Sunday, 20 April 2014

Cinnamon Buns Extraordinaire

Cinnamon Buns Extraordinaire

A special family brunch, especially for Easter, has to be delicious, and what’s more delicious than cinnamon buns?  The fragrance alone is enough to float people up to the heavens.  These are a combination of my Coconut Swirl Buns and my Cinnamon Buns since I was in the mood to be especially creative.

These take time to make.  I spent about fifteen minutes on the tangzong the evening before, then up before sunrise I was, which was at six thirty, and we finally sat down to eat at around eleven.  (No worries, I was not slaving over a hot stove the entire time.  There’s lots of down time with cinnamon buns.)  This recipe makes over two dozen buns. 

What’s a tangzong you ask?  It’s a Chinese method involving a milk and flour slurry that the little yeast people gobble up, so they get gas really badly, making the dough rise quite nicely.  Think of them like so many ill behaved minions, if you will…  This is an unusual method of making dough, but so far, it works for me. 

The tangzong takes about fifteen minutes.
The Tangzong
2/3 cup white flour
4 cups water
2/3 cup milk powder

The Dough
2 ½ cups white flour (plus extra for rolling out)
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour (plus extra for adjusting moisture levels of dough)
½ cup vanilla sugar (or plain sugar)
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup milk powder
½ cup coconut milk powder
4 teaspoons yeast (2 North American size packets)
2 tablespoons soft butter (plus extra to grease bowl)

The Filling
 28 gram unsweetened baking chocolate square or equivalent of sweet dark chocolate
2 cups jaggery (brown sugar okay)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup walnuts
½ cup hemp hearts
sprinklings coarse salt (optional)
2 tablespoons soft butter

The Glaze
1 tablespoon ghee (or butter)
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons hot coffee

Hunting for Easter Eggs
Start with the tangzong by combining flour and milk powder with some of the water in a saucepan.  Stir to make a fairly smooth paste.  Add the rest of the water, and cook on medium heat, stirring often.  When it starts to thicken, remove from heat and set aside to cool. 

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, sugar, salt, milk powder, coconut milk powder and yeast.  Yes, you are adding yeast to the dry mix.  Put the machine on to the lowest speed to combine the ingredients well.  Add softened butter.  Then slowly pour in the luke warm tangzong.  Keep the mixer going on the lowest speed.  We’ve had a lot of humidity lately, so it wasn’t necessary for me to add all the tangzong.  I kept adding till the dough looked moist enough, but then it was too moist and sticky, so I stopped adding tangzong and added a little extra whole wheat flour instead.  I switched attachments to the dough hook and let it knead for about ten minutes.

While the dough was kneading, I moved on to two things.  First I turned on the oven, just to heat it up a bit.  I turned it off after a couple of minutes, and turned on the oven light.  At the same time, I started the filling. 

I don’t like overly sweet stuff, so I prefer unsweetened baking chocolate, but sweetened is fine too.  Put a square of the baking chocolate into the blender and buzz till it’s broken up into tiny bits.  Then add the jaggery, cinnamon, walnuts and hemp hearts.  I will admit here I’d intended to use a cup of walnuts, but realized I didn’t have enough, so I supplemented with always healthy hemp hearts.  You can go with just the walnuts if you desire.  I wouldn’t recommend a full cup of hemp hearts though, because the texture isn’t crunchy enough. 
Aunty Pasta's contribution- home made chocolates.

Back to the dough now—when the machine is finished kneading, place dough into a large buttered bowl.  Turn the dough over and around, till it’s covered with a sheen of butter.  Put a clean tea towel over the top to keep the humidity high, and place a thick tea towel on those warmed oven rungs.  Proof dough in the warm (not hot!) oven for about an hour, till it doubles in size.

Roll lengthwise, pressing firmly.
At this point we went for a morning hot tub, robins twittering, woodpeckers hee-hawing, hawks soaring overhead… Then we had breakfast.  I showered and got dressed.  (I’m giving these details to emphasize one doesn't need to stress and suffer while making cinnamon buns.)  Finally the dough rose, so I deflated it with a punch.  Split the dough in two balls, and sprinkle a bit of white flour on a clean surface.  Roll out the first dough ball to a rectangular shape, about a half inch thick.  With your hand, spread half the next amount of butter.  The warmth of your hand will make this easy to spread, so get it even.  Spread half the filling over the dough in an even layer.  If you like, sprinkle a tiny amount of coarse salt over the filling as well, about ¼ teaspoon at the very most. 
Proof in a cozy warm oven, never a hot oven!

The dough will be a bit loose as you start to fold, so press firmly.  After a few folds and rolls, the tension will improve, so roll it up then slice into ½ inch slices.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Repeat for the next ball of dough and stuffing.  Any loose stuffing that falls out can be sprinkled onto the tops of the buns.

Bake at 350 F for about twenty to thirty minutes, till they become golden.  Remove from oven, pull up by the parchment paper and set on cooling racks. 

Finally make the glaze.  In a bowl, add the ghee or butter, icing sugar and coffee.  Stir to get a smooth paste.  If it seems too watery, add more icing sugar.  Drizzle oven the buns while they’re still hot.

We had these with grilled Hot Italian sausages, scrambled eggs, fruit salad and my sister’s home made chocolates.  No need for anything more to eat today.  Time to waddle off for a sunny afternoon walk though… 
Bet you won't be able to eat just one...

Easter Brunch
Cinnamon Buns, scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit salad--chocolates on the table later!

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