This is one of the recipes that I make with some regularity from my newest, most favourite cookbook- Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. They are lovely, light, and an absolute doddle to make- just allow enough time for a couple of rises (one longer, one quite brief). Although, when I think about it, they wouldn't suffer from a long, cold rise in the fridge overnight, to facilitate a lazy(ish) Sunday morning breakfast.
I think of them as an antidote to the Cinnabon, that most American of creations, which thoroughly compromises your health and well-being (670 calories/34 g fat!) while leaving your head pounding and your stomach convulsed. Even the standard home cook's version is a killer; I made cinnamon buns from Cook's Illustrated (May 2002) on Christmas morning, and while they came out well, they were just so sweet, so leaden, so altogether too much, that I didn't eat anything else until dinner.
Here, then, is my (well, Tessa's really) answer. The dough is incredibly gorgeous; its everyday yeasty goodness is augmented here with cardamom, which when teamed with cinnamon equals almost utter perfection in my book. A thin layer of butter and a light dusting of cinnamon sugar conspire not to ooze, but to enhance the finished buns with a coating of sweet promise. Finished with a bit of egg and a sprinkle of sugar, they bake for a short time before emerging from the oven to grace your table with their beautiful simplicity and outstanding flavour. They are best eaten straightaway, but may be kept briefly in an airtight container or frozen and thawed piecemeal when a craving sets in (as it most certainly will).
Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns
by Tessa Kiros
250 ml (1 cup) TEPID MILK
100 g (3 1/2 oz.)CASTER (SUPERFINE) SUGAR
25 g (1 oz.) FRESH YEAST (OR 2 PACKETS ACTIVE DRY YEAST)
1 EGG, lightly beaten
125 g (4 1/2 oz.) BUTTER, softened
2 tsp. GROUND CARDAMOM
1 tsp. SALT
650 g (5 1/4 cups) CAKE FLOUR OR PLAIN (ALL-PURPOSE) FLOUR
2 tsp. GROUND CINNAMON
50 g (1 3/4 oz.) CASTER (SUPERFINE) SUGAR, PLUS 1 TBSP. for sprinkling
80 g (2 3/4 oz.) BUTTER, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
Put the milk and sugar in a bowl and crumble in the yeast. Leave for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to activate. Add the egg, butter, cardamom and salt and mix in. Add the flour, bit by bit, mixing it in with a wooden spoon until you need to use your hands, and then turn it out onto the work surface to knead. It may seem a little too sticky initially, but will become compact and beautifully soft after about 5 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and then a heavy towel or blanket, and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
To make the cinnamon butter, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Divide the butter into four portions and keep on one side.
Put the dough on a floured work surface and divide it into four portions. Begin with one portion, covering the others with a cloth so they don't dry out. Using a rolling pin, roll out a rectangle, roughly about 30 x 25 cm (12 x 10 inches) and 2-3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Spread one portion of butter over the surface of the dough with a palette knife or blunt knife. Sprinkle with about 3 teaspoons of the cinnamon mix, covering the whole surface with quick shaking movements of your wrists. Roll up to make a long dough sausage. Set aside while you finish rolling out and buttering the rest of the dough, so that you can cut them all together.
Line two large baking trays with baking paper, or bake in two lots if you only have one tray. Line up the dough sausages in front of you and cut them slightly on the diagonal, alternating up and down, so that the slices are fat 'v' shapes, with the point of the 'v' about 2 cm (3/4 inch) and the base about 5 cm (2 inches). Turn them so they are all the right way up, sitting on their fatter bases. Press down on the top of each one with two fingers until you think you will almost go through to your work surface. Along the sides you will see the cinnamon stripes oozing outwards. Put the buns on the baking trays, leaving space for them to puff and rise while they bake. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle a little sugar over the top.
Leave the buns to rise for half an hour and preheat your oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden. Check that they are lightly golden underneath as well before you take them out of the oven. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature and, when they are cool, keep them in an airtight container so they don't harden.
Makes about 35 buns.
Recipe reprinted with kind permission from Murdoch Books.