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Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

hazelnut & blueberry buckwheat pancakes

In breakfast, eating in, gluten free, year-round on 26 March, 2012 at 8:15 am

This is actually Pancake #5 out of the little Pancake Project I’ve been doing this year (here are parts one and two) but I’m blogging this out of order for a couple of reasons. First, Pancake #3 was a bit of a flop and I’m going to have to rework the recipe, and pancake #4 was delicious but I’ve lost the bit of paper I wrote the recipe down on and I’m going to have to try making them again before I can confidently post it on my blog. But more importantly, I wanted to blog these pancakes I made over the weekend in the hopes that you try this recipe before fresh blueberries disappear off supermarket shelves until next summer. (I mean, you can always use frozen – I actually did – but there’s nothing quite like using fresh, seasonal produce!)

I got to thinking about blueberry pancakes the other day while having a coffee and a scone at Nikau Cafe, one of my favourite pre-work breakfast spots. This isn’t a post about Nikau so I won’t go on too much about how much I love that place, but they do make the most excellent scones: cheese scones for the savoury option, and for those with a sweet tooth, date scones, or blueberry in the summertime.*

The other morning I was eating one of these blueberry scones and thinking about how astoundingly delicious they are: served warm, they’re a bit crispy at the edges, soft and airy on the inside, generously studded with big, bursting blueberries that get their purple juices all over your lips and fingers and the plate.

I was trying to think what they reminded me of, and finally I got it: when I was a kid, my mum would make, occasionally enough for it to be special, the best blueberry muffins. In my mind she only made them in the summertime when blueberries were fresh and ripe** and my brothers and I would wake up to the smell of fresh muffins and the sun would be shining through the windows in that summer-holiday angle (the angle we’d only see at home on the weekends during the rest of the year, since we’d be at school by 9am) and as soon as the muffins hit the cooling rack we’d be at them, the blueberry juices burning our tongues and staining our lips, and then we’d be back for more.

And then there were the mornings where we’d have blueberry pancakes, cooked on the big, flat electric griddle that only came out of the cupboard for such occasions. In my (now-probably distorted, blueberry-shaped) memory the pancakes were most often blueberry pancakes, leaking dark purple juices all over our plates and forks and mixing with the maple syrup we drenched the pancakes in, despite our mother’s protestations.

I can’t remember my mum’s blueberry pancakes being made with buckwheat, but I’ve been wanting to make buckwheat pancakes ever since I bought some buckwheat flour a while ago. Not having made them before, I looked up a few recipes online and settled on this one from Simply Recipes which happened to only include ingredients I already had at home that morning. I only made a couple of changes: using all buckwheat flour instead of a mix, adding blueberries (of course) and chucking in some chopped up hazelnut left over from some other baking venture. 

These behave exactly like normal pancakes made with wheat flour do, and taste incredibly similar, but with a hint of the gritty nuttiness of buckwheat and the subtly sweet crunch of hazelnut. It makes them taste a bit more wholesome, and it also makes them gluten-free, which is great if you or a loved one can’t eat regular pancakes. And even if you’re not bound by dietary restrictions they’re delicious, which makes this recipe an all-around winner.

I wanted to make these pancakes with fresh blueberries, like I remember my mum doing years ago, and certainly there are still plenty of blueberries to be had at a time when it feels like most summer fruit is some distant memory. (Actually, I feel like this year there have been more blueberries than in other summers, though maybe I’ve just noticed them more… does anyone know? Has there been a blueberry glut this summer?) I ended up using some blueberries I’d frozen myself, after getting overexcited and buying a few too many punnets of berries a few weeks ago, far more than I could eat. And you know what? The result was just as I’d hoped I’d get from fresh blueberries: juicy, bursting with flavour and colour, utterly delicious.

*I think.

**Although I’m sure she must have made them during the rest of the year, either using frozen or out-of-season berries shipped from somewhere far away.

HAZELNUT & BLUEBERRY BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES (gluten free!)
(adapted from this recipe from Simply Recipes)
Makes enough for 3 or 4 people, depending how hungry you are.

