Golden Syrup and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Sticky Buns

I know I’ve already posted about sticky buns before, but they are one of my favourite recipes and they are especially delicious to eat on a cold winter’s day with a hot drink.

The sticky buns that my family usually make have a toffee and walnut base, but lately, I’ve been experimenting with different sticky elements. Last time I used a caramel sauce and this time I decided to give golden syrup a go. Both were equally delicious. A+ would recommend.

One thing to I will remember for next time is to increase the stickiness element. Sticky buns, of course, need to be sticky. It really does means you have to be generous with the sticky element even though it increases the likelihood of sticky hands and really sticky cake tins.

Bake these in a cake tin to get a pretty design when you pull them out of the oven and flip upside down.

 

Golden Syrup and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Yeasted coffee cake dough

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
½ cup flour (cake flour if possible)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour (bread flour if possible)
65g butter, cut into chunks and left to soften

Glaze

¼ cup golden syrup
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Method

Yeasted coffee cake dough

Mix yeast and warm water together and leave for 5 minutes until dissolved. Add cake flour, sugar, salt, eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add bread flour and mix for one minute until dough comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. At this point add the butter.

I found the easiest way to do this is to stretch the dough out and add around ¼ of the butter you have and then fold the dough in half and stretch it out again. Add another ¼ of the butter and repeat. The dough will be very sticky and you’ll feel like it’s not working, but you need to persist! Keep kneading it and the butter will eventually incorporate itself into the dough.

Shape into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. Keep dough in warm place for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

If you want to make really flavoursome dough, Joy recommends you leave it for 1 ½ hours, punch it down after that and then let rise again for 4 – 12 hours. Punch it down again and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Glaze

Once your dough is ready, roll it out onto a 12 x 9 inch rectangle. Mix cinnamon, brown sugar and butter together and brush over dough. Carefully roll the dough as if you were making a chocolate log. Cut crosswise into 6 – 8 slices.

Grease a cake tin. At the bottom, carefully pour the golden syrup so it lines the base. Place buns on top of golden syrup and pack them in carefully so they fill the tin completely. Place in a 180° preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Invert the pan onto a hot sheet or plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Plum Jam and Raisin Swirl Bread

Mystery ingredient time!

Today’s mystery ingredient is the delicious Anathoth Plum Jam. I originally planned to create a Louise Cake Tart using the jam but I lacked a loose bottom tart tin so I thought I might save that recipe for when I eventually get around to buying some new tart tins.

Instead I decided to have a go at creating a bread swirl. I’ve seen bread swirls a lot on Pinterest and they look very intricate and detailed even though they appear to very easy create and very pretty to look at. In saying that however, Pinterest is known for having pins which are not an accurate representation of what would happen if you actually followed the instructions. There are many BuzzFeed articles which document attempts by Pinterest users to recreate ideas they have seen on the social networking site and the spectacular failures that result.

I can safely say that bread swirls are not one of these Pinterest fails. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to make this swirl. I would also recommend playing around with the filling. I used plum jam and raisins, but you could use a whole range of different things – fresh fruit, spices, caramel, chocolate or even something savoury like cheese.

I used the recipe from Joy the Baker as part of her Baking Bootcamp, but I think any enriched dough would work fine. Instead of berries and cinnamon I used jam and raisins.

I also learnt two things when making this bread which I would like to share.

When I first pulled it out of the oven, the centre of this bread was a little undercooked and I had to put it back into the oven for ten more minutes. This happened because:

Once I had threaded the dough I didn’t let the it prove in the cake tin.

If I had done so, the dough would have more air bubbles. This would have created a lighter, airier dough and would have been less dense in the centre thus ensuring a consistent bake.

My oven is hotter than what the temperature reads.

I believe that this is the main reason. Because it was too hot, the bread cooked too fast on the outside. Cover the bread in foil and keep cooking if you find yourself in this situation.

 

One pot ginger gem muffins

I ended up making these muffins about a week ago while I was suffering from a nasty cold. On the Saturday morning I did a massive clear out of my recipe books during the weekend and found a cute little book called Marvellous Muffins which seemed rather twee. I nearly threw it out, but Joe convinced me that it was worth keeping. Looking through, it does have some more unusual takes on muffin flavours – like orange crunch muffins or potato and dill muffins so it is probably worth keeping for a little while.

I made these on the Sunday morning. They were dead easy, as muffins usually are. I think people underestimate muffins as a great breakfast food – they are simple to make and don’t take that much time. In about 30 minutes you can have warm, freshly baked muffins to eat.

