I finally got around to “Decking the Halls” over the weekend although – I’m not going to lie – I could have happily gone another couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; I love buying presents, I love wrapping presents and I’ll scream along to Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas” when it comes on the radio just like everyone else (although, when it comes to Christmas tunes, I’m all about Mele Kalikimaka)… But the decorations? Ugh, they bust my baubles. I get excited to dig the boxes out of the garage, sure, and I love putting the tree up and seeing all the new tree decorations Sunny and I have collected over the past year from our adventures away (this year we added a Puffin and a Manatee)… but then I get annoyed that there’s suddenly more clutter to contend with and to clean (needles, grrrrr), and I’m definitely one of those people who can’t wait to sweep it all away and box it up come January. I just can’t wait to reclaim my space, y’know?
God, what a Grinch!
But, Christmas Food? Oh, that is one tradition I’m happy to clutter my kitchen with, my friend. And if there’s one thing I do like about Christmas Decorations is that they do get me in the Christmas Food Mood. It took us a good couple of hours to get the decorations up on Saturday (which was two hours too long, in my opinion) – but on Sunday, I spent at least double that time happily baking away in the kitchen and whipping up these Saffron and Cinnamon Knots. They’re kind of a mix between traditional Swedish Kanelbullar and the St Lucia Saffron Buns that are traditionally eaten on the 13th of December (this Friday!). An enriched, sweet dough in a lovely shade of gold, with a sweet cinnamon filling twisted through the middle. So delicious, so moreish and perfect for scoffing in front of the tree. 🙂
Saffron and Cinnamon Knots
For the dough:
420g strong white flour
25g dried active yeast
0.25g saffron (half a tube)
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
75g soft butter
For the filling:
1 tbsp cinnamon
90g soft butter
50g caster sugar
1 beaten egg
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
First things first, wake up your yeast. Gently heat the milk until it’s lukewarm, then stir in the yeast until it dissolves. The milk should turn a slightly off shade of beige and you might see some bubbles form.Next stir in the threads of saffron, watching the milk change from beige to gold.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, and then pour in your yeast mix. Gradually sift in the flour, until you’re left with a slightly wet dough.
Lightly grease your hands, then turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. I don’t like to add flour (it can change the consistency of the dough) so it’ll be a sticky couple of minutes of kneading, but stick with it (ha ha) and soon the dough will come together. After about 10 minutes of tough kneading your should have a soft, elastic dough.
Pop the dough in a lightly greased bowl, then leave it somewhere warm for about 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, mix together the filling.
After 45 minutes, the dough should have doubled in size. Knock it back and then roll it out into a rectangle roughly 1cm thick. Spread the filling, and then fold both long sides into the middle – one on top of the other. Gently roll the dough back into a rectangle shape, and then – using a pizza cutter – slice it in half, and then into long strips.
To make the knot shape, twist each strip into a spiral, wrap it once around your fingers and then pull one end through. Place each knot onto a lined baking tray and leave to rise a little for 20 minutes. Wash each one with the beaten egg.
Crank your oven up to 250°C and bake the knots for 8 minutes. Once they’re cooked, transfer them onto a wire rack, glaze them with the sugar gaze (caster sugar and hot water) and sprinkle with flaked almonds. 🙂
“My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon…”
So, I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with Conspiracy Theory Podcasts. I know, I know! See, my favourite women’s history podcast (Queens, in case you’re wondering – it’s completely brilliant) is kind of between episodes at the moment and so I went hunting for something else to listen to on the morning dog walk (read: muddy trudge in the drizzle to the local park). I found an episode aboutAmelia Earhart and conspiracy theories concerning her disappearance (THE WOMAN JUST VANISHED) and woops! I kind of fell down a hole. But you know what? They’re kind of perfect listening for gloomy Autumn days and even darker nights in. A bit of history, a lot of mystery… and, sometimes – yeah – a heavy helping of nonsense.
