Sweet and Sticky Cinnamon Buns

I remember baking cinnamon buns for a school project when I was younger. Mom and I spent a good part of the sunday making the dough, watching it rise, rolling it out, throwing around flour etc. As they’re a bit of a labour of love, we ended up running out of time and subsequently, let the final rise happen overnight. I don’t remember this next part but my mom always reminds me that she had to set her alarm for 4:30am to put them in the oven so that they would be fresh and warm when I took them in to school. How good are moms. I do, however, remember the smell travelling up to my room and stunning me awake, after which I followed it downstairs, did the ever important “poisonous test” and guarded the rest of the batch from my hungry older brother. If only every morning could be that sweet.

Fast forward 10 years and I can safely say that I am not a morning person anymore. In fact, there was a short time in my life (okay it lasted three years) when I barely saw a morning. At university, I would awake from my slumber between 12 and 1, step over the remnants of what ever take-away I’d bought the night before and begin to piece my degree back together. Alright, that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea.

What I’m trying to get at is that I think cinnamon buns were invented for people like me. If you can take a page from my mothers book and bake them first thing in the morning, I guarantee you that the smell alone will get even the most hungover students shuffling their way to the kitchen

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Sweet and sticky cinnamon buns

What you’ll need:

1 baking sheet, lined with baking paper

For the dough:

425g strong white bread flour

1 x 7g sachet easy-blend dried yeasta

50g light brown muscovado sugar

3g fine sea salt

8 cardamom pods

about 225ml lukewarm milk

1 medium egg, at room temperature

75g slightly salted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

For the filling:

100g slightly salted butter, softened

75g light brown muscovado sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the topping:

50g walnut pièce, chopper finely

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

2 table spoons maple syrup

How you do it:

1. Put the flour and yeast into a mixing bowl and combine with your hand. Add the sugar and salt and mix in. Roughly crush the cardamom pods and remove the seeds, then finely grind the seeds or crush in a pestle and mortar. Mis them into the flour. Make a well in the centre.

2. Beat the milk with the egg using a fork and put the mixture into the well. Gradually work the flour mixture into the liquid with your hand to make a very soft dough. Add a bit more milk if the dough feels too dry or if there are dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl. Add the butter and work into the dough – it will feel soft and slightly sticky.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very thoroughly for 10 minutes. The dough should firm up as it is stretch and worked. Shape the tough into a ball and return to the bowl. Leave to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in size.

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4. Punch down the risen dough with your knuckles to deflate, then turn it out on to the lightly flour worktop and knead it gently for a few seconds to form a neat smooth ball. Cover with the upturned bowl and leave to relax for 5 minutes while you make the filling.

5. Put the softened butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly combined. The filling should have a spreadable consistency.

6. Uncover the dough and roll it out with a floured rolling pin to a near 28 x 38cm rectangle. Spread the filling evening over the dough using a palette knife. Starting at a long edge, roll it up fairly tight, like a swiss roll, and pinch the seam together firmly to seal. Using a floured late, sharp knife, cut the roll across into 9 thick slices.

7. Arrange the slices cut-side down in 3 rows of 3 on the lined baking sheet, spacing the slices about 1.5 cm apart (they will spread and join up during baking). Cover the slices very lightly with cling film and leave to rise on the worktop for 40-50 minutes until they have almost doubled in size.

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8. Towards the end of the riding time, heat your over to 190C (375F, gas 5), and make the topping by mixing the chopped walnuts with the Demerara sugar.

9. Remove the cling film and sprinkle some of the topping over each bun. Drizzle with maple syrup, and bake in the heated oven for about 25 minutes until they are a good golden brown. Transfer the buns to a wire rack and leave to cool a bit before pulling apart. Enjoy!

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