My husband is the only one in the house who shops or cooks with any foresight in mind. He bakes bread. A lot of bread. And, he experiments. If it weren’t for him we’d eat the same thing for dinner every night. I, on the other hand, scramble eggs, or bake one sweet potato, or OK, I sometimes make soup or applesauce or something slightly more complicated than toast.
But while he also happily grills or rolls out dough on the dining table, I just love our kitchen and spend as much time as I can there. Our daughter basically learned to stand up in the narrow and well-windowed room, pulling herself up on drawer handles or the jogging stroller that’s parked against the back wall. Toodling around the kitchen we - both of us - find things to pick up and examine, to wipe, to drop on the floor. To eat. She cools her fingers in the dog’s bowl and under the powerful tap, grabs rosemary sprigs from me and chomps on them.
It is the most beautiful, brightest, best-smelling room in the house. Like a good Dutch flower painting, all stages of life are on display. It lends itself perfectly to A Grazing Lunch, one of the great pleasures of an unruly kitchen:
Turn on the radio. Start with whatever’s left of breakfast (or last night’s dinner) on the cutting board. Sprinkle sea salt on a half of avocado, and squeeze the remains of a lemon over the top. Root around in the refrigerator until that slightly wilted leftover salad surfaces, and eat that too. Polish off the bag of fancy potato chips purchased for lunch two weeks ago. Eat Sunday’s salmon that you wouldn’t feed anyone else anymore. Lick fingers with gusto, slipping scraps of the scraps to the dog.
Then again, sometimes I actually do have the urge to transcend my innate aversion to performing any challenging culinary tasks. I need to make something sweet and warm, to share. I want to bake. A couple of weeks ago, feeling just such a feeling, the idea of Cinnamon Buns hit. I happily stumbled upon a recipe by Danish-English cook Trine Hahnemann, who writes about cakes like Tove Jansson writes about children on a beach: like it’s always the summer after a long Scandinavian winter. Here is my version of her recipe.*
Trine Hahnemann's Cinnamon Buns
(Makes 18-20 large buns)
- 50 grams fresh yeast (trust me, do not try this with sachets of dry yeast)
- 500 ml lukewarm whole milk
- one egg
- 850 grams tipo 00 flour (pasta flour), plus more to dust
- 100 grams caster sugar (superfine sugar)
- 2 tsp ground cardamom (thank you Sheela!)
- ½ tsp salt
- 150 grams soft butter (about 2/3 cup)
- 200 grams soft butter (7/8 cup-ish…)
- 50 grams caster sugar
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
Crumble and work the yeast into the milk to dissolve, then beat the egg lightly and mix it into the warm yeasty milk. (Seriously.) Stir in the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt. This starts to get challenging; put some muscle into it. Add the butter to the bowl and work into the dough with a wooden spoon, then knead well on a floured work surface.
Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a linen napkin or a tea towel, and let it rise in a warm place for one or two hours, until doubled in size. You can also leave the dough in the refrigerator to rise over night, and I think that’s a very nice way to prepare for a happy breakfast the next morning when you stay in on Saturday night.
Mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon together for the filling, and set aside.
An hour or so before you’re ready to tuck into these tender, buttery spirals, divide the dough in half and roll each piece out on a floured work surface. You want to make a rectangle measuring about 40 × 30cm (~16 x 12 inches). Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough as evenly as you can. (I find this is easier to do on the chilled dough…)
Roll each sugary piece of dough into a wide cylinder, starting from a long side to get a long, slim log, then cut into 2½cm (~1 inch) slices. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place half of the rolls on the paper, pressing down on each one so they spread slightly. They will grow as they cook, so don't pack them too tight. Cover and leave to rise again, in a warm place, for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare the remaining half of the rolls the same way and cover, leaving them in the refrigerator until you’re ready for a second round. Do leave them out in a warm spot for a half hour too, so they lose their chill a bit before you bake them.
Probably bake the buns for 25-30 minutes, but check them after 20. If you can bear it leave them to cool on a wire rack before serving.
*I know it’s a bit ~much~ but I would recommend buying a scale for this if you don’t already own one. Scales cost less than the heartbreaking effort of guessing does.