The best kind of days are the ones that you spend aimlessly walking around London with your best friend. If for nothing else, because they end up inspiring you to bake something new! Last week, we ended up at the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho. Every time I walk past that beautiful bakery the smell of the freshly baked cinnamon buns pulls me in. Who needs marketing?!
I'm not the biggest fan of hot cross buns, and seeing as it is Easter Weekend, I thought that cinnamon buns would be a great alternative. I will warn you, this recipe is not for the faint hearted as it's long and there are some very specific steps to follow which, if you get wrong, could completely affect the texture of the dough. But this is definitely some of the most fun I've had baking in a while. Working with dough is so satisfying.
I was inspired by the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, but I decided to add pecans into the buns themselves, and then also caramelise some to put on top. The sticky and sweet topping works really well with the soft, layered interior of the buns. If you prefer them without the nuts, just skip those particular steps of the recipe and they will turn out just as nice.
For the dough:
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
50g caster sugar
515g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
100g unsalted butter
For the topping:
80g unsalted butter
65g caster soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g pecan halves
For the filling:
50g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
80g coarsely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons milk
Preparation time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
1. Firstly, you'll need to make the dough. Combine the milk and the yeast in a stand mixer until the yeast has dissolved. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Then, switch to the paddle attachment of the mixer and add in half the amount of flour, mixing until the batter is smooth (you can also do this using a wooden spoon if you prefer). Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and allow it to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. When ready, break the eggs into the mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides and making sure they were well incorporated after each addition. Change to the dough hook on your mixer, and then mix in the remaining flour and salt. Knead the mixture at a low speed for 1 minute, and then at a medium speed for 5 minutes.
3. Add the butter to the mixture in about 20g at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated. When all the butter has been added and a dough has formed, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times by hand. Shape it into a ball.
4. Rinse and lightly oil your bowl and return the dough to it with the round side down. Then turn it over so that it is lightly covered in oil all over. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour 30 minutes.
5. Once the dough has risen, use your fists to punch it down a few times in the bowl. Cover it again and leave in a warm place to rest for 15 minutes.
6. Whilst you wait, you can make the topping. To do this, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and stir in the light brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Then stir in the pecan halves and mix well until they are covered with the caramel sauce. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin and spread this mixture evenly between each cup.
7. Then, make the filling. Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.
8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a large rectangle of about 9 x 18 inches. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter, and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over it evenly. Then sprinkle over the coarsely chopped pecans.
9. Roll the dough up carefully and tightly like a swiss roll, beginning from a long edge. Using a serrated knife, cut the roll into 1.5 inch thick slices. Arrange each slice on top of the pecan topping in the previously prepared muffin tin. Cover with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
10. When ready, uncover the rolls and lightly brush them with milk using a pastry brush. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until puffed and a deep golden brown colour. Keep an eye on them as they burn easily.
11. Once out of the oven, you should remove the rolls from the tin immediately. Do this by carefully inverting them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave them like this for 30 seconds to allow any topping to fall down, and then remove the muffin tin.
12. The rolls are best served warm, but will also taste lovely when cooled, and should keep in an air-tight container for 3-5 days.