1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp (about 45g) melted butter
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk*

Heat a skillet (or griddle, or non-stick pan) on medium heat, until a drop of water bounces around on the surface.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix together a cup of buttermilk and the egg. Slowly whisk in the melted butter, and pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix together really gently, adding the rest of the buttermilk as needed** to get a nice, smooth, ladle-able batter.

Butter or oil the skillet and wipe with a paper towel so that the surface is well-greased but there’s no excess oil bubbling around. Ladle the batter onto the skillet in whatever quantity you desire, depending on how big you want your pancakes. I made two at a time using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.

Resist the temptation to turn the pancakes over too early; give it about 3-4 minutes at least, until the underside is nice and brown and the top is starting to look almost-dry. Flip them over and cook another couple of minutes or so, until browned on both sides.

Top with butter and maple syrup, or golden syrup, or some blueberry sauce*** Serve at once, or if you want to be civilised and serve everyone at the same time you can keep them warm on a plate in the oven. Up to you.

*Although buttermilk is awesome and something you should definitely try to keep around the house, don’t fret if you don’t have it: in a pinch you can substitute milk topped up with a little vinegar.

**The original recipe says you may not need all the buttermilk; I ended up using it all. Your results may differ depending on what kind of buckwheat flour you’re using.

***Sometimes I’ll make up a big batch by cooking down some blueberries with some sugar and a bit of water in a pot on the stove, but this time I cheated and took a handful of berries, a teaspoon of icing sugar and a bit of water and zapped it in the microwave. Easy!

 

fig, walnut and oatmeal pancakes

In breakfast, sweets, year-round on 17 January, 2012 at 8:15 am

Just a quick little post today – I was trying to write this last night but my heavy eyelids claimed victory and I sunk into bed before 11 for the first time in 2012 (hooray!). And now it’s morning and I’m battling the clock to get to work on time. And I have plenty more pancakes to write about (!!) so I thought I’d better get on with this one. So, without further ado, I present Pancake #2.

If you recall, I started the year off with a little pancake project. On the first day, I made these crispy-edged little cornmeal griddlecakes, inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe in the New York Times. I didn’t really plan on making pancakes the next day, but I was intrigued by the idea of making pancakes with all kinds of different (non-flour) ingredients. So on the second day, I went back to that New York Times article and found this recipe for oatmeal pancakes. So began the Pancake Project – because if I’m eating the same thing (more or less) two or more days in a row and experimenting with ingredients and methods it’s more than just laziness or falling into a routine, right? It’s a project.

I’ve based these pancakes on Mark Bittman’s method of first cooking the oats before using them to make the pancake batter. The result is wholly different from the kind of oatmeal pancakes I’m used to – normal flour pancakes with some oats mixed in – and results in a pancake that’s far more dense and moist than you’d normally expect. They’re pretty much the opposite of the pretty stack of golden pancakes I’d made the day before, and the antithesis of anything you’d find in, say, an American diner.

I almost never order pancakes in restaurants because I often find myself underwhelmed – they’re so often too big, too floury or stodgy, or just plain boring. But these I could get used to. And okay, I’m not saying these don’t have a bit of stodge to them, but it’s good stodge – good, hearty, (dare I say it?) healthy stodge: plenty of fibre and protein (the more nuts, the better) and interesting texture and so much more flavour than the big, flabby flour-fests* that so often leave me disappointed.

So. I really encourage you to make these pancakes. They’re nowhere near fluffy, but they’re awesome. Also, because they’ve got cooked oats in them, they’re a bit porridgelike in consistency – but in a good, fried-in-a-skillet way. Perhaps it’d be a good way for porridge haters to get their oats? Let me know if you give it a try.

*er, okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. There are plenty of really delicious traditional flour pancakes out there. But I have had my share of decidedly average ones. Don’t tell me you haven’t.

FIG, WALNUT & OATMEAL PANCAKES
(adapted from this recipe by Mark Bittman in the New York Times) 

1/2 cup rye flour*
1/4 rolled oats
(here, I used the “quick cook” type – the smaller flakes)
1  tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups cooked whole rolled oats
1 tbsp honey
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/3 cup chopped dried figs

First, cook some oats – just in water is fine – I used about a cup of oats to get more or less two cups of cooked oatmeal. Let it cool a bit.

