KJ Charles „The Henchmen of Zenda“ – Königsschmarrn mit Orangenkomplott

Dear Reader,

a few weeks ago I found myself in Munich with a few hours to while away until the train which would take me on the further leg of my journey. I was strolling along when my eye caught on the signboard of the Hundsstüberl inn, boasting Ruritanian specialties. One does not often get a chance to try food from this little country. Intrigued, I stepped through the door.
Smirking to myself at the probable typo in the menu, I decided to try the „Königsschmarrn mit Orangenkomplott*“. It is a sweet, pancake-like dish, said to have been created in the nineteenth century by the palace chefs at Strelsau (the capital of Ruritania) to commemorate the coronation of the country`s monarch.
Dear reader, it was delicious. And today, we shall try to recreate it.
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There is a long railway journey ahead of me, a glass of brandy to my hand, and a heavily and obscenely annotated copy of the Rassendyll manuscript by my side. I intend to use them all to tell the truth.

To two tablespoons of chopped candied orange peel add about 100 ml of brandy, cover and leave to steep for a few hours.
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„Suppose we wrong him?“ Hentzau suggested. He was peeling an orange as he spoke, its fresh, bright perfume an odd contrast to the heavy stone walls and general atmosphere of plotting.

Peel two oranges and cut them into segments.
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Bring 300 ml of red wine to a boil with a cinammon stick, a few star anise and cardamon pods and some cloves. Take the pot of the heat and stir in two tablespoons of honey. Add the orange segments to the wine mixture, cover and let it marinade for a few hours.
IMG_2979Thereafter, take the orange out, strain out the spices and heat the wine mixture at a low temperature (the liquid should be steaming not bubbling) until it reduces to a thicker syrup.
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Now, to make the Schmarrn itself. Take three eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Beat the egg-whites until they form stiff peaks. Add a heaped teaspoon of sugar and half of a packet of vanilla sugar to the yolks, and beat until frothy. Prepare 250 ml of milk and 125 g of flour. Mix in a few spoons of flour into the yolk mixture followed by a splash of milk.
IMG_2993Keep adding the flour and milk bit by bit until both are used up.
Stir in 25 g of butter (melted).
IMG_2997Carefully fold in the beaten egg-whites, until no egg-white flakes are visible in the batter anymore. Strain the candied orange peel pieces from the brandy and mix them into the batter.
Melt some butter in a frying pan (medium heat) and ladle in about half of the batter (this recipe makes two portions) in an about 1 cm thick layer.
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When the bottom of the pancake turns golden brown and the top starts to firm up, divide the pancake into quarters and flip them.
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Fry until golden brown, then chop the pancake into bite-sized pieces, sprinkle with a heaped tablespoon of sugar and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the sugar caramelizes.
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Transfer the pancake pieces to a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. (It resembles the snowy peaks of the Ruritanian mountains a little, doesn’t it?)
Add the marinaded orange segments and drizzle them with the red wine syrup and enjoy.
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Yours, with regal red regards,
B.

 

 

*King’s nonsense with an orange plot

 

The Königsschmarrn is based on this recipe for Kaiserschmarrn.

 

Book info:
Author: KJ Charles
Title: The Henchmen of Zenda
Year: 2018
Find it on Goodreads

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Ned Hayes „The Eagle Tree“ – B.’s herbarium

Dear Reader,

one morning I found myself in the woods.
The lush green canopies of the trees filtering out the sunlight (which was slowly but surely working up to its full noonday potential). The stream gurgling happily along the path, strengthened by last night’s rain. The dew glimmering like diamonds on a patch of horse-tails.
I spied a dipper milling about by the stream and, as any proper amateur ornithologist should, promptly exclaimed „It’s a dipper! Oh my, oh my, oh my!“, thus spooking the bird.
Delightful.
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I saw the deep bark ridges of mature Douglas Firs. I whispered to each one its true name: „Pseudotsuga menziesii. Then the patterns changed on my face, and I looked up to see deciduous leaves fluttering in a distant wind; they were from various broadleaf tree species, but most of them were Red Alders. „Alnus rubra,“ I said to them. And there were also some Bigleaf Maples. A Bigleaf Maple leaf caught the wind and whirled down toward me, landing near my feet. I picked up the leaf and spoke to it. „Acer macrophylum,“ I said quietly to it. I tucked the leaf in my pocket. Then as I kept walking, I found that I was in the middle of a group of Western Red Cedards, and as I touched them, I said their name too: „Thuja plicata.“ I said its true name to each one of them as I stroked their red flavored bark.

