I think that as I grow older, I am beginning to understand the value of planning ahead. I always shunned the idea of it when I was young. I dreaded the day I would become like my Mother, frantically searching through her purse for the list that seemed to dominate her life like a sacred text. Where is it! So I purposefully and rebelliously took to the other road. The road of winging things, of last-minute-adrenaline, of the thrill of spontaneity. If the idea couldn’t be executed on a whim, it wasn’t actually a very good idea after all. That was my motto.
But life has a way of making us into our parents, does it not? Even if, and especially if, we try and avoid this. The excitement of last minute adrenaline is now beginning to lose its charms for me. And perhaps, I have even begun to make lists as well – I can admit it now. There is indeed a method to her madness, as she always told me when I was rolling my eyes at her. Bless our Mothers, they so often are right in the end.
In this inevitable evolution, I have been preparing for Christmas this year in a more thoughtful, and less free-spirited sort of way. I made Christmas pudding an entire month (yes I am patting myself on the back here) – an entire month – ahead of time. I sent all my Christmas cards out on time, for the very first time in history (there is a joke within my family that you get to celebrate holidays twice – on the actual event, and again when you get my card three weeks later). And I already have a batch of rye and ginger spice buns waiting in the freezer, to be pulled out on Christmas eve to thaw. Then, all I have to do Christmas morning is pop them in the oven. All in all, I am feeling pretty smug.
Actually, the cinnamon bun idea is inspired by M.’s Mom. I am incredibly lucky in that my Mother-in-law is actually one of the, if not the, sweetest women in the world (and no, I’m not just saying that in case she happens to read this). She really is lovely. And she makes cinnamon buns every year for Christmas morning – just like this. She makes them ahead of time, sticks them in the freezer, and presto. Hot, deliciously steamy buns pulled out of the oven Christmas morning, that we all sit together at the table tearing apart with sticky fingers and sleepy eyes. It won’t be the same eating them without the whole family around, but at least it will be familiar.
These are my take on the traditional cinnamon bun recipe – a spicy almost gingerbread-esque dough with the added wholesomeness of rye flour, which gives the buns a more nutty, complex flavor. The dough is smeared with your traditional spicy-sugary-butter blend, as well as a good hefty dose of chopped candied ginger. A sprinkling of dried cranberries might be nice too. Christmas in a bun.
Freeze as many as you like for later. When I made this, I froze half.
- 200 ml whole milk
- 50 ml molasses
- 75g butter
- 300g white spelt flour (or wheat)
- 125g whole rye flour
- 70g unrefined cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 75g butter, softened
- 50g castor sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup candied ginger, cut into small dice
- about 4 tablespoons molasses
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
- 4-5 tablespoons organic heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Heat the milk, molasses and butter in a small pan until nearly boiling. Set aside to cool until luke warm (about 110 degrees F).
- Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and the cooled milk mixture. Stir until the mixture just begins to come together, then empty onto a floured work surface and kneed 8-10 minutes, until you have a nice smooth and elastic dough.
- Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover in a damp towel and set in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size. (I put mine in the oven, occasionally turning it on and letting it run 30 seconds to keep it warm).
- While the dough is rising, make the filling by creaming together the sugar, butter and spices. Butter a round cake or pie tin and set aside.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a floured surface until you have a rectangle roughly 18 inches in length and about ½ inch thick. Spread the buttery mixture over the dough (I just scatter it over, in small pieces, trying to cover as much surface area as possible. Then sprinkle the candied ginger over. Drizzle the molasses over everything. I like to then sprinkle over another good healthy dose of cinnamon, but this step is up to you.
- Roll the dough up starting on the long edge of the rectangle, until you have a long cylinder like a Swiss roll. Cut the cylinder into 14 pieces. (At this point, you can put how ever many aside to freeze for another day). Place the rolls into the buttered pie or cake dish so they each have a little space around them. If you are making the entire recipe at once, you will need to butter an additional cake tin as only half of the rolls will fit in one dish.
- Let the rolls rise for another 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. If you poke a bun with your finger and the indentation stays put, they're ready.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the rack in the top third of the oven. Brush the tops of the buns with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with demerera sugar, if you like. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Do not let them go much longer, or they will dry out.
- Cool on a wire-rack, and then frost with the icing as you eat.