Meanwhile, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, salt) in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg and milk, then stir in the cooked oatmeal and the honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. The mixture will be thicker than you might be used to for pancake batter, but you should be able to get thick, gloopy ladlefuls of it pretty easily – if it seems too thick, just add more water; if it seems too thin, add more flour. Fold in the walnuts and the fig pieces.

Cook in an oiled skillet (cast-iron is great) over medium heat, making sure the skillet’s nice and hot before you add the batter. Flip when they’re golden-brown on the underside and little bubbles appear on top (this may be less noticeable than with normal pancakes because of all the stuff that’s in the batter, so if in doubt, check the underside). I found 3-4 minutes on one side and then about 2-3 on the other worked well.

Serve with butter and honey.

*(or any flour, really, I just had rye and wanted to give them a bit more depth. I imagine buckwheat’d also be great)

cornmeal griddlecakes with vanilla-mint strawberries & honeyed sour cream

In breakfast, gluten free, summer, sweets, year-round on 5 January, 2012 at 12:59 am

I don’t know about you, but today was my first day back at work for 2012. (Happy new year, everyone! Hope you’ve all had a relaxing holiday. And if you’re still on holiday, hope you’re making the most of it!)

Tearing myself away from my dear, dear bed this morning was the hardest thing I’ve done all year (granted, we’re only four days in, but…), and I wasn’t feeling overly happy about heading back to work.* But I wasn’t feeling overly sad, either. Which was really good news: an improvement over this same time last year.

On the first day back last year I had the back-to-work blues, hard. I pretty much spent the whole of that first shortened week shuffling around in a mopey haze – I think I even had to go have a secret cry in the bathroom at work, which sounds utterly stupid in hindsight, but at the time it was serious business, like any half-decent self-pity session is when you’re in the midst of it.

Last January I was grieving the abrupt end of a summer holiday, pining for things I never knew I loved so dearly until I was torn away and shoved back under glaring fluorescent lights: the cliched things like sun, surf, sand, diving headfirst into waves, watching phosphorescence tumble through seafoam at midnight, cold watermelon scooped into balls, books and board games and beer. I was all full of mournful regret at not having had the foresight of taking extra time off work, and yeah, okay, first world problem, I’m sorry now, it sounds so silly in hindsight. (And, I’m happy to report, I got over it pretty quickly.)

So this year I was pleasantly surprised that, aside from a little difficulty actually putting work-related sentences together (and the weird typos that come from getting reacquainted with a normal keyboard, not my runty laptop one), today went pretty well. No tears, anyway, and with the help of lots and lots of coffee, I made it to 5pm relatively unscathed. And ready to do it all again tomorrow. Amazing!

Anyway, I don’t know what this all has to do with pancakes. But I can tell you that this year I’ve subbed pancakes for Pakiri, and going back to work was a little easier. A correlation? Probably not. But pancakes are always good.

For the first three mornings of 2012, I made three different batches of pancakes, each very different from the other. For whatever reason, I dubbed it the Pancake Project, and maybe it’ll continue over the next few weekend mornings, if I’m so inclined. Anyway, I intend to share at least the first three. So here’s the first (keep an eye out for the next two!).

These are pretty good: a bit different from your usual fluffy flour-based pancake because they’re made with cornmeal (aka polenta, depending on where you’re based) and so they’re a lot denser than your average pancake. But in exchange for fluffiness you get that sweet, crunchy exterior you find on the best, fresh-from-the-skillet cornbread** and a mild-flavoured, soft-textured interior that goes so well with the sweet-sharp strawberries and the sour cream.

You could just eat these with butter and honey or golden syrup or maple syrup, but I can highly recommend the strawberries and sour cream I’ve included here. Besides looking pretty, they’re really delicious: the strawberries get all syrupy and sweet and the sour cream gets all runny and dreamy with melted honey mixed in. A winning combination.