IMG_2846Remembering March’s walk, I tried to name the trees I met along my path.
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„Those ones over there are Birch. Am I right?“ said Uncle Mike. He pointed at three small trees immediately ahead. I looked at the triplet of trees closely. They had grayish-whitish bark and green leaves and the last remnant of one leftover blossom. They were obviously deciduous, which means trees whose leaves die every year, and then the tree pushes fresh growth out every spring.“

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… and the heavy branches of the Oak came clear to my mind, flowing out of the central trunk like arteries growing from a solid heart.

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A full-sized Chestnut could be measured as twenty-five feet all the way around – if you measured straight through, that would be ten feet through. And there were thousands and thousands of these trees. Even in my grandfather’s photos, people are like little dwarves next to a Chestnut.

If you would like to assemble a sweet herbarium of your own, Add 50 g of chilled butter, 1 1/4 cup of flour, a tablespoon of sugar,  and a pinch of salt to a bowl. With your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
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Add 2-3 tablespoons of cold water and knead lightly until the mixture comes together (add a bit more water if necessary). Shape the dough into a disc, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. While your dough is resting, go for a walk in the woods or the park and gather some samples (be careful to not touch anything poisonous or irritating!).
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Trace your samples on some paper and cut out the leaf shapes. These will be you stencils for the cookies.
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Roll the dough out about 3-5 mm thick. Place stencils onto the dough and cut around it to make leaf shaped cookies. Gather remaining dough, roll it out again, and repeat the process.
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Bake at 200 °C for about 15 minutes until the cookies turn brown about the edges.
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For the icing, mix about 100 g of powdered sugar, two teaspoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of golden syrup, a teaspoon of green tea powder and a few spoons of water. To check the consistency of the icing drizzle some of it from a spoon back into the bowl. If the line of icing takes a few seconds to sink back into the whole mass, great! If the icing is a bit too liquid, add more powdered sugar; if it is too thick, add some more water.

I divided my icing into two parts and added some spirulina powder to make a darker shade of green to match some of the leaves better.
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Place a dollop of icing onto a cookie and smooth it out to the edges.

To make my leaves more detailed, I mixed some of the icing with a bit of water and more of the green tea and spirulina powders to produce a less pasty dark green „paint“ which i used to draw the veins. Try matching the patterns of the leaf samples you have collected for a more realistic look.

And here we are, your very own sweet herbarium.

 

Have fun exploring!

Yours, brimming with curiosity,
B.

 

Book info:
Author: Ned Hayes
Title: The Eagle Tree
Year: 2016
Find it on Goodreads

 

K. J. Charles „An Unnatural Vice“ – The spirits made me do it

Dear Reader,

since I had met Mr. Lazarus, the great Seer of London, odd things have been going on in the kitchen. I’d find someone had been rooting about in the pantry, or that the spoons and forks had been rearranged. Just yesterday, I found the sink-full of dishes, which were waiting to be washed, all squeaky clean on the counter.
Then I knew, dear Reader, whatever was causing all this must be hungry.

Add 200 g of chilled (freezer for 30 minutes) butter, 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 of a tablespoon of sugar to about 2.5 cups of flour. Rub the flour and butter together until the consistency of the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add about 5 tablespoons of very cold water and mix until the dough starts clumping (add a little more water, if needed). Form the dough into a ball (do not knead), cover and cool in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Sort out the mess of spoons and forks while you wait.
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Take the dough out of the refrigerator, divide it into pieces if you are using multiple smaller pie-tins. Roll the dough out, about 0.5 cm thick.
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Line the bottom of your tins with baking paper. Place the rolled out dough into the tins, smooth out the corners and trim the overhanging edges.
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Bake the tart shells at 200 °C for about 35 minutes.

