Sweet sweet Friday: Sticky Buns

It never fails to surprise me when I see people having leisurely breakfasts in cafes on weekday mornings. Do they not have jobs to get to? Or children to wrangle? Leisurely breakfasts are a thing of the distant past in our house, so I try to make up for it by occasionally having two breakfasts on weekend mornings. These chocolate and hazelnut-filled sticky buns, which I made last Sunday with this month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge in mind, would be just the ticket.

Sticky Buns

Claire’s original recipe uses a rich mixture of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins in the filling, but I had some incredible hazelnut spread (made in Blenheim, by Uncle Joe’s Nuts) lurking in the cupboard that I’d been dying to use. Mixing it with some smashed dark chocolate turned it into a kind of extra posh Nutella. You may think the icing is over-egging the pudding, to mix food metaphors, but it makes it even more luxurious. If you can’t find this spread, try the best hazelnut butter you can buy. Or, use more butter and sprinkle it with ground hazelnuts. Or just use Nutella, I guess. I invited a friend around to share these with us and was actually glad when they couldn’t make it, they’re that good.

250ml lukewarm milk (around 40C)

2tsp dried yeast

1Tbsp brown sugar

2 egg yolks

50g butter, melted

600g strong white flour

1tsp salt


50g very soft butter

100g hazelnut butter

100g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits


1Tbsp melted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups icing sugar
Hot water – from a kettle – to mix

Put the warm milk into a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your freestanding mixer) and whisk in the sugar and yeast. Leave to activate (froth) for 5-10 minutes, then add the melted butter and egg yolks. Stir in the flour and salt to form a dough, then either knead by hand for about 10 minutes, or in the mixer with the dough hook for about five minutes, until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Return to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then leave in a warm place until doubled (about an hour).
Knock down and press out with your fingers until you have a large sheet of dough. Mix the butters together and slather on top, then sprinkle with the smashed chocolate. Roll up tightly, as if making a swiss roll, then cut into 3cm slices. Place into a large, well-greased roasting dish or cake tin, allowing about 2cm between them. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C. When the buns have risen, bake for 10 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until they are well-risen and golden.
While they are cooking, mix the icing ingredients together, adding hot water until you get a reasonably runny consistency. When the buns are done, slide them onto a rack and liberally drizzle with icing. Makes about a dozen. If you can resist eating them all in one go, they can be frozen.

Have a sweet, sweet Friday and a great weekend everyone x

Freeform olive fougasse

This month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge, set by Claire of Purely Food, was to make fougasse.
“Bof,” I said to myself as I planned what to eat for a pre All Blacks vs France match dinner on Saturday night. “It will be a piece of gateau!”
Claire gave us two recipes to choose from, one from model-turned-baker Lorraine Pascal, the other from French chef Richard Bertinet. I made a rosemary-scented, olive-studded homage to Lorraine’s version on Saturday afternoon, but the yeast didn’t spring into life and they turned out more like Frenchified pretzels.
The next day, less distracted by le rugby, I had another go, remembering what I’d read from Bertinet’s recipe about “showing the dough who is boss”. These ones were much better, despite some woeful dough shaping on my behalf, resulting in some rather freeform fougasse. I might have taught the dough a lesson, but it was obviously determined to teach me one right back.

This is essentially Bertinet’s recipe, though my measurements are a little different and I’ve added a soupcon (note: that’s different to a soup spoon) of olive oil to enhance their keeping qualities. Silly really, because when these come out of the oven it’s impossible not to devour them immediately.

500g strong flour
350ml lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1Tbsp olive oil
olives, optional

Pour the water into a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Stir to dissolve, then leave for five minutes to start frothing. Add the flour, salt and oil and mix together, then turn out onto the counter and knead. Following M. Bertinet’s instructions, I did this all by hand, but it is a very sticky dough and it would be a lot easier in a freestanding mixer (I know, I am lazy). Either way, you want the finished dough to be smooth, springy and not too sticky when you have finished kneading/mixing it. Resist the temptation to add too much extra flour. Scrape into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic. Let rest for an hour or so in a warm place.
At this point, turn your oven to its highest temperature and put in an oven tray.
Gently tip the risen dough out onto a floured surface, then dust generously with flour and cover again with a teatowel and let rest for five minutes.
Slice the dough in half with a very sharp knife or plastic scraper, then cut each piece again into three triangles. You’re aiming for a fern shape – whether you get there or not is another matter.
Slash cuts into each piece of dough – I used a pair of kitchen scissors – and gently open the cuts up with your fingers. Flour a large sheet of baking paper and place the slashed dough on top. Gently press olives or any other toppings into the dough.
Take the hot baking tray out of the oven (remember it’s hot!) and slide the dough and paper on top. Put in the oven and then splash in a little cold water on the walls (of the oven, not your kitchen) to create steam. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden.

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns

I’ve fallen off the breadmaking wagon with a resounding thud in the last fortnight, thanks to a combination of factors including too much work, the snow, a warp-speed trip to Sydney and coming to the end of my 20kg sack of flour. But before I fell into the clutches of a bag of Vogels and a stray baguette, I joined the Fresh From The Oven crew, who “meet” once a month to extend their breadmaking skills.

Sally at My Custard Pie set the challenge for August, suggesting participants deal to their zucchini/courgette glut with a recipe for Courgette Cluster Bread. Zucchinis are currently about NZ$13 a kilo here and they look battered, bruised and extremely weary after a long journey from somewhere warmer. But pumpkins are in massive supply at our weekly vegetable market and I had the bright idea to use them instead.

Pumpkin And Parmesan Cheese Bread

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns
These are easy to make, deliciously light and fluffy and they keep really well (if you can resist eating them). Next time I’m thinking pink – beetroot, feta and fennel seeds, perhaps?

450g peeled, seeded and grated pumpkin
675g strong white bread flour
1/2tsp salt
2tsp dried yeast
4Tbsp parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2Tbsp olive oil
Tepid water – about 250ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and grated pumpkin. Add water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. (As per Sally’s instructions, I did this and the kneading in my KitchenAid with the dough hook. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough in the bowl and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 30cm cake tin (or a roasting dish of similar size) with baking papert. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other – about 30 minutes.
Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.