These would be perfect for a weekend brunch, or if you’re trying to impress someone special, or if you’re silly enough to get up extra early on your first day back at work*** you could make it for yourself as consolation that your holiday is, well, over. It’s not the end of the world, though.

*I must put this in perspective: I am so lucky to work at what is, without a doubt, the best place I’ve ever worked, and I’m not just saying this in case my boss is reading this – work is actually really, really great. It’s just that my bed holds just as dear a place in my heart.

**one of my favourite things on earth, especially while still hot from the oven. Oh boy.

***oh no, not me, no way. I clung to my sheets for as long as I could this morning.

CORNMEAL GRIDDLECAKES WITH VANILLA-MINT STRAWBERRIES AND HONEYED SOUR CREAM
(The recipe for the griddlecakes comes by way of this one by Mark Bittman for the New York Times. I’ve changed a few things to my liking after my first efforts fell someplace different from what I had in mind: I added an egg, sugar and ground almonds, and used a bit more liquid than the original recipe. But the method of using partially-cooked cornmeal as the base for the recipe is unchanged.)

This recipe makes enough for 2-3 people. Feel free to double or triple the quantities as needed.

For the strawberries

Put 1 cup halved strawberries (quartered if they’re particularly big) in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste, a few torn-up mint leaves and 1 tablespoon sugar. Give it a good stir so the sugar starts to dissolve, and let the strawberries macerate while you make everything else. They should get all nice and syrupy by the time you’re ready to serve.

For the sour cream

Make as much as you like, however sweet you like it: for every 1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream, mix in a tablespoonful or two (I used two) of melted honey. You can play around with this ratio depending on your desired sweetness.

For the griddlecakes

3/4 cup fine or medium cornmeal (polenta)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup buttermilk (you might not use this all, but good to have set aside just in case)
1 egg
1 tbsp melted butter

Mix the cornmeal, sugar and salt together and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir it all together and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the cornmeal has absorbed all the water and is kind of half-cooked. Let it cool a little.

Add the ground almonds to the mixture and stir again to combine. Add the egg, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk and the melted butter. Depending on how liquid your batter is, you might want to add a bit more buttermilk. I ended up using between 1/3 and 1/2 cup and got the nice thin little pancakes you see here.

Cook by the ladleful (really, in whatever shape or size you like, just as you would normal pancakes) on a hot griddle or cast-iron skillet. Flip over when they’re nice and bubbly in the middle.

I found 3-4 minutes on the first side, 2-3 on the other side to be just about right for the little ones I was making.

Serve with the sour cream and strawberries and eat while hot and crisp from the pan (keep warm in the oven if you’re making these for a crowd; they’re so much better hot than cold).

*****ps. You can now find me posting random stuff (things I eat, photos of my cat, bits and pieces from the internet) on tumblr: http://eatinganddreaming.tumblr.com. Still trying to get the hang of it, but do come check it out if you like that sort of thing.

scrambled eggs with smoked mackerel & chives

In breakfast, year-round on 5 August, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I have a confession: I’ve had this for dinner at least six of the last nine or ten nights. It started one night when I bought some smoked mackerel to make fish pie but got preoccupied doing other things, and bam! It was nine o’clock, I was ravenous, no fish pie anywhere in sight. So I did what I often do when I get into that night-time so-hungry-so-tired state: popped some bread in the toaster and cooked up some scrambled eggs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I found myself flaking a bit of smoked mackerel into the eggs.

I have no idea what was going through my head in that brief moment between sitting down and digging in, but I don’t think I was prepared for the overwhelming, eye-widening oh-my-god-why-haven’t-I-done-this before feeling that hit me with the first bite. You know, that stunned, amazed feeling you get when you’re at a restaurant or a friend’s house and have something cooked just a little differently to how you normally do it at home, and you kind of half-squeal with delight. Except I was eating this at home, alone, and is there really a point of squealing if you’re just doing it for yourself, for something you’ve cooked? It’s kind of smug, if you think about it. (I did go and have a bit of a squeal to my flatmates, excitedly offering them forkfuls of eggs. They were less than enthusiastic, something about having just-brushed teeth. Pshh, weak.)