The only unusual aspect of this recipe was that you make it in a pot on the stove. This was great though – as a messy baker, it made clean up a breeze.

I made these in silicone muffin cups. Silicone bakeware is really useful for cleaning up but I’ve realised that it is not suitable for baking. One of the problems with using silicone bakeware is that it you don’t get the lovely caramelised crust that you get from usual bakeware. It also seems to increase the cooking time. I recently used a silicone bundt cake tin to make a chocolate mocha cake and it took double the time to bake the cake in. Annoying!

Recipe to come.

Muffins are due for a comeback

Sometimes when you set out to make delicious food to write about on a food blog, the results are not always what you are hoping for.

On Sunday it was a beautiful, gorgeous day in Auckland. We’ve been having some stunning weather lately and this Sunday was another exceptional day. I woke up feeling in a muffin mood. I’m not sure how to describe what exactly is a ‘muffin’ mood is but muffins are ridiculously easy to make as a breakfast food so maybe there is a sense of feeling of cheerfulness and relaxation.

Unfortunately, my muffins were a bit of a disappointment. I wish I had followed a previously used recipe, but I decided to give Nigella Lawson’s Pear and Ginger muffin recipe. I adapted it by replacing the pear with apple, and including cinnamon as a spice.

Although they tasted fine they had this really odd consistency – very oily. They reminded me of a pound cake I had once made that had called for a lot of oil. I’m not used to cooking with oil in baking – I think butter gives a much richer and better consistency. Oil just doesn’t feel right in baking! And the amount of sugar in these! I don’t think I’ve ever used so much sugar in making muffins. Maybe I’m just a sugar prude.

It’s quite frustrating when the subject of your blog post turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. It’s not worth my while really sharing this recipe. However, I didn’t want to waste a baking experience, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about muffins in general.

If baked goods were all at high school, muffins would be in the uncool clique. In the foodie scene they have been totally dismissed and ignored – not on the radar at all (unless you count duffins – but they don’t seem to be happening).

It’s not really fair, because muffins are very versatile as baked goods – they can be both sweet or savoury. They’re easy to make and they fit a whole manner of difference occasions.

Perhaps that is the problem with muffins – unlike cupcakes, macarons and cronuts, muffins are very every day. They don’t have a sense of specialness or occasion that these other baked treats have, nor do they come across as particularly indulgent.They’re humble and unpretentious and I think that’s largely why they have been overlooked by the foodie scene.

Muffins became a popular café item in the 70s and 80s. Until this point, muffins had been relatively petite. It was their popularity within these cafes that resulted in an explosion in their size, become at least three times bigger than previous. Since then muffins have been closely associated with chain coffee shops and petrol stations. No wonder they are so uncool.

I think it is time to bring the humble muffin back. Muffins need to reclaim a sense of occasion. It’s not an indulgent or elegant occasion where you’re trying to impress. Muffins suit a more laid back, relaxed occasion – an unhurried breakfast or perhaps a casual picnic with friends. We need to liberate muffins from their daggy chain café locations and free them from their banal flavours. Time for a muffin revolution!

Monthly round-up

I have a blog post coming soon on my next mystery ingredient challenge (hint: crepes). In the mean time, I thought I might share a couple of interesting articles that I’ve come across lately.

The first one is a short piece in the Guardian about the origin of the Lamington. As it turns out, it was an April Fool’s Joke and plays on the ongoing Australia/New Zealand rift when it comes to food.  The article argues that there is “proof” that the humble, delightful spongy cakes is ours!

The Lamington, Australia’s famed dessert, was actually invented in New Zealand and originally named a “Wellington”, according to new research published by the University of Auckland.

Fresh analysis of a collection of 19th-century watercolours by the New Zealand landscape artist JR Smythe, shows that in one portrait, “Summer Pantry” dated 1888, a partially eaten Lamington cake is clearly visible on the counter of a cottage overlooking Wellington Harbour.

One of my favourite food writers Jack Monre has been profiled in the New Yorker blogs and discusses the difficulty of living in Austerity Britain under the Conservatives:

Back in July, 2012, though, while she was posting recipes for friends and then printing them out to distribute at a local food pantry, Monroe wrote an entry called “Hunger Hurts.” The short post told of her quick decline from a middle-class working woman to a single mother on the dole, suffering the pressure of rent arrears when her check arrived mysteriously short. She turned off her heat, unscrewed her light bulbs, and sold every valuable she owned to a pawnshop. Even though she organized her cooking so as not to spend more than ten pounds ($16.65) a week for food, she wasn’t able to keep herself and her son fed: “Poverty is the sinking feeling when your small boy finishes his one weetabix and says ‘more mummy, bread and jam please mummy’ as you’re wondering whether to take the TV or the guitar to the pawn shop first, and how to tell him that there is no bread or jam.”

