Saturday, 1 March 2014

Nordicana and The Slow Slow Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon buns are extremely fashionable I will have you know. They are also Very Scandinavian. Very Nordic Noir. Very Spicy and Delicious. Not unlike a lot of Scandinavians...

I had never made them before, but I do like a bit of sweet dough baking (see my Baby Gibassiers) and thought.. well it's not THAT different... they are just sweet dough with cinnamon and butter, oh and some cardamom and lemon, oh and with proper pearl sugar, oh and they have to curl up properly, oh and....what the heck. Let's just make them!

The Nordicana festival had a little competition,  A Great Scandinavian Cinnamon Bun-Off,  to prepare cinnamon buns ready for baking on the premises, to be tasted and judged by a panel of Impressive Scandinavians Trine Hahnemann, Bronte Aurell and Halfdan E plus Honorary Scandinavian for the day, John Whaite. Signe Johansen encouraged me to enter, and in the end I couldn't resist the challenge.

Here they are all sitting a-judging:

 and here are Signe and John looking at their photogenic best.

Anyway back to the buns..

There were several challenges.

One:  How to get a really flavoursome dough, that is sufficiently light yet substantial enough to support the butter and cinnamon. A cinnamon dough has a distinct whirl to it, not unlike a Chelsea bun, so the dough shouldn't be so light that is slumps into an amorophous lump.

Two: I wanted to get to Brick Lane in time to see Signe moderating at a discussion of Nordic food traditions at 10.30. So the buns needed to be ready before I left at half past 9.

Three: Having got them made in time, they had to be cold enough to withstand proofing on the way in, before they got to the fridge to carry on slow proofing ready to be baked around 1.30 for judging at 2.

Four: would my pearl sugar melt on the way in?

So I decided that the best way forward was slowly.  I wanted a LOT of flavour in that dough, I didn't want it tough and hard, I wanted it gently pillowy and soft.  Three days isn't too long for making cinnamon buns is it? Of course not, when each day's work is only minutes each day, and it is time that is doing most of the work.

Here is how I made my slow buns...

Day one:  Preferment

180g white bread flour
110g full cream milk
one pinch instant yeast

Day two: Main dough

All of the preferment from Day one
250g full cream milk
450g 000 flour (or 00 if you can't find 000 flour - try one of the Turkish or Eastern European shops for 000)
13g instant yeast 
2 eggs, lightly beaten
70g Sugar
13g fine salt
1tsp diastatic malt (optional I get mine from The Flour Bin)
zest of one lemon
2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely ground (in a mortar or a spice grinder, I haven't managed to find any ready ground cardamom yet)
100 g unsalted butter, room temperature, chopped

Day three: cinnamon butter
80g unsalted butter, soft room temperature
100g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Day one:  Scald the milk (I give it 2 minutes in the microwave in the measuring jug, saves on washing up...) and let it cool to no more than 30 degrees Centigrade. This is about blood heat, so if you put your finger in the milk, it should feel neither hot nor cold.  Mix the flour and yeast together and mix in the milk - using a flexible spatula works well. Cover with cling film, and put to one side at room temperature for between 12 and 16 hours.

Day two: Method will depend on whether you have a stand mixer or will be kneading by hand.  If you are kneading by hand, then have a look at this video (repeated from the Gibassier post for your convenience) this is a sticky dough and you will need to use Bertinet's slap and fold method.

I now have my Kenwood Chef and am now a lazy kneader...

Scald and cool the milk as for Day one.

Mix all of the ingredients except the butter together to make a soft, sticky dough. Either mix in a stand mixer until the dough is smooth and starting to look shiny (about 6-8 minutes), or follow the Bertinet video. Reckon that kneading by hand will take you a good 15 minutes. Then add the butter and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and very shiny.

Form into a ball, put into a large bowl and cover with cling film, put into the fridge overnight.

Leave the butter out at room temperature overnight for the cinnamon butter tomorrow so that it is easy to blend.

Day Three:  In a small bowl, mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon to form a smooth evenly brown mixture.

Take the dough from the fridge - it will have risen somewhat although not as much as you might expect. The texture will be slightly stiff, this is good as it will help the dough to roll out. 

Roll the dough into a long rectangle about one centimetre thick, and smear the cinnamon butter all over. I use a spatula for this, or you can use your hands if the butter feels a little hard.  Assuming the narrow end is facing you now, swivel the dough round 90 degrees and roll the dough up like a swiss roll from the wider side, trying to keep the ends as square as possible. Pinch the edge of the sheet together with the main roll firmly so it doesn't come unrolled.

Don't roll the dough too thinly - In the second photo of buns above, I rolled much more thinly, to only about half a centimetre thick, to get more layers. But I don't think that they work as well. The cinnamon butter makes them very slippery and they don't proof as well, so you don't get a lovely pillowiness to the buns.  They still tasted lovely, but I don't think they are as good.

Cut the roll into sections approximately 4 cm wide, (use a serrated or very sharp knife and a slicing movement, don't just press down, you will squash the roll ) and put the pieces on their sides (i.e. swirly side up) into individual cupcake papers. Flatten the cupcake papers out a bit first or the dough will fold up the sides, you want it to sit on the bottom of the paper.

The papers aren't strictly necessary, you can put the buns on a sheet on parchment paper. But the individual papers do keep them apart, they won't spread into each other as much if you prefer them separate. (Both ways are good, but I think the individual ones are easier to bake evenly. On a larger sheet, the outside ones bake darker before the middle is fully cooked )

Brush with egg wash and allow to proof at room temperature for 90 minutes - 2 hours or until very puffy. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.  If you can't get pearl sugar (it is available from both Scandikitchen and from BakeryBits here in the UK) then either use crushed sugar cubes or sprinkle a little sugar on the top afterwards.

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C (350/180 for a fan oven) gas mark 6, and bake for  approximately 15 minutes until golden brown.  Check the underneath, you want that a nice golden too, not pallid and soggy,

Cool on a rack, and eat while still warm for the finest flavour.

p.s. I won, but you knew that didn't you :)

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