I’m not going to get all spring-is-upon-us yet, because it’s still August and there’s till plenty of time for soups and stews and braises and warm puddings and hot drinks, but there’s no denying the days are getting longer and maybe, just maybe, this is a dish that starts to creep into spring territory. Okay, scrambled eggs can be enjoyed year-round. As can smoked fish and chives. But there’s something just so cheerful about pillows of bright yellow, flecked with grass-green chives.

 

Like porridge, scrambled eggs are one of those things people get pretty particular about: everyone I’ve talked to has their own method. So, like with the porridge, I’ll share my method in the hopes of winning one or two people over – but really, cook your scrambled eggs how you like. Just try adding smoked fish and chives. It may blow your mind. It did mine.

SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH SMOKED MACKEREL & CHIVES:

Crack an egg or two into a small saucepan, add a splash of cream and a little knob of butter. Heat gently over low to medium-low heat, using a heatproof spatula or flat-bottomed wooden spoon to stir it together, but not too much, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. If it starts to cook too quickly, take it off the heat and give it a stir. Keep repeating this until it’s almost-but-not-quite set. Remove from the heat – the eggs should continue to cook from the residual heat in the pan. If they don’t firm up as much as you’d like, heat gently a little bit more. But be careful! Nobody likes rubbery scrambled eggs.* Once they’re at your desired consistency, stir in a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoonful or so of chopped chives (to taste), a couple of tablespoonsful of smoked fish (use whatever you like – for me, it was mackerel), flaked or shredded with a fork. 

Last night, nine-o’clock again and hungry and tired from packing for a weekend away** I had this with a pungent spoonful of homemade sauerkraut on the side, and a tall glass of stout. Aside from the fact that I felt a little like I was eating a breakfast fit for a North Sea fisherman*** it took the whole thing to a completely new level. Of  “oh-my-god-this-works-perfectly” triumph, and a little bit of anguish and insecurity that no one else was there to share this revelation. Which is why I’m sharing this little tidbit with you.

*I had some the other week at a cafe I usually like very much. I was so sad, kept thinking longingly of my home-cooked eggs. But that’s another story.

**I’m off to the mountain (yippee!) so this was more involved packing than my usual throw-some-underwear-in-a-bag-and-hope-for-the-best routine: climbing on chairs, pulling boxes out of storage, looking for snowboarding gear, etc.

***and here you discover my complete ignorance ofNorth Seafisherman and their typical breakfast choices. But, if I was some swarthy European fisherman in the cold, bleak sea (again, this is totally theNorth Seaof my imagination), this is what I’d be having for breakfast.  

ginger-poached quince

In autumn, breakfast, sweets on 8 July, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I know, this post is woefully out of date, and quinces are woefully out of season. But I’m going to post this anyway, because the recipe is equally applicable to pears, and this is just as much about the porridge as it is about the quinces.

Every Sunday when I was growing up (and maybe he still does) my dad would make himself a big bowl of porridge and a big pot of coffee and spread the Sunday paper all across the dining table and go through it page by page.

He cooked the porridge with a special pot and a special wooden spoon (actually a wooden shamoji) that no-one was allowed to touch for anything else. And if I wasn’t too busy wolfing down cereal, or getting in the way of the paper, I’d get some too.

Dad’s weekend porridge was special, different to the sickly sweet instant sachets I loved at the time. For one, it took longer to cook than sixty seconds in a microwave. And unlike the flavours I loved (blueberries n’ cream! maple walnut spice!) his never changed: just brown sugar and milk, over perfectly cooked oats.

But I loved the way the brown sugar melted into caramel pools swirling in milk, the pure sugar hit I’d get for the first few spoonfuls while I resisted stirring it in, finally succumbing after a few bites and mixing it all together.

Porridge is such an intensely personal thing. Every person I’ve met (and talked porridge with) has their own favourite way of making it. Some people claim not to like porridge, but I like to think they just haven’t found the version that suits them yet. (If that’s you, don’t give up!) My favourite way of eating porridge isn’t the way my dad makes porridge, or how you’ll get it in a cafe (well, any cafe I’ve eaten porridge at, at least).