Justin sat in the kitchen eating hot buttered toast as he leafed through a couple of notebooks, reminding himself of the existing clients‘ previous seances: predictions, leads, gossip, weaknesses, crucial names. Breakfast had to be toast because that smelled homely but not ludicrously domestic.

While the shells are baking, let’s start making the filling.
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Like his own master, he’d placed a strict household ban on any form of bacon, smoked fish, or boiled cabbage as entirely unspiritual odors.
„When I retire I’m going to have bacon for breakfast every day,“ he remarked through a mouthful of toast.

Fry up several strips of bacon. Cut two medium sized onions into slivers and caramelize them (you can use the fat rendered from the bacon instead of oil for more flavor). Lightly whisk four eggs, add about 80 g of grated cheddar, the bacon strips (cut into pieces), the onions, a pinch of pepper, and a small pinch of thyme. Mix it together.
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Spoon the filling mixture into the tart shells. Sprinkle some dried basil on top.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C again. Say a quick prayer to the holy alchemists.
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Bake for about 30 minutes until the filling looks golden on the outside and is firm on the inside (test with a toothpick).
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Enjoy!
I see someone has already started without waiting for me.

„Tell you what, my spirit guide’s a f*****g tart.“

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Yours from behind the veil,
B.

 

P.S. If by any chance You should need any more convincing to read the book, take a look at Nosferatu’s review.

P.P.S. Dough recipe adapted from https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/classic-sour-cherry-pie-with-lattice-crust-242514.

Book info:
Author: K. J. Charles
Title: An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities, Part 2)
Year: 2017
Find it on https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32161804-an-unnatural-vice

Shion Miura „The Great Passage“ – A noodle shop in Jimbocho

Dear Reader,

greetings. Warm winds are blowing, a reminder of the swift approach of spring’s sunny skies. I trust you are well.
We haven’t seen each other in a while. May I invite you for lunch?
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Hidden in the book-lined streets of Jimbocho is a small noodle shop. And it seems that we are in luck – there are still some seats open. There are several offices nearby, so it tends to get a little crowded during lunch time.
Two colleagues are seated at the next table. Let’s take a peek at what they are having.

 

„So what am I doing, getting involved like this?“ Nishioka murmured, looking at Majime, who was sitting across from him slurping soba noodles. After finishing the morning’s work, he had invited the perennially broke Majime out to lunch at a noodle joint near the office. „My treat,“ he’d said. Majime modestly ordered a platter of morisoba, plain cold noodles with a dipping sauce.

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Morisoba is a simple, easily prepared dish. As the noodles are served cold, it is refreshing on a warm spring day.
Bring two to three cups of water to boil. Add about 100 g of soba (buckwheat) noodles. Boil the noodles until soft (but not mushy) – about 6 minutes. Drain the noodles, reserving some of the cooking water. Rinse them with cold water, drain well, and pile onto a plate. Pour sauce (I used a concentrated noodle soup broth) into your dipping bowl (or cup), dilute it a little with water, if needed, and add some wasabi and green onion. Dip, slurp, and enjoy.
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Having devoured his noodles, Majime was now pouring sobayu, the hot water the noodles were cooked in, from a little teapot into the rest of his dipping sauce to make a tasty drink. Nishioka had had a bowl of oyako domburi, rice topped with a chicken-and-egg mixture simmered with onions.“

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In a pot or pan mix 1.5 cups of water, a packet of dashi (broth powder, or make your own broth from scratch), a tablespoon of sugar, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and 2-3 tablespoons of sake (mirin can be used instead of the sake, add less sugar in this case). Bring this mixture to a boil, then lower the heat. Add a medium-sized onion, cut into slivers and about 200 grams of chicken (thigh meat), cut into strips.
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Simmer on low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and the onion is soft. Add two lightly beaten eggs on top, and continue simmering until they are cooked.
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Serve over a bowl of rice. Add some shichimi togarashi (seven spice mix) if you’d like a little heat. Miso soup is a great accompaniment.

Reader, those do look good. Shall we order the same?

 

Do take care of yourself.
B.

 

P.S. The amounts given above make one portion of morisoba and three portions of oyakodon.

