“I’ve always thought that bad weather has it’s compensations, most of them culinary”
So says Nigella Lawson in her introduction to this recipe, and it’s true that as the weather gets colder, the desire for warm, freshly baked things grows stronger, at least, I always find it does. As does the my desire for comfort foods in general.
When I was very little, my parents had a friend called Jenny who used to babysit me occasionally. I don’t remember much about Jenny except that she had long hair which she wore in two plaits, and for a special treat she used to give me white bread with butter that was sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar which crunched between my teeth like tiny, sweet grains of sand. (As I said, was very little, certainly young enough to recall eating sand.) I don’t eat sugar and cinnamon sandwiches anymore, but I do love cinnamon pastries, buns, and doughnuts.
So when I decided to try baking with yeast for the first time since… well, lets just say that last time I baked with yeast, the whole process was being supervised by an adult (who probably took care of any tricky bits), it didn’t take long to settle on these cinnamon buns for my first attempt. Part of my reasoning was that, if, for some reason, the buns should fail to rise, I would probably find some way to eat a sticky, doughy, cinnamony accident, whereas regular bread or rolls would be tossed way. As it was, I didn’t have to worry, they rose beautifully and were exactly what I wanted.
Well, almost exactly. The recipe calls for a hot oven (450°F or 230°C), and Nigella says:
“Put in hot oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, by which time the buns will have risen and will be golden-brown in colour. Don’t worry if they catch in places…”
I left mine in for 25 minutes and they didn’t only catch on top, which is okay, but were completely burned on the bottom. However, dealt with this by breaking off the burnt bottoms, and eating the perfect soft, slightly sweet, and very cinnamon flavoured centres.
Preheat oven to 450°F or 230°C. Line a roasting pan with baking paper.
Combine in a large mixing bowl:
4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
21g dried yeast1
½ tsp salt
½ cup melted butter
1¾ cups of milk
Mix wet ingredients into dry and stir until mostly combined. Then turn out onto a clean dry surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. Kneading, it turns out, is like riding a bicycle, only with less fear of falling off. The technique came back to me immediately, the pushing into the dough with the heels of my hand, then picking up the far side and bring it over and pushing that back down into the dough and repeating this and turning the dough around when it started to look too sausage shaped et cetera.
Once the dough is kneaded, it needs to be placed in an oiled bowl and covered with cling wrap. I put mine on top of my stove, which was warm from the oven heating, but not too warm. When I went back after 25 minutes I wasn’t convinced it had risen, but the camera seems to think that it did.
While the dough is rising, mix together half a cup of butter, half a cup of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to make the filling. I softened the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds to make it easier to mix and easier to spread.
Once the dough has risen, Nigella recommends tearing off a third of the dough and using it to line the pan to form the bottom of the buns. I did as instructed this time, but think I will skip it in future.
Roll the dough into a large rectangle with a 2:1 ratio (e.g. 40x20cm) and spread all over with the filling. Then roll from the largest side and cut into even slices. I made twelve, because I wanted each roll to be big and filling, but Nigella suggests 20. Set the rounds in the pan, brush with beaten egg, and leave to rise for a further 15-20 minutes. Then cook for 20 minutes or until they have puffed up to fill the pan and are golden brown on top.
Move to a cooling rack and try to wait for a few minutes before pulling one off, so as not to burn your fingers. (I couldn’t wait, but it was worth it, and my fingers weren’t really burned, they just got very hot for a second or 3.)
I’m very excited about having successfully baked with yeast, and plan to do more of it this winter.
1. I originally put 225g dried yeast. I’m not sure how I got that figure, probably from converting ounces to grams in my head. However, the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of dry yeast, which was three sachets of the type I was using, and the packet informs me that they contain 7 grams each. So 21 (or near enough) it is.