snack

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).

Madeleines

madelines 2

I’ve not been a great success in the kitchen this week. First of all I made a custard tart but there was a tiny crack in the pastry case and the liquid filling ended up pouring out all over the oven. I’m usually calm in the face of adversity but on this occasion I swore and stamped my feet like a frustrated child.

Then I tried to make meringues. I’ve had some past success with a Peyton and Byrne recipe so I used this and did all the things generally recommended for success (clean bowl, no yolk in the white etc, etc) but they collapsed and ended up as a single flat disk (just about edible but only one step removed from eating an actual sugar cube).

After these disasters I needed something easy-peasy to calm me down and restore my confidence so I turned to this madeleine recipe from Raymond Blanc’s very 90s book ‘Cooking for Friends’. They don’t wow on the looks front even though they’re cooked in a fancy shell shaped pan, but they have a simple, sweet, buttery taste which is just lovely. They are also tiny so you don’t feel too guilty about popping one in with your coffee or feeding them to your children.

It’s nice to have the proper tin but to be honest the shell pattern on my one isn’t that pronounced. If you don’t have a madeleine tin then you can just use a regular 12 case jam tart tin.

Madeleines

Raymond says this makes 35-40 pieces but it makes two batches of 12 in my Lakeland madeleine tin.

  • 2 eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 10g brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 15g honey
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 90g butter, melted
  • A little more melted butter and flour for preparing the tin

Preheat the oven to 190oC fan.

First prepare the tin. Brush with plenty of melted butter, sprinkle on some flour and tap off the excess.

Beat together the eggs, sugars, salt and honey until smooth in consistency.

Fold in the flour and baking powder, then add the melted butter and mix until well blended.

Half fill each hole in the tin with the mixture and cook for 5-7 minutes in the oven or until just cooked through.

Take out of the oven, remove from the tin immediately and cool on a wire rack.

These are best eaten warm.

Things with holes – bagels and onion rings

onion rings and bagels copy

Here are two recipes for things to eat with holes in the middle. There is no other reason for putting them in the same blog post except that they’re both fun to make.

One day I’ll try making doughnuts.

Onion rings

I’ve tried several recipes for onion rings but for me this one is the simplest and the best.

Makes 1 large bowl of onion rings

  • 1 large onion
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 210ml sparkling water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ground nut oil for frying

Peel and cut your onion into slices just under 1 cm thick (8mm). Separate into rings and discard the two tiny ones in the centre (you can save these for another use).

Measure the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and add the sparkling water gradually until you have a batter the consistency of double cream.

Now heat your oil. It’s best if you use a large saucepan and fill to about half way. The oil is ready for frying when a tiny drop of batter hisses immediately on entering the pan.

Put your onion rings into the batter and shake them a little to remove any excess batter before carefully dropping them into the oil. You can fry 4 or 5 at a time, or more if you’re short of time and you don’t mind if they stick together a bit.

Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain well on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt (optional if you don’t like to eat too much salt) before serving.

Bagels

This is a basic recipe and I’m sure bread experts will scoff but the result is a very respectable bagel which is much nicer than the dry old ones you can buy at Tesco Express.

These make a perfect Sunday brunch with scrambled eggs and chorizo or smoked salmon and cream cheese.

  • 400g strong bread flour
  • 225ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of dried instant action yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Seeds or salt flakes for the top

For fresh bagels in the morning start the process in the evening. Take a large mixing bowl and measure out the flour, yeast, salt and caster sugar.

Tip in the water and stir into a firm dough with your hands.

I used to follow this complicated schedule.

Now follow this schedule (this takes about 1 hour from start to finish, you’ll need a timer or a stop watch)

Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 minutes

Now divide the dough into 6 equal portions and shape into balls, place on a tray, cover with a cloth and leave for another 20 minutes.

BUT NOW I FORGET ALL THIS COMPLICATED NONSENSE. INSTEAD, I JUST BRING TOGETHER THE DOUGH IN A ROUGH BALL AND THEN COVER THE BOWL WITH CLINGFILM. NO KNEADING REQUIRED. JUST LEAVE FOR AT LEAST 6 HOURS. AND THEN FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW. (UPDATED FEB 2020).

Now shape your bagels. Make a hole in the middle with the end of a wooden spoon and then stretch the dough outwards with your fingers. The hole needs to be quite large (about 4 cm) as it will close up as it cooks.

Cover a chopping board or tray with lightly oiled cling film then place the bagels on the tray and cover loosely with another piece of lightly oiled cling film. Place in the fridge to rise slowly overnight.

In the morning preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Take a large pan and boil some water with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar added. Drop each bagel into the boiling water and poach for just 5 seconds on each side.

I HAVE EXPERIMENTED WITH JUST BAKING AND SKIPPING THE BOILING STEP. THE CRUST IS LESS CHEWY BUT THERE WASN’T A HUGE AMOUNT OF DIFFERENCE IN THE FINISHED BAGEL – BOTH WERE LIGHT AND AIRY. (UPDATED FEB 2020).

Place the poached bagels on an oiled baking tray, sprinkle with seeds or salt and bake for 15-20 minutes.