Tag Archives: baking

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns – à la Nigella Lawson

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“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.

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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.
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Banana Loaf

Banana loaf

This is a recipe I’ve been using and tinkering with for a few years. It started out as pretty simple recipe for banana muffins. One morning I was making them, and had half a pot of leftover coffee, and thought that banana and coffee are pretty much a match made in ingredient heaven, so I used the coffee instead of milk, which had the added bonus of being suitable for people who can’t have dairy (while at the same time making them completely unsuitable for small children).

Later on, I added some dates and walnuts, and poured the batter into a loaf pan, and the banana loaf was born. While I list wheat flour in the recipe below, I’ve made it several times using gluten free flours, and plan to try it with spelt flour in the near future.

Is it a bread or a cake? Well, that depends on how you eat it, and which of the optional ingredients you use. With dates and/or walnuts it’s more like a cake, and with seeds, or plain, it’s more like a bread. This time, I used sunflower seeds, so it was leaning more toward the bread end of the spectrum.

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The other thing about using coffee as an ingredient is that, if you’re anything like me, you shouldn’t eat this in the evening. At least, not if you have plans which include sleep. Instead, it’s perfect for morning tea, or even for breakfast. After a day or two (if it lasts that long) it can be toasted, and spread with butter, or ricotta, or whatever takes your fancy.

Mostly, I like to have a slice or two in the morning with a cup of strong coffee.
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Vegan hazlenut & chocolate chip biscuits

or “cookies” for those with a slightly different lexicon

While I’m neither vegan nor gluten intolerant, I have friends who are one or the other and it’s nice to be able to bake things which I can share.

I’m pretty good at making gluten free versions of most cakes, muffins, and biscuits, but I often struggle to think of vegan alternatives to eggs. For some recipes, the egg is not really essential, but for certain things it’s needed to bind the other ingredients together. I had a hunch that using a thick coconut cream might do the trick, and it turned out to be correct (at least in this instance).

These turned out to have a crisp outside and a moist, crumbly center. The only thing I would do differently next time is use hazelnut meal instead of almond meal, to emphasize the hazelnut flavour.

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Ginger Beer Cupcakes

Or, “Let’s see what I have in my pantry cupcakes”

I was still feeling peckish after dinner last night, and the good thing about muffins and cupcakes is that they are easy and quick to make. I had all the basics, but as I hadn’t planned to bake, I didn’t have any thing with which to flavour them.

But then I had a brilliant idea, possibly helped along by the (alcoholic) ginger beer we were drinking with dinner, and the fact that I’d recently read this recipe for chocolate and beer cupcakes, thus the idea for ginger beer cupcakes sprang out of my head fully formed. Just like Athena. (Okay, so I made it up as I went along. But it worked.)

ginger cupcakes

Strictly speaking, they are ginger beer and mandarin marmalade flavoured. But I accidentally put the marmalade away before I got the camera out.
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