose text wins me over, and those are the days when I breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that the written word is still pretty powerful, too. I’ve written about my Avoca cookbooks before, and even though I flip through them often, I love that I still find new nuggets of wordy wisdom nestled within their pages. For instance, in Avoca Tea Time, it reads: “Measurements are more exact [in baking] than in any other branch of cooking, but too often this is taken literally. You need to feel your ingredients. There is no point in adding all the milk if the mixture ends up looking sloppy. Be patient and explore.”
This recipe for fairy buns is adapted from Avoca Tea Time as well and won me almost entirely with its name. I baked them on Sunday, which happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. Now whether you envision fairies as friendly pixies or devious mischief-makers, most would agree that fairies and leprechauns go hand in hand, so fairy buns seemed an appropriate treat for the day. Although the cookbook offered no photo to show me what to expect, it warned that these treats are “a favourite for children’s parties, but it is well worth making an excess as adults seem to rather enjoy them, too.” I heeded their advice — and was quite glad for it.
Words are wonderful. Of course, photos never hurt. While mixing the fairy buns, I was patient and explored, as the cookbook advised, and found myself adding citrus and cranberries to liven up the tiny treats, which made for even happier, sunnier shots. It was actually a rather dreary day outside, but oranges are great at brightening, in flavor, in words and in photos.
Orange and Cranberry Fairy Buns
Adapted from Avoca Tea Time
• 120 grams unsalted butter
• 120 grams sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 150 grams all-purpose flour, sifted
• 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• zest of two oranges (about 2 teaspoons)
• 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
• ½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
• 150 grams confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons warm water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line muffin tins with 18 muffin papers. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the orange zest, and mix until well combined.
In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the orange juice, and mix until well combined. Add the eggs alternately with the flour mixture, and blend until just combined. Gently fold in the cranberries.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out just clean.
Stir together the confectioners’ sugar and water in a small bowl until well combined. Then, once the buns have cooled for a little while, spread the icing over their tops, letting it drizzle a bit down the sides.
How do you go about choosing recipes? Do you flip through photos? Look for certain ingredients? Jump on board anything with a zippy title? Do tell!