Monday, 11 January 2010

Baking not dieting

As I said in my previous post, the New Year always brings thoughts of dieting (thoughts, not action unfortunately) and as night follows day, so are thoughts of dieting followed by the desire to start baking. What really set me off was spending some time looking through my cookery books trying to decide what to cook for friends next weekend. I love that process of browsing through recipes, looking for inspiration, trying to develop a theme or a mood for a menu. Most of the time it's just aspirational fantasising and I end up thinking, oh I'll just make my failsafe chicken chorizo roast thingy and buy some ice cream. But I still enjoy the feeling of possibility evoked by my preliminary explorations of the pages of my cookbooks.

What with all the snow, I was deep in wintery Mittel Europa mode. I have a fantastic book by Diana Henry called Roast Figs Sugar Snow celebraring winter cooking of Russia, Scandinavia and Central Europe. It's all snowy fields, log cabins and frosted leaves. It is food porn of the highest order - food, travelogue and interiors. I'm not actually going to cook anything from it, I just enjoyed pouring over the pictures and fingering the pages, mentally donning furs and awaiting Omar Sharif ....

My bed last Saturday morning - bliss! No Omar Sharif, just cookbooks.

All this Central European / Scandinavian fantasising, plus my recent visit to  Peter's Yard bakery put me in the mood for some baking. I used to make these cinnamon buns regularly when I was playing at country life in Cumbria and frankly, didn't have a lot else with which to fill my time! They are from Nigella Lawson's wickedly indulgent baking book  How to be a Domestic Goddess. This is the sort of book that makes me whimper with pleasure just to read it. Mmm, is something missing from my life perhaps....?!

The great thing about these buns is that they are easy and also fun to make, in that way that playing with plasticine is fun. There's a bit of gentle, tactile faffing involved. They  are delicious - dangerously so. Do not bake them unless you have friends coming round. You will eat ALL OF THEM. You have been warned. Best of all, you can freeze them before you bake them, and then you can be about 30 minutes away from aromatic, warm, sticky cinnamon buns whenever you feel like it. And frankly, that is the only way you are ever going to eat them for breakfast. Even with jet lag, it's unlikely that I'm going to get up early enough to make bread dough from scratch in time for breakfast.

I used to make these with the easy danish pastry recipe from the same book. With danish pastry, they have a delectable, flaky quality, but they are even more fattening than the bread dough version. I leave it up to you! This time, I stuck to the original enriched bread dough version. You could easily mess about with the cinnamon /butter filling and add some raisins, or finely chopped pecans. I just love cinnamon, so I want the unadulterated hit of spice.

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

For the dough
600g plain flour
100g sugar (I used soft brown sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
21g (i.e. 3 sachets) easy-blend yeast
100g butter
400ml milk
2 eggs

For the filling
150g softened, unsalted butter
150g sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or a bit more if you like cinnamon a lot!)
1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 230C or Gas Mark 8

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Melt the butter and whisk it into the milk and eggs, then stir this liquid into the flour etc. Mix to combine and then knead until it is smooth and springy. (NB I did this in my mixer with the dough hook. My mixture was very soft for some reason, and I added about 50g extra flour as I mixed it until it was still quite sticky, but firm enough to form a proper ball.) Leave to rise in an oiled bowl, covered with cling film, for about 25 minutes.

Before ......

After! You only need to leave the dough to rise for 1/2 an hour. This was after 1 1/2 hrs. I got distracted. Magnificent, if a little alarming!
Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, into a large rectangle. I did this with half the dough at a time, to make it more manageable. Each rectangle was about 25cm x 35cm. Spread the filling mixture evenly across the surface of the dough. Then, roll up the dough from the longest side, so you get a swiss roll of dough. Then, cut the roll of dough into 2cm deep slices.  Sit these rounds of dough in a greased baking tin, lined with baking parchment. Don't squash them together as they will swell up as they prove. Brush them with beaten egg, and leave to prove for about 15 minutes, then put them in the oven to cook for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Ready for the oven - glazed, and then sprinkled with a little demerara sugar and more cinnamon.
The 'ta da!' moment is slightly spoilt by the fact that I burnt the damn things. I quite often burn things, but usually out of bad judgement or absent-mindedness. This time it was because I relied on the recipe. I just banged them in the oven at the specified heat, set the kitchen timer and didn't look at them again until the buzzer went. You should never do that! They still tasted good, if with the faint tang of charcoal mixing with the cinnamon.  If I bake some more and don't burn them, I'll put another photo up. You can see how they continue to puff up whilst baking and fill the tin. You could make them nicely sticky by pouring some more melted butter over with them when they come out of the oven, with an additional sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.

But this is the most satisfying aspect of the whole exercise ..... I now have a freezer full of ready to bake cinnamon buns. I put them on a baking tray, left them to prove and then popped them in the freezer, still on their trays. When frozen, I transferred them into a plastic bag, which is now stashed ready in the freezer. Now what other defense do you need against the snow?

I was on such a roll (ouch - no pun intended!) I then made my first ever batch of choux pastry - parmesan choux puffs. As practice for possibly making these next weekend. Very successful though I say it myself. And not burnt.


All in all a very satisfactory winter's Saturday afternoon.


  1. Oh god, I had a big thing about Omar Sharif and snow and furs too! All down to Dr Zhivago I guess!

  2. MMMMMMMM Rosie you are naughty these all look very tempting. I really miss my cooking/baking mojo. I too enjoy reading cookbooks and making imaginary menus that I will never make. I'm more a James Martin girl myself though!

  3. If you heat a couple of teaspoons of sugar with a couple of spoons of milk either in a pan or in the microwave ..just till it's bubbly then brush it over the buns it makes a lovely sticky glaze

    Love the blog!

  4. argh! there goes my resolution to eat less, I am literally salivating...

  5. Alas, the cinnamon buns have gone. Nice sounding glaze Val! Will try it with the next batch.

  6. I can now verify that these taste fab!