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It’s been a long while since my last post, and too much has happened. I have been making fresh things (food processor salad), small things (roasted grapes), very healthy things (raw cacao chocolate almond butter), early things (6am oat milk), late things (late night healthy hot chocolate) and plan to add my new recipes soon, but for now let’s go back to December, to that wonderful, festive, pre-Christmas excitement. I bake these in autumn and winter. This is the perfect thing to have in deep, dark January. Fill your house with the smells of spice and hot sugar.

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These buns come with a story. When I was aged four, we lived in Calgary, Canada, and used to come on holiday to visit family in Aberdeen, Scotland. I remember one specific occasion when we had flown into Edinburgh and had to catch a train north to Aberdeen. My aunt had packed us a picnic for the journey and had included what I thereafter called sticky buns – large, swirled spicy rolls with stripy icing on top. I had never eaten these before, and for a long time afterwards I would ask for them again. These are my recreation of the buns we had on that train journey. I have added a crème patissière filling, because, as I have mentioned before, this family is obsessed with thick, vanilla custard.
We ate these for breakfast on Christmas day, with coffee or hot chocolate. These keep well in the fridge for two to three days and will be soft when reheated in a microwave. To bake these fresh in the morning, put the buns in the fridge overnight for the final rise. Make sure they look puffy enough before baking – they might need some additional rising time out of the fridge depending on temperature.

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For the dough:
1 sachet of dried fast action yeast, or 15g fresh yeast
200ml tepid milk
50g melted, unsalted butter
1 beaten egg – add only half to the dough, use the rest mixed with some milk for glazing
450g plain flour
50g sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Grated zest of ½ lemon

For the spiced sugar:
80g soft, salted butter
150g white sugar
Scant tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

For the crème patissière:
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from a vanilla pod
500ml whole milk
7 egg yolks
100g sugar
40g cornflour

For the icing:
Icing sugar

This quantity makes twelve buns.
Mix the yeast into the milk, then add everything else. Knead until the dough is glossy and stretchy. Allow to rise – the volume should double. The speed at which this happens is temperature dependent – next to our Rayburn stove, it can take 60-90 minutes. Save the rest of the egg for glazing in the fridge.
Mash the soft butter, sugar and ground spices together for the sugar filling and then chill. I find the easiest way to get even coverage is not to spread it when soft but to use a coarse grater to sprinkle it when chilled.
Make the custard. Heat the milk and vanilla in a pan until steaming point then remove from the heat. Beat the yolks, sugar and cornflour together. Pour the milk in while whisking then return it all to the pan. Whisk continuously over a low-medium heat until the custard thickens. Allow to bubble for 30 seconds to cook the flour but keep stirring. Cool in a bowl in the fridge with non-stick paper over the custard surface. (For custard making pictures, look here: http://www.bakingvet.com/2014/10/27/chocolate-custard-brioche-buns/)
Roll out the risen dough into a large rectangle about 2cm thick. (For pictures of how to do this, look here at my other bun recipe: https://bakingvet.com/2014/10/27/chocolate-custard-brioche-buns/) Use a grater to grate the sugar filling evenly over the dough. Place the chilled custard in a piping bag with a 2cm diameter hole cut and pipe a thick line along the long edge nearest you. Gently roll this edge around the custard cylinder and then continue to roll up, just tightly enough to prevent the custard squeezing out. (If it is not tight enough, the rolls will open out a bit when baked and the sugar will flood out…) Use a sharp knife to slice the roll into 12 pieces and place the buns on a baking sheet. Glaze with some beaten egg and cover with cling film. Leave to rise again – the dough sections should double their diameter. Put the rest of the custard in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

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Uncover the buns and then use the piping bag to pipe more custard into their centres – submerge the nozzle of the bag in the existing custard and then swell it up a bit. Glaze the buns again with egg and bake, taking care not to burn them – usually about 15 minutes. Sometimes I remove the buns on the outer edge and bake the ones in the centre for a little longer so each one is adequately baked.
When a bit cooler, mix icing sugar and water and use a piping bag to ice streaky stripes. Best eaten warm.

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And a few more things… here are my pepparkakor cookies on our Christmas table, and the new year wishing cakes. I ended up making three for an excess of parties…

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