- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sweet raisins, an intense dose of lemon zest, and the otherworldly aromatic presence of rosemary and lavender make today’s buns recipe a great reason to get out of bed on a winter morning.

The finishing touch is an exquisite lemon glaze, which, although barely visible, gives a startling hint of additional flavor. You can:

• Assemble them the night before (not too much work if you are home anyway).

• Let them rise slowly in a cool kitchen (or the refrigerator) overnight.

• Bake them in the morning.

The dough itself (second recipe) can be made ahead and frozen. The finished buns also freeze really well and defrost quickly.

Toasting is unnecessary and may cause the raisins and the glaze to burn, so there are several different ways you can fit this recipe into your busy life.

Hints for preparing the lemon-glazed rosemary-lavender-raisin buns: Prepare the lemon zest before juicing the lemons: Shave off the outermost peel with a vegetable peeler, then chop the shavings into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. You can use fresh or dried rosemary leaves. If using fresh, be sure to chop them really small.

If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh lavender, you can use the leaves and/or the flowers, also chopped small. Dried lavender also will work.

Lemon-glazed rosemary-lavender-raisin buns

The preparation time is 15 to 20 minutes of intermittent work, plus about 2½ hours to rise and bake.

Nonstick spray for the pan(s) and the dough

½ cup golden raisins

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 recipe babka dough (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons chopped lemon zest

1½ tablespoons crumbled rosemary and lavender

LEMON GLAZE:

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans or a baking tray plus a clean, dry work surface with nonstick spray.

Place the raisins and lemon juice in a small bowl and heat together in a microwave oven for about 40 seconds. Remove and set aside.

Spray your fist lightly with nonstick spray, punch down the risen dough and transfer it to the prepared work surface. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes, then gently stretch it into a rectangle about 10 by 16 inches.

If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little nonstick spray to your hands. Use a rubber spatula to spread the dough with softened butter, leaving a ½-inch border around the edge.

Sprinkle the buttered area with chopped lemon zest, crumbled herbs and the plumped raisins.

Roll up the dough into a firm log and pinch the seam tightly closed.

Cut the log into 16 equal pieces and stand them on end about 2 inches apart in the prepared pans or on the tray. Cover the pans or tray loosely with a clean tea towel and let stand in a warm place for about 1 hour (or in a cool place for as long as overnight). The buns will increase in bulk by about 50 percent to 75 percent. During this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pans or tray in the center of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the buns are browned lightly on the edges and sound hollow when thumped. Transfer the hot buns to a plate or a platter.

Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl, stir in the lemon juice, and then use a small spoon to drizzle this mixture onto each bun. It will be thin and subtle — barely visible — but will coat the buns, sinking in slightly.

Wait about 20 minutes before serving. Makes 16 medium-size buns

Hints for making babka dough: This can be made way ahead and frozen in a heavy zip-style plastic bag. Defrost thoroughly before using. The instructions call for hand-mixing, but you can also make this in an electric mixer with the dough hook attachment, if you prefer.

BABKA DOUGH:

1/4 cup wrist-temperature water

11/4 teaspoons yeast (half a package)

3 tablespoons sugar

11/4 teaspoons salt

½ cup plain yogurt

1 large egg, beaten

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

About 21/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (possibly more)

Nonstick spray for the bowl, the work surface, and hands

Place the water in a medium-large bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar, salt, yogurt, egg and melted butter into the yeast mixture.

Add 2 cups of flour, one cup at a time, beating after the first addition with a large whisk, and after the second with a wooden spoon.

Add about 1/3 cup more flour, mixing it in with your hand.

As the dough comes together, you might need to add tiny amounts of additional flour or nonstick spray to both your hand and the dough to prevent sticking. (Keep the flour to a minimum, so the dough can remain soft.)

Knead the dough right in the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. You should end up with a soft, smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Lift the dough and spray the bowl underneath with nonstick spray. Then set the dough back down in the bowl and spray the top of the dough with nonstick spray.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour or longer until increased in bulk by about 50 percent to 75 percent. Proceed with filling and assembling (instructions above), or you can also refrigerate or freeze the dough for later use.

To contact Mollie Katzen, visit www.molliekatzen.com.

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