I like my oats hearty and whole, chewy almost, but still cooked through and soft enough to qualify as comfort food. I soak them overnight with a little bit of buttermilk or plain yoghurt – according to this book soaking the oats helps break down phytic acid and improve their nutritional benefits, but I mostly like the way it cooks up in the morning, quick and extra-tender. And instead of milk, I top my porridge with a bit of butter and a splash of cream – the butter sounds weird, but trust me, it’s good.

(In case you’re interested, I’ve posted my method below.)

But back to these ginger-poached quinces: save this thought for next quince season. They’re so very good, and simple too. You just need a bit of time and patience for them to cook ever-so-slowly until they get all rosy and soft and sweet and gingery. (So gorgeous and dainty, I could fawn over them all night but I won’t, because it’s Friday and a girl needs a night out every once in a while.)

They’re good on their own with a bit of cream or mascarpone, or on top of some puff pastry, popped in the oven, or anything you feel like really – but I couldn’t stop eating them on porridge, as you might have already guessed. They turn something everyday like oatmeal into something really special, especially if you drizzle a bit of the poaching liquid over the top instead of brown sugar or maple syrup. That stuff goes straight to the soul.


GINGER-POACHED QUINCE

Take roughly 250-300g quince (2-3 quinces, depending on size), peeled and sliced, and put into a saucepan with 1-2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, sliced up, about 3/4 cup sugar and plenty of water. Slowly bring to a gently boil and then turn the heat right down to low. Let simmer for ages until the quince turns a nice rosy hue and the liquid is all gingery and syrupy when you taste it (and taste away, but think of your teeth! This stuff is a cavity in the making).

Keeps forever in the fridge, and is great for countless applications like: for a porridge topping, served with yoghurt, cream or ice cream, to go on/in pastry, etc!

You can just as easily do this with pears. If you do, allow less time to cook. Also, it’ll be easier if you use slightly underripe pears so they don’t fall to bits.

MY FAVOURITE WAY OF COOKING PORRIDGE:

Soak oats* overnight, at room temperature, with 1 tbsp buttermilk or unsweetened yoghurt, and lukewarm water (in an equal proportion to the oats).

In the morning, dump the bowl of soaking oats in a saucepan with some more water (I use the same measurement as I use for the oats).** Put the heat on medium to medium-low, go do some other things for a few minutes (getting ready!) and when it’s cooked to a nice porridgey consistency, take it off the heat.

Put in a bowl. Put a splash of cream and a little pat of butter on top. Don’t feel guilty, they help you digest the oats better. (Unless you’re lactose intolerant maybe.) Top with whatever: maple syrup, brown sugar, lots of fruit, or in this case, the ginger-poached quince (or pear!).

*I usually use 1/3 cup for myself, but feel free to adjust depending on how hungry you are in the morning/how many people you’re cooking for.

**At this point I’ll often add a chopped up banana, or pear, or dates or raisins so they cook along with the oats and get all soft and delicious.

PS. This spoon is Part Three of the castaway airline cutlery my mum dumped on gifted me a while back. One of my favourites: I’m not too clear what the connection between United Airlines and fish scales is/was, but kind of amazing nonetheless. (Parts One and Two are here and here).

cherry, vanilla + walnut sticky buns

In baking, breakfast, sweets, year-round on 15 February, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I’ve been trying to think of ways to use up this dud cherry-vanilla jam* I made a couple weeks ago.  I had this vague idea of making sticky buns inspired by the cranberry and pistachio ones at Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli out in Lyall Bay (holy crap they’re amazing) and THEN the ever-so-awesome Laura from Hungry and Frozen made these Norwegian cinnamon buns out of Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess and that’s all it took – I was sold. Sticky buns it was.

Sticky buns and walnuts are natural friends, as are cherries and vanilla and walnuts (if I attempt to make cherry jam again I’ll include walnuts à la this recipe from Curious Kai). And thanks to some onto-it family members (box stuffed with assorted food = best Christmas gift ever) I had plenty of walnuts lying about.

