Cinnamon smells like morning. I've been seeing quite a bit more morning lately, courtesy of my hectic football-watching schedule. And when you're getting out of bed while it's cold and dark outside, you need a little extra incentive.
Cinnamon buns were something I'd always asssociated with America. Maybe because inevitably the first thing you encounter after getting through customs at the airport is a Cinnabon franchise selling enormous, puffed-up, heavily-frosted buns. I like a bit of excess from time to time but that much sugar too early in the morning threatens to put you back to sleep rather than wake you up. When I was in Copenhagen recently - a place with no shortage of delicious pastries - I was pointed in the direction of Café Rosa by the brilliant English-language blog A Guide to Copenhagen, which introduced me to so many of my favourite places when I was there. Linn, who writes the blog (as well as her own super-cute cooking one which you can check out here) is a Swede living in Denmark and claimed that the buns sold here were as good as any she'd had at home. I'd only had the American version to compare to, but really, after the first bite, there was no comparison. Speckled with cardamom, lightly sweet, with a ribbon of buttery cinnamon threaded through the interior, the Swedish cinnamon bun is pretty well perfect. Especially with a cup of strong black coffee as you watch the sun rise in Sydney, and set on screen in Rio.
Swedish cinnamon buns
Adapted from a recipe by Felicity Cloake as published in The Guardian
If you're not across Felicity Cloake's weekly "How to Cook the Perfect..." column in The Guardian, you're in for a treat. Check it out here. While you could absolutely get up early and make these - be warned there are two rise periods of 30 minutes each - an easy alternative is to make a batch at your leisure, freeze them, and reheat in the oven (wrapped in foil at 180 deg C for 20 minutes) as needed.
300ml whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
425g plain flour
7g fast action yeast (about 1 3/4 teaspoons)
60g caster (superfine) sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
oil, to grease
for the filling
75g butter, softened
50g dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
demerara (or raw) sugar, to sprinkle
Place the milk in a small pan, add the cardamom and bring to just below the boil. Take off the heat, stir in the butter and leave to infuse until it is just warm.
Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. When the milk is warm rather than hot, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg to the milk mixture. Stir, then pour into the well of the flour and combine to make a soft dough which comes away from the edge of the bowl.
Tip onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for five minutes (or just use the dough hook on your mixer, as I did). It will be very soft at first but persevere. Wipe out the bowl, oil it lightly, then return the dough to the bowl. Cover and leave somewhere draught-free and not too cold for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling by beating together all the ingredients until soft and easily spreadable. Grease a tall 23cm cake tin.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle roughly 35 x 25cm. Smear the filling out across the dough (use your hands), then, starting from one of the long edges, roll the dough up tightly like a Swiss roll. Position it on its seam, and cut into seven slices.
Arrrange these in the tin, evenly spaced out, with the smallest in the middle, cover, and leave to prove for about 30 minutes, til the dough springs back when prodded gently.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200 deg C. Brush tops of buns with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.