Posts Tagged ‘Cinnamon’

I should start by saying Happy New Year! We spent ours by staying in with friends and drinking and eating ourselves under a table up to, and well after the bells struck midnight (I have to say thank to Dawn for feeding us a delicious feast, and I don’t use the word feast lightly) and judging by the numbers that flash up when I stand on the bathroom scales the whole weekend must be pronounced a definite success. So much for a break from decadence.

Unfortunately I was too busy applying food to my face and deciding what cocktail to make next to take any pictures (given the number of said cocktails I managed to drink I doubt they would have been in focus anyway) but I promise to hound her for recipes to share in future.

Sadly I’m now back to work which means no more lazy mornings and spending my afternoons cooking and eating. As a farewell to this life of leisure and being able to browse cookbooks/ food blogs and make something on the spot I got up the other day and made these Cinnamon Rolls which I stumbled upon that morning on a Foodpress feature (thank you Foodpress, thank you Ovenhaven). We had boiled eggs with toasty soldiers for breakfast first (yes I am an adult, but some things are for life – plus I had to find an excuse to use the egg cups I got for Christmas, too cute) and then I made these as a treat. They aren’t a completely authentic version but they make a good substitute for what South Africans would call a Chelsea bun so besides the excuse to bake they turned out to be a pleasant bit of munching nostalgia.

I didnt need to fiddle with the recipe at all which has already been adapted several times since its original source – if you want the recipe you can find it here on Ovenhaven’s blog. The only notes I would add to the original are the following:

  • When you turn out the dough you do really need to add a lot of flour because it is very wet and work quickly to knead it in to stop it sticking but don’t panic – it works out fine
  • If like me you cant leave a whole tray of these sitting around a house of only two people for fear of doubling those figures flashing back at me on the scales then do what I did and make the rolls but only make enough glaze for a few and freeze the rest. Then you can take out a couple when ever you need them, pop them in the oven and make a small batch of glaze. This way you can eat them all warm too which is when they are at their best (in the name of science, I have tried both warm and cold to make sure so you can take my word for it).

So… assuming you survive the first week back at work in one piece and decide you need comfort food this weekend to soothe the shock to your system then I recommend you try these.

They say sugar should be prescribed as a treatment to shock.

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Yesterday I made cut out biscuits for the first time and turned them into edible Christmas tree decorations which was also a first attempt (as is blatantly obvious by the somewhat dodgy icing job). I have been dying to try this and some other festive baking ideas so I planned a day of Christmas baking and enlisted a partner in crime, my friend Dawn (the same one that introduced me to Nigella’s Glitzy Chocolate Puddings and is the only person I know who gets quite as over excited about these things as I do).

Well after baking and icing something like 50 biscuits, giggling our way through the entire process and getting side tracked making mulled wine along the way, we didn’t get around to any of the other recipes besides a rather unsuccessful attempt at hokey pokey (Nigella’s honey comb recipe). I’m going to have to give that another go before I can share any useful information as ours turned out as a tasty but never-ending  jaw snapping creation rather than something like the crisp centre of a Crunchie bar. Having scoured the internet to pin down our mistake the only advice we could find was perhaps our sugar mixture wasn’t hot enough or we added too much golden syrup but if there’s anyone reading this who has perfected the art of honey comb please feel free to make suggestions as I dont think my jaw can cope with another failed attempt.

Back to the biscuits. We used a Nigella recipe from my December copy of Delicious magazine (this post is unintentionally turning to into an ode to Nigella) but made a few minor tweaks. We omitted the black pepper as we werent trying to deter small children from nicking them off the tree and added a few other spices for extra christmas-ness. We also made our own royal icing as we didnt have the ready made kind which Nigella suggests you use. I got my Christmas biscuit cutters from Amazon for pennies and a very handy squeezy piping bottle from Lakeland which I would definitely recommend as a handy tool (alternatively you could use a piping bag).