An interesting piece by Diana Henry about the process of publishing a cookbook. Some fascinating details about the research process, recipe testing and how everything comes together at the end.

But cookbooks are not just information. At the same time as I was researching I was thinking about dishes. This is something that goes on all the time. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep because I get stuck in a groove with a certain ingredient, or food from a particular place. I write these down – I have notebooks all over the place and make long lists on the computer – and then I come back to them for pieces and for books. Ideas for dishes come out of travelling, too. In Iceland over the summer I made pages and pages of notes. The dishes I was coming up with weren’t Icelandic, of course, but they had Icelandic flavours. You get inspired by the foods that dominate; in Iceland, for example, it was cod, dill, oats, beer and, a surprise to me, liquorice. Texture was a big thing there, too. It is partly because of the landscape, which is incredibly varied (so you think about texture all the time). Countries that don’t have a great reputation for food can be the most inspiring. I have a long list of dishes that I thought up in Estonia, for example, that haven’t yet seen the light of day.

A bit of kitchen silliness here – what does the way you have your egg say about your personality? I like my eggs sunny side down, but they don’t have that option here! This quiz is strictly scientific.

If you were on a deserted island and you were given only eggs to eat and you could only choose one style of egg for all of eternity, you know exactly what you’d choose. Scrambled, folded into an omelet, steamed, baked –– there’s no wrong way to eat an egg, but your choice gives more than a little insight into your personality.

Orange Caramel Drunk Cake

I’m on a bit of a caramel buzz at the moment. It started last week when I made sticky buns with caramel sauce. As I was lavishly licking the left over caramel out of the pot I realised how much I really enjoyed its rich, buttery taste.

A fun fact about caramel – no one really knows how it got its name! In her piece ‘Comeback Caramel’ in  the food journal Gastronomica, Samira Kawash outlines:

As for the word caramel, the OED is uncharacteristically vague on the origins of the term. It is traced to France, but questions persist about its reference. Theoretical etymologies attach it to callamellus little tube or reed, or to cannamella, the Latin term for sugar cane, but these are only theories, and not very persuasive ones. OED concludes, somewhat tersely, “origin uncertain.”

The OED’s lexicographers do not mention a more promising (but likely apocryphal) derivation attributing the name to one Count Albufage Caramel of Nismes, France. Tantalizing references to Count Caramel appear (and disappear) in the 19th century, most famously in William Jeanes The Modern Confectioner (1861; also known as Gunter’s Modern Confectioner). The Count is credited with first describing the final stage of sugar boiling just before the sugar would begin to darken. Although Count Caramel sounds more like a character from Jim Henson’s workshop than a bona fide member of the French aristocracy, something in the account rings true.

On Saturday, I got an opportunity to make more caramel sauce. A work colleague of mine, Anika was hosting a pot luck dinner. I originally intended to make Stephanie Alexander’s Mediterranean orange cake but I forgot to put one its crucial ingredients (almond meal) on the supermarket list.

As an aside, forgetting things was a bit of a theme during the weekend. I managed to leave one half of my shoes in the work lobby (it fell out of my bag). Then on Saturday, when I was leaving to run errands I had to go back home four times because I had forgotten various items I needed. Sigh!

But anyway, back to my orange cake. Thankfully, The Cook’s Companion had another orange cake recipe which I had all the ingredients for. I’ve previously made this cake for a small gathering Analiese hosted once. It was a bit of a disaster. Previously, I had reduced the number of eggs from four to two thinking that it wouldn’t affect the final product too much. I was very wrong. The cake was very crumbly.

Like, crumbs everywhere

Worst of all, one of Analiese’s friends who she had invited, had been on a contestant on New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker and I was paranoid that he might be silently judging my poor cake effort. I felt like having a small card to accompany the cake to explain why I had removed the egg (Analiese’s allergies) and hence the crumbliness of the cake.

This time when I made the cake, I used all four eggs and it turned out fine. It did crack on the top a bit which means I should have used less baking powder and lowered the temperature on the oven. Oh well.

Making the orange caramel sauce for the icing was my favourite part. I adapted the Joy of Cooking caramel sauce recipe. Instead of using water, I used orange juice and added some orange zest. It took a bit longer for it to boil but it turned out pretty good. The acidity of the oranges added a nice ‘cut through’ to the sweetness of the caramel. I drowned the cake in the sauce so it looked like a cake version of crème caramel.

