Oh, the joys of apartment living. Moving into a very old apartment, it seemed to be a given that there would be a plethora of problems in our first couple of weeks. The gas-heated fireplace in my friend’s room turns on by itself randomly, the toilet liked to randomly flush on its own, my bedroom window facing the street refuses to properly close, and my bedroom door has issues shutting. Its taken a lot of time and money to make it feel more like a home; with a big trip to trusty IKEA for shelving and noise and light-blocking curtains, Lincraft for thick, heavy curtains which I’ve utilised as a big rug across my bedroom floor to help with my dust allergies, and buying the small things – like picture hanging racks and a bargain suction wall holder for my hair straightener in the bathroom.
I also dearly missed my handy herb plot at home. While I tried to transfer some of the herbs into pots to bring over, after years of being established the plants were gnarled and knotty, refusing to come out from the soil. I managed to salvage a little of the mint, because it grows like the devil even when we had ripped it out, and the rest I picked up from supermarkets and Bunnings:
The mint, baby rocket micro-herbs from Woolworths, thyme, rosemary and an overflowing pot of flat-leaf parsley. Its definitely helped me feel more at ease in the kitchen.
My biggest issue with the kitchen was the oven. This wasn’t the first recipe I made in the vintage oven; I made a batch of simple blueberry, oat and chia muffins for work first as I’ve made them before and there’s not much that can go wrong. The heat is a little tricky. I established that gas mark “4” is the closest to 180 degrees Celcius, but then you also have to turn another dial for what seems to be the size of the flame. But wouldn’t a bigger size flame mean a higher temperature? Tentatively, I turned it to the middle so it was on “average”, and I was delighted to find my muffins baked faster than usual.
So the lesson to take from here is that due to the powerful nature of my gas oven – my things may cook faster than yours. So please keep that in mind.
I made these beautiful buns on a quiet Saturday morning. Traditionalists will tell you to put the cut buns into individual ramekins or “canele moulds” to allow them to “proof” (i.e. rise), but I only have four small or four huge ramekins and I’m not going to go out and buy more just for this. Use a medium baking tray (about 24cm x 15cm) and as they bake they will swell and squeeze together in the most beautiful way. Serve this on the table for a breakfast and get everyone to dig in with butter knives and their fingers to separate the fluffy, fragrantly spicy buns..table etiquette can be overlooked here.
You will need:
- 7g dried yeast (one packet);
- 160ml lukewarm milk;
- 350g plain flour;
- 100g caster sugar;
- Finely grated rind of one lemon;
- 140g softened butter;
- Brown sugar for dusting.
For the caramel spice mix:
- 80g softened butter;
- 60g brown sugar;
- 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve.
For the caramel glaze:
- 220g caster sugar;
- 20g butter, coarsely chopped.
Combine the yeast with half of the milk in a small bowl (or large measuring cup, as I did) and stir until the yeast dissolves, then stir in 25 grams of flour until smooth. Cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 30 minutes. As the weather is still quite cool I had it in front of the heater, but if your kitchen is very warm that may be sufficient.
Combine the sugar, lemon rind, butter, remaining flour, remaining milk and yeast mixture in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until a rough dough forms (2-3 minutes). If you have an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, you’re laughing, but for those of us with mere handheld mixers, go as far as your mixer will let you before turning it off and getting your hands in there to knead it. Add a little trickle of warm water to knead it to a smooth, sticky dough.
Transfer to a large, buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in your warm place until doubled in size (it will take about 45 min to an hour – a perfect time to catch up on some household chores).
Meanwhile for the caramel spice mix, combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
A couple of weeks before I moved, I was thinking ahead about my love of making pastry and needing to roll it out on a work surface. While I trusted my kitchen tabletops at my old house without question, this was a very old kitchen. So I jumped on eBay and bought myself this amazing silicone pastry mat for less than $10. It even has measurements along the sides!
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Butter your baking tray well and dust generously with brown sugar. Knock back the dough and roll out onto a lightly floured surface into an 18cm x 50cm rectangle. Spread evenly with the caramel spice mix.
You know what? I’m now thinking Nutella would make an excellent filling as well….oh well, next time. With the longest side facing you, roll into a cylinder. Cut into twelve even pieces and place each piece, cut side up into the baking tray with space in between each and every one to allow them to spread.
Stand for ten minutes, before baking until risen and golden (25 – 30 minutes; cover with foil if they begin to get too dark). Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
While baking, make the caramel glaze. Combine the sugar and 80ml of water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cook until golden, but not too dark (4-5 minutes).
Remove from heat, and tilting the saucepan away from you, add the butter and 60ml water, stirring to combine. You tilt it as it will most definitely hiss and spit everywhere like an angry cat. Remember that caramel heats to above boiling point and solidifies near-immediately, so you don’t want to get that on your skin.
Serve the buns warm or at room temperature, topped with the caramel glaze and sprinkled with extra cinnamon. They’re best eaten on the day made, or make an excellent speedy sugar-hit breakfast the next day if you’re running the City2Surf 😉 14 kilometres done in about an hour and 40 minutes; for my first time, I was very happy!
Keep your eyes peeled for my review on the Original Meatball Company this Friday – biscuit and ice cream thick shakes, saucy meatballs stuffed into brioche rolls and a poutine to-die-for! xx