I have to say its not easy work making these and you need to make sure you have plenty of time to do all the icing (a partner for moral support makes it less of a chore) but you can’t get prettier decorations. They’re so Christmassy I’m going to enter them into the Most Wanted Yule-blog Bake Off just for fun. I doubt they will win any prizes for professional baking but I quite like the fact that they look so home made. Now I just have to resist the urge to keep wandering up and nibbling my Christmas tree!

Christmas Tree Biscuits

Adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson. Makes roughly 50 biscuits depending on cutter size.

  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 4 tbsp of runny honey


  • 1 egg whites
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • silver balls and any other decorations you want to use

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and spices. Add the butter and sugar, and mix into a sand like texture. Then, slowly add the beaten eggs and honey – don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up. This is important, we used all of it because we didn’t read to the end and then had to add loads of flour to get the dough back to the right consistency. If you do the same thing, add more flour but don’t work for too long or you will warm up the butter and make it even less firm. Chilling will make a big difference.

Form 2 fat discs and place in the fridge or freezer for about 20 minutes until chilled. Leave the second one in the fridge while you prepare the first. In the meantime I recommend getting the mulled wine on the go!

Preheat the oven to 150°C and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice. Then place them on the baking sheets.

Re-roll and cut out some more and then put the left over dough back in the fridge and combine with the left over from the second disc at the end to stop it getting too warm. Once all the biscuits are cut out and the dough is used up take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (to thread ribbon through later).

Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them, the smaller shapes might be ready after 15 min. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Make up the instant royal icing by beating the eggs and lemon juice together and then beating in the icing sugar to the required consistency (thick enough that it wont dribble off your biscuits). If you want different colours divide it up and then add food colouring.

Carefully ice the cold decorations and when the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes for hanging on the tree.

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Having survived several nights of gale force wind and rain with the roof of our house just managing to stay intact, we woke up yesterday to a beautiful sunny morning. Baltic outside, but beautiful. I managed to coax fiancé out of his Sunday bed with the smell of winter spice muffins for breakfast and then bribed him into a walk up the hills near our house with the promise of warm chourico bread for lunch on completion of said walk.

The spice muffins are a new recipe but the chourico bread was the result of inspiration from two sources, old and new. Chourico is popular in SA, presumably because of our Portuguese influence and my parents used to make a delicious chourico loaf which I have tried to copy once before but not with any success. This is largely due to my bread making skills (or lack thereof)  which I’m trying to improve on. So when I joined the Foodie Blogroll last week (not exactly an award or difficult to achieve but I was quite proud that my blog was accepted even although they probably accept everyone besides axe murders and pornographers) and saw the Chourico contest, including a bread recipe,  I decided it was time to try it again.

The idea behind this recipe is to let the dough rise once, knock it back and roll it out, sprinkle with chopped chourico and then roll it up so the final loaf is dotted with little spicy morsels that ooze into the bread. It’s still not as good as my parent’s one which I’ll have to get the recipe for, but definitely edible (according to Ross anyway, but then he was dying of starvation by that point) and I thought pretty good straight out of the oven smothered in butter, with or without a few slices of cheese.

For the bread recipe, click here. I had to use a mix of wholewheat and plain flour because I realised at the last minute I didn’t have any bread flour but I would probably go with white normally unless you specifically want a brown loaf. I also made into two loaves instead of four and froze one to stop us eating it all in one sitting.

If you want to try my trick for getting your other half out of bed on a Sunday with the smell of Christmas wafting through the house, my winter spice muffin recipe follows. I used Nigella Lawson’s granola muffin recipe from her Feast book as a base and adapted to create what I hope is a pretty good cinnamon muffin with endless possibilities for further Christmasification, some of which I’ve suggested below. If you come up with even better ideas please let me know!

Winter Spice Muffins

Unfortunately these don’t keep very well so I recommend eating as many as possible when they come out of the oven and then freezing the rest. Just take them out and pop in the microwave when you need one. Makes 12.