I’ve called this recipe Orange and Caramel Drunk cake because I feel like the cake looks like it has over indulged on the sauce. Go home cake, you’re too drunk.

Orange and Caramel Drunk Cake

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

Ingredients

Cake batter

250g softened butter
1 ½ cups caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
250g self-raising flour

Orange Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
8 table spoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces1
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Method

Cake batter

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a 22cm cake tin

Mix sugar and orange zest in a bowl. Add butter and cream the mixture. Add eggs and orange juice. Add flour and fold mixture together until the flour is incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. Spoon into tin and bake for 50 min. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Orange Caramel Sauce

Add orange zest, orange juice and sugar to a small saucepan. Slowly heat up and stir the sugar and water until all the sugar has been dissolved. Bring it up the boil, cover and leave to bubble for 2 minutes. Keep your eye on it or else it will burn! The mixture should become a lovely amber colour. Take it off the heat, add the butter and mix until it has been dissolved. Stir in cream and mix. If sauce is lumpy, place over low heat and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. On a lined baking tray, pour caramel sauce so it covers most of the tray.

Russian Bagels (Bubliki)

Making bubliki is my March bread challenge. I use the word ‘bread’ here loosely as bubliki aren’t really considered bread. They’re more of a half bread, half pastry that you eat with tea or coffee. They have a really scone like texture – dense but quite soft. The difference between them and scones is that Bubliki are sweeter due to the sugar, butter and eggs added.

A wee bit of history

The bublik has its origins in the Pale of Settlement. This was the:

territory within the borders of czarist Russia wherein the residence of Jews was legally authorized. Limits for the area in which Jewish settlement was permissible in Russia came into being when Russia was confronted with the necessity of adjusting to a Jewish element within its borders, from which Jews had been excluded since the end of the 15th century.

Bubliki popularity emerged in the 1920s, under Soviet Russia’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which permitted a certain degree of private enterprise. According to Darra Goldstein:

A new breed of Soviet citizen, the wily entrepreneur, emerged, wheedling the public to buy wares of often dubious quality. Many less sophisticated sellers also took to the streets in an attempt to peddle their goods, and for a while the cities were once again full of all manner of colour hawkers.

One of the most popular products of this era was the bublik, sold hot from portable ovens and immortalized in a contemporary song, “Bublichiki,” in which a young girl bewails her father’s drunkenness and the fact that she must eke out her livelihood selling buns on the street

References to bubliki can also be found in Russian and Ukrainian cultural history. According the page on wikipedia:

A common Russian and Ukrainian phrase is “a hole from a bublik” (Russian: Дырка от бу́блика, Ukrainian: Ді́рка з (від) бу́блика) – which means “absolutely nothing” or “worthless”. Examples:

I worked so hard, and what did I get for it? A hole from a bublik,

He is not worth a hole from a bublik.

Our attempt 

For starters, our bubliki were not worthless! To mix things up a bit I made these with my friend Analiese (who also happens to have a very witty and hilarious fashion and makeup blog) at her house and we ate these for brunch.

They were pretty easy to make, but they didn’t make as many as we thought. Instead of yielding 12, we only made six in the end.

The most entertaining part was when we had to boil the dough in the vanilla milk. It reminded me of watching hot doughnuts being made at food trucks. There is something quite entrancing about dropping dough into hot liquid and then eagerly waiting for it to rise to the surface.

I would recommend eating these with cream cheese and salmon as we did. The slightly sourness of the cream cheese along with the oiliness of the salmon went quite well with the sweet bagels. A few salty capers would have also been delicious.  We also tried it with feijoa and vanilla jam. This was nice, but it was almost too sweet.

Bubliki (Russian bagels or sweet boiled buns) 

I found the recipe for bubliki in Darra Goldstein’s A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality. She notes that her recipe is a less common version.

We did make a few small changes to the recipe. We reduced the number of eggs because Analiese has an egg allergy. We also added a bit of water to the dough. When we initially made it, the dough was very dry and needed a bit of liquid to get it to a point that we were then able to shape it.

Ingredients

¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cup flour
¼ cup water
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Method

Cream the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Stir in the baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and enough flour to make a firm dough. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit of water to get it into a wetter texture. Divide the dough into six pieces. Shape each piece into a ring around two inches in diameter.

In a deep pot bring the milk and vanilla to boil. Drop in the rings of dough, a few at a time, and cook them in the boiling milk until they rise to the surface. This should take around one minute.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the rings to a baking tray. At this point you could brush them with an egg yolk, or butter.

Cook in a preheated (160˚ C oven) and bake the bubliki until they are puffed and brown. Around 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool.

Yield: Six buns