 

Book info:
Author: Shion Miura
Title: The Great Passage (舟を編む)
Year: 2017
Find it on Goodreads

Aloha Higa „Polar Bear’s Cafe“ – Panda pan da!

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Dear Reader,

a bake-sale is going on at Polar Bear’s cafe. Let`s go take a look.
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Polar Bear is a talented baker and there are all kinds of bread and buns on offer.
Yet it wouldn’t be like him if there weren’t any puns about. Would you care for a loaf of Chopain? Maybe a Dessert Island?
We’ve been invited into the kitchen to make a special kind of pun-bun.
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Mix flour, sugar, egg, water, milk, salt, and dry yeast (for proper proportions, please see the original recipe here.) Knead the dough until it becomes less sticky and more elastic. Knead in the butter. Separate about 1/4 of the dough and knead in a spoon of cocoa powder. Form both portions into balls, cover with a damp cloth, place the somewhere warm and let the yeast do its job.
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Once the dough has risen, knead it through. Divide the  plain dough into six chunks.IMG_2457
Take a chunk of dough, flatten it on your hand and add a scoop of anko (sweet red bean paste). Fold the edges over and place the bun seam-down on the baking tray.
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Form ears, eyes-patches and noses from the cocoa-dough and stick them onto the buns.
IMG_2461 Cover the buns with a damp cloth (so that the surface doesn’t dry out). Once the dough has risen, brush the buns with egg-wash and bake at 200 °C for about 15 minutes.


パンダパンだ!(Panda pan da)  – it’s panda buns! and they are almost  too cute to eat. Almost.

Enjoy with a cup of your favorite beverage.

Best beans,
B.
 

P.S. This recipe is based on the あんパン recipe from justonecookbook.

Book info:
Author: ヒガアロハ (Aloha Higa)
Title: しろくまカフェ (Polar Bear’s Cafe)
Year: 2008
Find it on Goodreads

V. E. Schwab „A Gathering of Shadows“ – To London!

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Dear Reader,

pack your things and drain your drink. We are setting sail!
Where are we off to this time?

The table began to quiet, and Alucard brought his stein down. „Listen up, you shabby lot,“ he said, his voice carrying in a wave. The group fell to murmurs and silence. „You can have the night on land. But we sail at first light.“
„Where to next?“ asked Tav.
Alucard looked right at Lila when he said it. „To London.“

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Before leaving port, the Captain has invited us for a drink. Let’s just follow the crew into the tavern.

…rather than trail after, Lila made her way to the bar and ordered some kind of cider that smelled of apple and spice and strong liquor. She was several sips along…
Lila set a coin on the bar and stood up. The cider hit her like a pitching deck, as if she were no longer on solid ground but back on the Spire in a storm.

Allow me to fill your glass.
Pour about liter of apple juice into a pot and set it on medium heat. Add a cinnamon stick, an anise star, several cloves and cardamon pods, and the peel of about 1/4 of a lemon (organic, if available – the conventional ones are treated with chemicals and not meant to be consumed). Bring the concoction to a boil, take it off the heat and let steep for about an hour. After that, take out the spices and cool the infusion down.
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Mix 200-250 ml of the infusion with 30-40 ml of rum (the rum may be omitted for an alcohol-free version).

Kell hesitated, then drew the Red London lin from his pocket, the star glittering in the center of the coin. He always brought one for the king; every month, the old monarch claimed that the magic in his own was fading, like heat from dying coals, so Kell would bring him one to trade, pocket-warm and smelling of roses.

Since it is Red London we are sailing to, 1-2 tablespoons of rosewater (food-grade) will provide a magical undercurrent to the mixture.

Ah, it appears the Captain wants our attention.

Alucard chuckled and shook his head. He brought his glass to his lips, took a swig, and then slammed the stein down on the table. It shattered, but before the cider could spill, it sprang into the air, along with the contents in every other glass at the table, liquid freezing as it surged upward. The frozen drinks hung for a moment, the tumbled to the wooden table, some lodging sharp-end down, others rolling about. Lila watched the frozen spear that had once been her cider fetch up against her glass. Only the icicle that had been Alucard’s drink stayed up, hovering suspended above his ruined glass.
The crew whooped and applauded.