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 200g jumbo rolled oats (I tried using granola but I don’t like the chewy lumps, up to you)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

If you want to make your own cases like I did here, cut 5-6inch squares (depending on the size of your muffin tin) from baking parchment. Spray the tin with cooking oil to help them stay in place and push the papers into each hole so that the edges crease into the round shape.

Now combine the sifted flour, bicarb, spices and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the sugar, egg, buttermilk and oil and pour this into the dry ingredients. Fold to combine and then fold in the oats. Spoon into the muffin papers and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack while you make a cup of coffee,pile a few on a plate and apply to face!

Optional extras:

  • Add the grated zest of an orange to the batter (I’m definitely going to try this next time) and/or make an icing with icing sugar and a little orange juice and drizzle over each muffin when cool.
  • Add dried cranberries or cherries  or chopped nuts to the batter

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My earliest memory involves food. I’m not entirely sure whether I am remembering the actual event or whether it’s been incorporated into my memories via family stories but either way it has stuck.

I was a toddler I think and we were camping up the coast from Durban somewhere, probably at Mtunzini. I had a Strawberry Swirl gripped in my excited little paw. Strawberry Swirls will be known by many names but they are those shortbread biscuits with a lovely jammy centre. I was about to start nibbling all the biscuit off so that I would be left with the jammy middle bit to savour last, when a little hairy grey arm shot out of the bush next to me and swiped it.  The thief turned out to be a Vervet Monkey which looking back is quite amusing but at the time I was absolutely devastated. I’m sure my parents must have given me another biscuit to replace the one that was thieved but it has always stayed in my mind, and I think its made me very protective of my food!

Each part of my life is marked by these memories of food, either stories involving food or just specific meals which take me back to a certain time and place. I can remember sitting on the kitchen counter when I was little while my mom was baking bread and being given little lumps of raw bread dough. They were sort of chewy and lovely and salty.

I remember sitting on the deck outside the kitchen and eating avocado pears, just cut in half and sprinkled with black pepper and apple cider vinegar.  If you make cuts in the flesh with a knife then the vinegar soaks into the flesh and you get it’s zingy flavour all the way through. You can scoop the flesh out and spread it on toast if you wish but I just eat it straight out of the skin with a teaspoon. I still eat them like this all the time, although the avocados you get here in Scotland are nothing like the huge, buttery, ripe ones you get in South Africa.

I remember stopping at the local shop on the way home from school with my mom and my sisters and buying cheese topped rolls and milk tarts. We’d go home, butter the rolls with mayonnaise and cram them full with crisps to make a crisp butty, one of the most unhealthy, and yet most satisfying afternoon snacks. Then we’d have milk tart for pudding. Milk tart is a South African type of custard tart which consists mostly of milk and cinnamon with a shortcrust pastry base. Its the first thing that pops into my head if someone asks me for a traditional South African recipe so it seems only fitting that it be the first recipe on this site.

Milk Tart

I had tried several different recipes and this the easiest and the only one that makes a milk tart like the ones I remember.

Shortcrust pastry – you can make your own but I normally just buy the pre-made stuff

500ml milk

1 cinnamon stick and 1 tsp ground cinnamon

100ml castor sugar

45ml corn flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

30ml butter

2 eggs

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees.  Line a tart dish with the short crust pastry and prick the base with a fork. Line it with greaseproof paper and baking beans (I use dried beans or rice) and blind bake for about 10-15min. Remove the baking beans and bake for another 10min or until it starts to brown slightly. Set aside to cool a bit.

Heat the milk in a saucepan with the cinnamon stick to just under boiling point. Lightly beat the eggs and sugar together, then add the flour, corn flour and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Pour the hot milk slowly into this mixture, stirring rapidly. Return the saucepan to a low  heat and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes very thick. Keep stirring/whisking to stop it forming lumps (you do have to keep stirring constantly).

Take off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the vanilla essence and the butter until melted. Pour into the pastry base and sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon. Let it cool slightly and and then cover and keep in the fridge until it’s set. It will keep in the fridge for a few days.

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