Sunday, 2 May 2010

Cinnamon Girl

One of my favourite things about cooking is spices - I love the way that a relatively simple addition can lift or ground a dish, and as I cook more and more I simultaneously despair over the amount of space they take up in my relatively small pantry, and love the fact that I can generally have a rummage in there and come up with something that will take what I'm cooking from the realms of ordinary and into something a bit more special.

As far as specific herbs and spices go, there are some I am just obsessed with. Some pop in and out of favour depending on the seasons (basil, I'm looking at you), others have a fixed place in my repertoire becuase of what they pair with - roast chicken and thyme, rhubarb and ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in my baking exploits. Then of course there are those that pop in and out of favour, coriander is a prime example of this - a few years ago I was buying huge bunches from the world veg section of the supermarket and adding it to everything, whereas now I couldn't tell you the last time I added it to something. Similarly I went through a phase of adding smoked paprika to everything and anything in sight but haven't touched it recently (actually I've just checked, it's no longer resident in the pantry and I have a vague recollection of donating it to my little sister when I moved house).

Anyway, cinnamon seems to rise above those spices which fall in and out of my favour and find itself added to most things; parkin, stewed fruit, a stick added to chilli, and if Starbucks would care to reinstate their cinnamon latte I would be a happy (albeit eternally broke, and hyper caffeinated) woman, until then i just add it to the milk for my instant coffee.

One of the things I have wanted to do with my leaven for a long time, is make cinnamon buns. I loved the ones that I saw in New York, and they do seeem to be a very American breakfast dish. For the sake of my teeth and waistline I had to leave them uniced as I don't think I could face glace icing at 6am. I looked through all my recipe books and found them wanting and although I had an idea of what I needed to do, I wanted some guidance.

I worked my leaven as usual up until where you divide the dough in two. At this point, I continued with one half as usual and then worked the other half into the cinnamon buns. Having spent a long time googling, I based what I did from this point on Paula Deen's recipe as that also used a starter as the base. Find the recipe here on the Food Network's website (how I wish I got that channel on my freeview - actually, maybe not, as I would run the risk of becoming a hermit!)

After the initial prove, I tipped the dough onto my oiled worktop (which I'm starting to get the hang of now) and using the heel of my hand flattened out until it was a fairly even rectangle - about a foot wide and probably double that long. The filling from the recipe was supposed to be as follows:

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 cup ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Now as I made that 250g of butter, and 325g of sugar I sort of proportioned it down to about 100g of butter and 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar. I softened the butter and spread it over the dough, and then covered that with the brown sugar (next time I might beat the butter, sugar and cinnamon together and spread that over the dough)and cinnamon. I then sprinkled on sultanas that I had soaked in tea.

The next part was tricky as I rolled the dough up into a long sausage, and then cut this into rounds which I then placed in a cake tin that I had previously buttered. This all then was left on the side to prove for another half an hour or so, and then baked in the oven with the other loaf of bread.

What came out was amazing! When hot, the rolls were so tasty, and would make an amazing pudding (I'm working on it, fear not). But next morning, they were great with a strong cup of tea as an interesting sugar hit that certainly kept me going till lunchtime. The cinnamon, whilst a very strong flavour was amazing, and they smelled as wonderful as they tasted. All these people who rave about porrige made with water being oh so filling, have clearly never known the wonder that is a breakfast of a cinnamon bun. As always with leaven based breads they don't last long, but you can warm these through in the microwave or oven to refresh them.

Whilst admittedly not something to eat every day of every week - for a treat these are amazing and the smell while they bake is enough to make me happy by itself.


Libbs said...

Penny you've not only made me hungry, but you've done the impossible and made me crave something cinnamonny!!!


Pen said...

It's amazing. I often bake because I crave that spicey, cinnamonny, nutmeggy smell... and this fits the bill perfectly.


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