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Lila stopped drawing her finger through the cider, and no one noticed that the spilled liquid kept moving, tracing patterns across the wood.
Someone set a fresh drink in front of her.
Alucard was calling for attention.
„To London,“ he said, raising his glass.
Lila raised her own.
„To London,“ she said, smiling like a knife.

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Well, dear Reader? Shall we board the Night Spire?

To London!
B.

Book info:
Author: V. E. Schwab
Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Year: 2016
Find it on Goodreads

K. J. Charles „A Charm of Magpies“ – An English Chinaman

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Dear Reader,

today we are celebrating.
We are celebrating the Lunar New Year (a bit late, I know). We are also celebrating the release of the audiobooks for the „A Charm of Magpies“ series by K. J. Charles (a bigger bit late, yes).
And we are celebrating with cake.

…she had produced a pot of tea and a plate of heavy, wet cake and solid, indigestible buns…

No, we are celebrating with street food fit for a lord. Well, this particular lord:

The eighth Earl Crane lifted an aristocratic brow. „In my case the je ne sais quoi includes four years as a smuggler, two death sentences, and a decade as a Shanghai Joe, a dockfront trader.

Today we are making Shanghainese buns with steak and ale filling.IMG_2265
For the dough, mix a cup (about 300 ml) flour, 1 teaspoon of dry yeast, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of oil (I used sunflower). Add warm water (about 200 ml) and mix until clumps of dough begin to form, then knead.
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The dough should be soft and not very sticky. If it is too hard – add water, if too soft – add flour. Continue kneading until the dough looks smooth, then form it into a ball, place it into a bowl, and cover with a damp cloth (or cling film). Place the bowl somewhere warm and wait until the dough has risen about double of its initial size.

While you wait, go for a walk to visit the ducks by the river (wrong book, B.!).

When the dough has risen, knead it and let it rise once more. And while it does that, let’s prepare the filling.
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You will need about 250 g of beef (cubed), one medium onion and a medium carrot (diced), 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced), and 250 ml of beer. 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock powder (with salt), 1 teaspoon of thyme, half a teaspoon of chili flakes, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, and half a teaspoon of five-spice powder (aniseed, fennel, pepper, cinnamon and ginger) will flavor the mixture.
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Add some oil to a frying pan. Fry the carrots, onion and garlic, and add the beef. Once the beef starts browning a little, add the spices, stock powder, and beer. Give the mixture a good stir, cover the pan, and continue stewing on low to medium heat until the beef is soft (the duration will depend on the cut of meat used). Check the mixture from time to time and add water to replace the evaporated liquid, if needed.
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Flour your work surface, remove the dough from the bowl and give it a quick knead. Form it into a log and cut it into chunks.
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Flatten a piece of dough on your hand (flour your hands to prevent a sticky mess), add some filling and fold the edges over to form a ball. Place the bun seam-down onto a piece of baking paper. Cover the finished buns with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying while you make more.
Next step – steaming the buns.
IMG_2277If you have a pot with a steaming attachment or a bamboo steamer – great! If not, you can improvise like I did. bring water to boil in  a large pot, put a metal strainer on top of the pot, place the buns into the strainer and cover with the pot lid. Make sure not to crowd the buns, as they expand while cooking. Steam on high heat for about 15 minutes (until the dough is cooked through). Be careful not to burn yourself with hot steam!
The steamed buns can be eaten as they are, but to give the recipe a Shanghainese twist, we are going to fry them.
Heat about a finger’s-width of oil in a pan. Fry the buns on medium heat until the bottoms become golden brown and crispy.IMG_2280
And we’re done! The process is quite lengthy, but the finished result is worth it (you will just have to trust me here).
I recommend listening to an exciting audiobook *wink* to make the time pass much quicker.
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The finished buns are crispy on the bottom and fluffy on top. Enjoy them while they’re warm with some green tea (or finish off the beer left over from the filling).
They keep well in the freezer (reheat in a microwave).

Yours magically,
B.

Book info:
Author: K. J. Charles
Title: A Charm of Magpies (series)
Year: 2018
Find it on Goodreads (Part 1 – „The Magpie Lord“)