Staycation and a recipe for blueberry buns
“So annoying, I can’t go to Spain this year, because of the annoying Covid-19 situation”, “I’m so disappointed, because my Mexico holiday got cancelled due to this f*** pandemic”, “Great, we can’t even go to Denmark from Sweden, because they won’t let us”. The last quote might have come from me, the previous two might be from you, your friends or my friends.
All this might come across as spoiled and a minor issue in the ongoing tragedy that this pandemic is. Travelling however, has become a very important feature for our generation, something that makes up a lot of life quality. We’re all disappointed, annoyed and fed up with the current situation. We can’t travel, we can’t explore the world, we can’t go somewhere sunny and above all, we feel trapped in our cities and limited in our freedom. However, there is ways to still travel during the current situation, be it in your surrounding local areas, in your mind or through food.
1. Change of plans
I myself was very much disappointed and had to change my summer plans five times already. First, the plan was to do a week-long hike with one of my dearest friends and her boyfriend. She quit her job in Brussels to do a trip around Europe with a van that she equipped herself with everything needed for such an adventure. Took her months. Needless to say, that whole trip got cancelled, ‘fell into the water’, as we Germans like to say. They spontaneously moved to Switzerland to find a job in these difficult times, instead of touring with their van.
Then, the second plan was to visit them in Switzerland. Take the car down from Stockholm, drive through Germany to visit family and friends, then Switzerland, then Italy to meet more friends and to see Venice without the thousands of annoying tourists, then Slovenia and finally visit another friend of mine in Austria, after which the journey would’ve continued back to Sweden. Cancelled: because my boyfriend is Swedish and Swedes are personas non gratas in many EU countries at the moment. Ok then, if you don’t want us, then we’ll stay in Sweden, explore the country. A Sweden trip, a Staycation in the broader sense.
Staycation. Our grandparents would’ve laughed about such a concept. Staying in their home country, driving to the seaside or to their country houses didn’t seem like a punishment to them. Is it really that bad that we’re keeping it a bit local this year? I’m enjoying exploring the Swedish countryside. Seeing more of the surroundings of where I live. When I lived in Brussels for example, every free moment that I had I travelled abroad. I made some trips to the surrounding areas, but way too little in retrospect.
I think we assume that since all these local places are so close, we could visit them anytime, but in the end we never do that. Like when you say you’ll visit all those museums one day and then you move away and you’ve seen one at best. Happened to me.
Things we think we know well, like close travel locations, we neglect and forget. A bit like when you’re usually very polite to a stranger, but to your siblings you can be an absolute nightmare. I think you get my point.
So instead of being sad, disappointed or annoyed about our current situation, why not make the best of it? Why not appreciate the places around us more, explore that forest 10km away from our city, make that 100km bike trip, go and camp on the beach in the next village. Maybe this year’s vacation place is only an hour away by car, maybe the journey is the destination and you just do a fun hike or sleep by a lake, or go climbing or just put your mattress on your balcony and sleep under the stars. Even the small excursions we make can be fun and exciting and I’m sure that Mexico trip will be just as fun next year as it would’ve been this.
I’m driving through the South of Sweden right now, trying to relax a bit and to enjoy the beautiful nature that’s somehow known to me, but also not. I’m discovering new things, or maybe paying more attention to details I’d usually overlook.
3. Travel through food
Another way of travelling is food. A day excursion to Napoli by making a great Pizza, a fresh salad with Feta and sweet tomatoes to make you feel you’re in Athens, some homemade Tacos like in Mexico. During this time of the year I’d always visit Warsaw, where my mom is from. I’d have a ‘Jagodzianka’ and dwell in memories of my childhood. Traditional Jagodzianki are blueberry filled buns, made from a yeast dough, covered with a crumble, powdered sugar, sometimes covered with a sugar glaze.
My mom’s parents had a country house not far away from Warsaw, where we would drive with my granddad’s light blue old BMW. It always smelled dusty and like old car but in a nice way, making me excited every time I had to sit squeezed in there. The drive seemed endless although it was just about an hour away. 5 minutes before arriving at our wooden house, there was a small local shop where we always stopped. My Bacia bought what felt like a kilo of yellow string beans per person, I insisted on getting a tube of condensed milk that was extremely sticky but so good pressed from the tube straight into your mouth and then, of course, she and my mom bought a generous amount of Jagodzianki. Yeast buns filled with blueberries. Generous, because everything a Polish mom or grandmother prepares or makes or buys is generous. The buns, too, were generously filled with the berries and so I was running around with a purple face, teeth and stains on my clothes for the following few hours.
All these memories are hiding in these small innocent buns. I made them a week ago, as part of my staycation and at least mentally I was at our holiday house in Poland for a few minutes.
For 10-12 buns
For the ‘Jagodzianki’
- 500g flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- 100g sugar
- 150ml milk, lukewarm
- 25g fresh yeast
- 1 egg + 1 yolk, whisked together
- 100g soft butter (not melted)
- 500g wild blueberries + 100g sugar
For the crumble
- 100g flour
- 80g butter, soft
- 60g sugar
- 1 egg, whisked with 1 tbsp milk
- Powdered sugar
For the dough, mix flour, salt, sugar in a bowl and set aside. Mix milk with fresh yeast and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes until it foams.
Add your whisked eggs to the yeast and milk and whisk again. Add this to your flour. Mix and then knead until an even, elastic dough forms with no lumps, around 10 minutes. Cover, let rest for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, knead your dough again and add butter, in batches, piece by piece until incorporated. Done best with some type of kitchen machine/ Kitchen Aid. It will get sticky if done by hand, but be patient, it will come together. Knead until a smooth, shiny and elastic dough has formed. Form into a ball, cover, let rest for 1-1.5h until more or less doubled in size. Or, after covering, rest overnight in fridge instead (will proof slower but equally well).
Wash your blueberries, and gently mix them with 100g of sugar. Before filling the buns with them, drain them in a sieve to get rid of all the liquid.
Mix flour, butter, sugar until they come together into a dry dough and are well mixed. Break it up into crumbles.
Assembling the buns
Once proofed, punch dough in and knead again. Divide into 70g or around 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Then, with a dough pin, roll into a 3mm thick circle. Fill each bun with 2 generous tbsp of blueberries. Fold like a dumpling, closing all sides VERY TIGHTLY. Or check out this video. Place on a lined baking tray, seam side down. Repeat with all buns, leaving around 3cm space between each bun. Cover tray with a kitchen towel and let rest for another hour.
Preheat oven to 200C oven setting. Once proofed, brush buns with egg wash and sprinkle some crumbles on top. Gently press down, so the crumbles stick to the bun. Bake buns for 15 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let cool slightly, I love to eat them warm.