Cinnamon buns are gaining in popularity in both Greece and Cyprus. They bring back a flavour memory of a traditional Greek bun.
I remember being in an Athens square once where at a corner cafe a cook behind the shop window was preparing cinnamon buns. I joined the others watching the whole process, then went inside, bought one and ate it there and then.
It reminded me of a bun found in all bakeries in my childhood years. "Kifilla" was the name.
Bakeries in Greece and Cyprus have, since then, gradually been adding to their cake, sweet and bun selection. But kifilla are hardly seen anywhere nowadays apart from in the very few, very traditional, old bakeries that are still in business.
Besides, when you talk to people about kifilla nowadays, they hardly know what they are. It is as if the knowledge and art of making them is dying out as the old bakers pass away.
Cinnamon buns have a light, fluffy texture, with sugar sweetness sprinkled on top too. But I guess one of the reasons cinnamon buns have been gaining in popularity here is that they also have a spice that appeals to Mediterranean people's taste.
It is the cinnamon spice which is one of the most popular culinary spices used traditionally here in cakes and buns. It’s also used in custard, special creams, rice puddings and more.
Cinnamon is used a lot in traditional cooking too.
In pasta sauces, for example, a cinnamon stick adds immensely to the flavour of the sauce. A cinnamon stick together with a couple of cloves are also added to a teapot brewing with normal tea leaves or tea bags.
Cinnamon buns have come to us and to the rest of Europe from Sweden.
They have been around in our household in recent years as my youngest brother is married to Ann-Jeanette, a girl from Sweden.
Her recipe developed from the one she picked up from her mother and is simply perfect.
She uses dried yeast unlike the fresh one that her mum used as it is easier to find. The result is the same.
She finds ground cardamon in England, where they live, and the special sugar that goes on the top she no longer brings from Sweden as she can now find it in a Swedish shop there.
She devised her recipe to make exactly 30 buns. You can make more if you want smaller sized ones.
They freeze well too, which means that she can prepare and bake in advance, freeze and have ready for special visits or fetes.
Ann-Jeanette finds that wherever she takes them in the multinational, multicultural town of Brighton where they live, they become the point of reference and the recipe is always there ready on offer.
We offer it here too as a special treat to our Yummy Cyprus readers.
Ingredients (makes 30 cinnamon buns)
- 800g strong white bread flour
- 140g caster sugar
- 21g yeast (3 sachets 7g each)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamon (if available)
- 100g unsalted butter
- 500ml milk
- 150g unsalted butter, softened (room temperature)
- 140g caster sugar
- 2 full tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 egg, beaten
- Pearl Sugar from Swedish shops specially for Cinnamon buns and biscuits (or use almond flakes, coloured tiny sugar balls or chocolate bits)
Start by turning the oven on at 225C.
- Put all dough dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, sugar, yeast, salt, cardamon)
- Mix well with a wooden spoon
- Place 100g unsalted butter in a small saucepan and let it melt over low heat
- Add the milk
- When finger warm (37C) pour onto the flour mixture (If your milk/butter gets too hot leave to cool until your finger can stand the heat)
- Mix well with a wooden spoon and then with your hands
- If your dough is too wet add a bit more flour, if too dry add a bit more warm milk – the dough should be wet but not sticky; it should look like silky bread dough leaving the hands clean.
- Place dough on a floured surface and knead for a minute or two
- Replace your dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with cling film let it stand in a sink full of hot water until the dough rises (about 30 minutes)
Note: You can prepare this in advance and keep it in the fridge. Just take it out and leave at room temperature when it’s required.
- Using your hands, mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon to a paste.
Shaping the cinnamon buns:
- This is probably the most tricky part. Remember: practice makes perfect!
- Take half of the dough, place it on a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangular shape.
- With a spatula, spread half of the cinnamon paste over the whole length of the flat rectangle dough.
- Start rolling the rectangle dough into a tight roll/sausage shape using your fingers. Stretch the sausage dough as you roll it, walking your fingers all along the whole length.
- You end up with a long sausage with a width of about 5 cm.
- Cut into 3cm pieces.
- If you want you can cut and discard a very thin piece in both ends first.
- You will end up with around 15 pieces.
Preparing for the baking dish:
This is the part you can share with your children or grandchildren. Not only will they feel they are helping you but you will both enjoy the process and it’s one of those memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives – it involves so many important senses.
- Place baking paper on baking dish
- Take each bun piece and tuck the pastry end-tail underneath each bun.
- With your fingers gently spread the surface of the bun a little; it feels like a flower opening up a little bit. You can even press the bun down to shorten it as you place it on the baking dish. It has a beautiful rolled pastry shape with distinct fragrant cinnamon colouring
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm place to proof for a further 30 minutes.
Prepare for the baking:
This is the enjoyable, decorative part.
- Uncover your cinnamon buns
- Beat the whole egg in a small bowl, and brush the top of each bun with a silicone brush dipped in the beaten egg
- Sprinkle with the pearl sugar or any other chosen decoration
- Bake for ten minutes or until golden brown
Repeat the whole process with the remaining half of the dough.