I love the ceremony involved in making sticky buns: clearing off a big space to roll the dough into a big, flat sheet, spreading the filling over the top, adding way more butter than you think any rational person should ingest (maybe laughing maniacally as you do), coiling up the whole thing into a neat cylindrical roll, slicing and arranging the buns-to-be. There’s a lot of anticipation involved, and it comes to a head when they’re sitting in the oven releasing that fresh-bread-plus-so-much-sugar-and-butter fragrance.

Although making cinnamon rolls has long been on my list of favourite weekend activities, for some reason I couldn’t find my trusty dough recipe. Luckily I had been looking through How to Be a Domestic Goddess after reading the aforementioned Hungry and Frozen blog post and settled on using the dough from Nigella’s recipe for schnecken. Not that I’d made it before. But it sounded like it might work.

CHERRY, VANILLA + WALNUT STICKY BUNS: (makes roughly a trayful)

For the dough (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Schnecken from How to Be a Domestic Goddess):

Mix together 500g flour, 50g sugar, 1/2tsp salt, and 15g fresh yeast (get this! it’s amazing and cheap. or if not, you can use half that amount of regular active dried yeast). Combine 75g unsalted butter and 150ml milk – Nigella says to melt them together in the microwave, which worked just fine – and beat in 2 eggs. Add this liquid mixture to the dry stuff, mix it up, make some dough. Then knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and pliable, and form into a big doughy ball. Butter (or oil) a large bowl and roll the dough in it (so that it’s coated in butter), then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean, moist tea towel. Let it sit for a while in a warm place (hot water cupboard? in the oven on the very lowest setting? or maybe your house is naturally warm?) for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Go do something else for a bit and when you come back the dough should be gloriously proud and puffy and smooshy; knock it around a bit and give it a knead or two to bring it back down to size.  Roll out on a floured surface into a flat, long rectangular shape (Nigella says 60x30cm, but I didn’t measure) and slather the filling mixture all over the dough.

Filling mixture?

Here’s where things get a bit tricky. Since I was using dud cherry-vanilla jam that was too sticky to spread, I softened about 250g jam in about 100g melted butter and spooned this concoction over the top.  Since I don’t recommend going to the effort of making homemade dud-jam (I mean, you can…), you could do one of a couple things:

1. You could mix non-dud jam with a little less butter (maybe 50-75g depending on the consistency of your jam) and 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract and spread this over the dough.

2. Or you could skip the jam altogether and pour over 50-75g melted butter mixed with 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract and sprinkle about 1/2 cup sugar over the whole thing, and scatter dried cherries all over the surface. It’ll turn out a bit different, but still good – think raisin-studded cinnamon roll.

Whatever you end up doing, eventually you”ll sprinkle more or less 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts over the whole thing, and carefully roll it up lengthwise so you end up with a long, python-like hunk of dough (okay, maybe not that big, but sort of thick and snaky). Be sure to keep things tight but not too squashed together.

Cut into slices like you’re making sushi (and, if you’re anything like me when I make sushi, eat the raggedy end bits before anyone sees). I cut mine about 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick. Place into a buttered baking tray – it’s okay if they’re pretty close together – and let prove for 20-30 minutes.  This is a good time to preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

When the buns have proved, and are nice and puffy and cosily tucked in together in their tray, pop this into the oven for 20-25 minutes and wait for your house to start smelling incredible.

When they’re done, you can eat them plain, or you can drizzle with a simple white icing – I usually start with 1 tbsp milk for every 1 cup icing sugar and add more milk and/or sugar as needed to make a gooey, not-too-runny icing.

Give these to everyone you know; they will love you for it.

*dud cherry jam: it all started out with good intentions, inspired by a tweet by @summerfieldsfds, I semi-ruined it -added twice as much sugar as I should have (forgot to adjust for quantity), and simmered it for far too long (absent-mindedness may have played a part in this). What I got was a very solid, un-spreadable, overly sweet, sticky mass. With chewy cherry bits. Not so nice for toast. However, it was perfect for filling these sticky buns. Not that I’m suggesting you go out and make your own homemade dud-jam for this, but…