But what do Conspiracy Theory Podcasts have to do Cinnamon Buns, I hear you asking. Absolutely nothing. Except for the fact that they seem to be soundtracking most of my cooking and baking at the moment. For example, as I was baking these very sticky buns the other day, I was listening to a couple of episodes talking about how the Sugar Industry for a long time secretly fiddled scientific studies to throw the blame on fat for Heart Disease instead of sugar. If you’ve got any recommendations on podcasts, I’d love to hear them; I’m always looking for something new to listen to in between episodes of The High Low and Queens. 🙂
Anyway, Cinnamon Buns! I mentioned last week that I’m a big fan of sticky buns in all their forms, but the cinnamon variety are a favourite of mine – especially this time of year. I usually pick up one on my weekly shop as a treat to scoff with a cup of tea when I get back, but I hadn’t quite cracked making them myself. Historically, I’m not the best at baking bread; I’m impatient when it comes to kneading the dough, and even though I’ve got a bread maker to do all the hard work for me – the instant yeast it requires never really creates the pillow-soft dough I’m after. Then last year I started experimenting with Dried Active Yeast and had a bit of a breakthrough on the whole process of making homemade bread when I made this Halloumi Loaf(HEAVEN). Having got the knack of kneading and proving, I moved straight on to buns and finally managed to put together an easy Cinnamon Bun recipe that worked (thanks to The Guardian Food How-To section – always a great place to start when you’re looking to develop your own twist on a classic recipe). A sweet, springy dough perfect for rolling around the sticky cinnamon filling. These doughy buns however, are a little bit extra thanks to the added apple – an easy addition that gives the buns a little something special. Top with whatever topping you fancy – whether that’s cream cheese frosting, sugar glaze, or the cinnamon-spiced icing I went for here – and scoff ideally within a couple of days. As with most homemade bakes, they’re best scoffed fresh out of the oven. 🙂
Sticky Apple-filled Cinnamon Buns
Sticky, doughy and full of cinnamon-spiced apple pie filling. What’s not to like?
3 apples (any variety you fancy)
2 tbsp cinnamon
100g soft brown sugar
2 tsp cardamom seeds
300 ml whole milk
15g dried active yeast
50g melted butter (cooled)
50g caster sugar
1 large egg
420g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
First things first, make the filling. Peel and finely chop the apples – then boil them in water for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft. Get rid of the water, then mash them. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon, then set aside and leave to cool.
Gently bring the milk to the boil with the ground cardamom. Pour into a mixing bowl, leave it to cool slightly (down to about 37°C) and then sprinkle in the yeast. Put the bowl somewhere warm (I like to pop mine in the airing cupboard!) until the yeast has dissolved and activated (you should see some bubbles or foam forming over the surface of the milk).
Next, stir in the melted butter, sugar and egg.
Gradually pour in the flour and salt, mixing together to make a sticky dough.
Next, knead the dough. If you’ve got a fancy dough hook on your mixer, use that – if not, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves to get to work. I don’t like to add anymore flour, so the dough will be really sticky and impossible to work with at first – but stick at it (stick being the operative word!) and slowly everything will come together to create a smooth, pliable, stretchy dough.
Pop it into a clean, lightly-greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and then leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for about an hour.
Set the oven to 200°C.
Next, roll out the dough into a rectangle about a centimetre thick – then spread with the apple filling. Roll it tightly into a sausage shape, then cut into six equally sized buns. Place the buns into a lined, deep baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes until well-risen and golden, then leave to cool.
Top with cream cheese frosting or icing, then scoff! 🙂
My love for Cinnamon Buns isn’t exactly a secret. I treat myself to one after I’ve done my weekly food shop – or at least I used to, until the Tesco bakery decided to stuff their buns with raisins. Ugh! For the record, I don’t mind raisins at all – I just don’t want them anywhere near my buns, hun. I’m a purist, what can I say? (Although, clearly not that much of a purist since this whole post is about me meddling around with the basic cinnamon bun recipe!) So I decided to make my own Cinnamon Buns, and I wondered, how can I make them even better?
Another weekly shop treat of mine is a pack of Biscoff Biscuits – which barely last two days let alone the rest of the week (I mean they’ve literally got the word “Scoff” in their name). I’ve even got a jar of Biscoff Spread in my cupboard, a dollop of which usually finds its way into my morning bowl of porridge. So hey, I thought, why not work a dollop of the stuff into a Cinnamon Bun? Why not, eh?
Biscoff Buns (makes 6)
For the dough:
100ml warm milk
1 tsp of active yeast
1 egg (whisked)
50g caster sugar
25g butter (melted)
500g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
25g brown sugar
1 tbsp Biscoff Spread
2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the frosting:
100g icing sugar mixed with a little water to make a drizzle
A couple of crumbled Biscoff biscuits.
Activate your yeast by sprinkling it over your warm milk and then leave for 15 minutes. When you come back, the milk should be foamy on top – a sign that the yeast is read to go!
Pour in the caster sugar, egg and melted butter (make sure it’s cooled slightly otherwise it’ll scramble your egg!) and mix. Next, stir in your flour until everything comes together to form a sticky dough.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then leave to prove in an oily bowl for at least an hour.
After an hour, knock back the dough and roll it out into a thin rectangle. Spread the Biscoff spread over the dough, leaving about an inch gap around the outside. Sprinkle the brown sugar and ground cinnamon on top, then roll it. Cut the dough into six equal rounds, then arrange on a baking tray (I used a circular cake tin to create a tear and share kind of bun 🙂 ) Cover with cling film and leave to prove for another hour.
Set your oven to 170 and then bake the buns for 30 minutes.
Drizzle, sprinkle with the crushed biscuits and then serve warm.
Anyone got any baking planned this weekend? What are you making? ♡