Coffee break

Lockdown Cinnamon Buns

cinnamon buns

It has been two years since I last posted on this blog. I’m still alive and cooking away happily but have struggled to make time to photograph and post the recipes.

I re-join you with a little more time on my hands. I’m in lockdown and made redundant from my paid work but trying to wrestle with my new, unplanned job of school teacher.

In this current housebound situation meals have become the main focus of our days. In these uncertain times even simple food brings me reassurance, comfort and genuine joy. Meals also do a wonderful job of bringing our little family together when we have all crept off to our separate corners of the house to work, study (or pretend to), read and sneakily binge on YouTube, Netflix etc.

To break up the day even more we have heartily embraced the English mid-morning snack known as ‘elevenses’ (or, ‘second breakfast’ if you’re a Hobbit). With this comes a battle with my daughter over who is going to bake the sweet treat. She’s eleven now and a keen (but messy) baker with a mobile phone and her own Instagram page mainly devoted to showing off her results. We are both very relieved that flour, yeast and eggs have now returned to the shops after a few weeks of worrying absence.

Elevenses is probably our favourite and most extravagant meal (snack) of the day. Others tend to be modest affairs consisting mainly of rice and tins of beans masquerading as some sort of curry.

Top of our ‘elevenses’ favourites are these tasty Scandinavian style cinnamon buns. With these I can fantasise that I’m in a trendy Stockholm cafe enjoying the Swedish equivalent of ‘elevenses’ known as ‘fika’ (roughly translated as coffee and cake).

The original recipe came from Magnus Nilsson’s epic ‘The Nordic Cookbook’ but I have tinkered with it to make it simpler. I use my favourite no-knead method for a minimum of fuss. The process takes 24 hours from start to finish but the actual work involved is not at all onerous.

Cinnamon buns

Makes about 20

Dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour
  • 150g of wholemeal flour (or use all white if you wish)
  • 125g of white sugar (granulated or caster)
  • 15g of dried easy bake yeast
  • 15g of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 150g of melted butter
  • 320ml of milk (semi-skimmed is fine)
  • 1 egg

Filing and baking

  • 150g of soft salted butter (or use unsalted and add a little salt)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 75g of brown sugar (demerara, light, dark take your pick or use white sugar if you prefer)
  • Egg wash, 1 egg mixed with a little milk (or just use milk if you don’t want to waste a valuable egg)

Add all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter (I use a microwave) and add the milk and beat in the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well until combined. Knead gently for a minute just to make sure that all the ingredients are evenly mixed. I always use the no knead method for baking these days so this is all the kneading that’s required here.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave at room temperature to rise for around 6-8 hours. I generally do this first stage in the morning and leave to rise all day.

Tip the risen dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and roll out into a large rectangle roughly 50cm wide by 40cm. Try to get the thickness of the dough as even as possible and pull the edges to manipulate them into a rectangle (they’ll fight to stay rounded so just do your best.

Mix together 150g of softened butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Spread this buttery mixture evenly over the surface of the dough leaving a 4cm border along the long edge furthest away from you. I use a butter or palette knife but the back of a spoon also works well.

Roll the dough up into a log starting from the edge closest to you and finishing with the unbuttered edge underneath.

Cut the log into slices roughly 2 cm thick. You will need a very sharp knife so that you don’t lose the shape. The end pieces will probably be a little more raggedy but don’t worry they’ll still taste great.

Transfer each slice (flat side down) onto a lightly greased baking tray. For this amount you will need two large ones with sides to catch any seepage of the buttery, cinnamon mixture.

Cover carefully with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to prove overnight.

In the morning take the buns out of the fridge and place in a warm place to rise until they are doubled in size. This will take around 1 ½ to 2 hours. I put mine in the airing cupboard.

Lightly brush the surface of the buns with the egg wash.

Bake in an oven at 200oC for around 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Cool on wire racks (if you can wait that long).

Chocolate peppermint bars

chocolatepeppermintbars

I don’t often buy magazines but this one shouted ‘buy me’ from the rack in WHSmiths. Take a look at the headings at the bottom and you’ll see why.

Simplethingsmagazine

It’s quite a sweet magazine which I enjoyed reading. I do appreciate the simple things in life so this idea appealed to me greatly – although there was still a heavily consumerist angle which seemed to contradict their ethos somewhat (although I accept that this is how magazines survive). Printed media is having a huge resurgence (rather like vinyl) and there are some really beautiful publications around at the moment.

Anyway, I spied and saved this ‘hand-me-down recipe’ to try (which I believe was from Rachel Allen – in cutting it out I lost the reference).

If you like the peppermint/chocolate combination (think After Eights, mint choc chip ice cream etc) then you’ll love these. I would describe them as a cross between millionaire’s shortbread and Kendal mint cake. However, unlike millionaire’s shortbread these are pretty easy to make.

I’m the only one in my family who is not a mint choc chip fan so I thought I’d be immune to temptation with these. Memories of making vile peppermint creams at primary school has put me off the smell of peppermint essence forever.

However, having tried a small bite of one (for the sake of research) I have to say they are surprisingly delicious – which is both good and bad at the same time.

Chocolate peppermint bars

Makes 12-18 bars depending on how big you cut them

For the shortbread

  • 225g of plain flour
  • 75g of sugar
  • 150g of butter

For the peppermint cream

  • 75g butter
  • 300g of icing sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of peppermint essence

For the chocolate topping

  • 150g of dark chocolate

Line a 20 x 20 cm square tin with baking parchment.

Preheat your oven to 180oC fan.

To make the shortbread, measure the flour, softened butter and sugar into a bowl and rub through your fingers until well incorporated and breadcrumb like. Press the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden. Leave to cool completely (you can speed this up by putting it in the fridge if necessary).

To make the peppermint cream, add the 75g of softened butter, icing sugar, milk and peppermint into a bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer until fluffy. Spread the mixture onto the cooled shortbread using a palette knife dipped in warm water to get the surface as level and even as possible. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, or in the microwave. Tip this over the top of the peppermint cream and level off with a palette knife and place in the fridge until hardened.

Cut into squares with a very sharp knife as neatly as possible. You’ll notice that mine are a bit messy but this didn’t seem to ruin the taste.

chocolatepeppermintbarsandcoffee

A random photo of my first crop of homegrown basil which has just been whizzed up into pesto. Try to ignore the slug holes.

basil