I am no casual lover of cinnamon. It makes appearances in my daily coffee and inhabits my porridge; indeed, it even populates my dreams (a woman in my dream may or may not have recently expressed a potential for the nullification of sin through the sprinkling of cinnamon on one’s toes before sleep). However, I also stand firmly in my belief that the humble cinnamon bun remains an untapped medium and a slept- on vessel, with room for unlimited variation. It comes in an elegant package, its versatility is enormous, and we need to normalise cinnamon-less buns.
Here, we have both a sweet and savoury bun flavour which I’ve fashioned just in time for picnic season, during which we really ought to reach for that which is both transportable, visually lovely, and which tastes like spring, rather than Christmastime spice. Consider this a starting point, and as always, adapt and transform to your liking.
As it never hurts to err on the side of time-sensitive convenience when pitching leisure projects to university students the month before exams, I’ve adapted and veganised the base recipe for these rolls from Claire Ptak of the Violet Bakery in London’s cinnamon buns (I highly recommend her cookbook), which don’t use a yeasted dough. With only baking powder as a leavening agent, the dough requires just a few minutes rest, rather than two two- hour proofs—a process which I find immensely satisfying, but am more inclined to reach for outside of term time. Once again, I have opted for seasonal ingredients, as wild garlic is easy to identify, and plentiful for foraging in great quantities during springtime in the UK. The fresher taste of young leaves makes March the ideal time for collection. Have a look the next time you pass by the Kinnessburn, or find yourself meandering down Lade Braes, as it grows best in woodlands and near the water.
Savoury: Wild garlic and sunblush tomato buns
Sweet: Lemon lavender or lemon thyme buns
Makes 12 buns.
75g (⅓ cup) vegan butter
230g (a cup) granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
The juice of half a lemon (more can be added to your taste, but do this progressively to ensure that the butter does not curdle)
20 g granulated sugar
Another tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp of dried lavender, petals separated from stalk
1 tbsp of dried or fresh thyme leaves
75g (⅓ cup) vegan butter
2 tbsp finely chopped wild garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped hazelnuts or pine nuts
The juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: 1 tsp of nutritional yeast
A handful of sunblush tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Herbs of your choosing
For the buns:
560g (1.5 cups) plain flour, plus more for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest
240g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) vegan butter, cut into small cubes
300g (1 ¼ cups) oat milk
Granulated sugar for dipping (sweet)
Vegan butter for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
Grease a muffin tin or round cake tin
For the filling:
Combine butter, and other ingredients until mixture is homogeneous and combined, then set aside. Prepare the lemon sugar separately, in a small bowl. Also conserve chopped sunblush tomatoes in their own bowl for now.
For the dough:
Combine dry ingredients with the chilled, cubed vegan butter and mix by hand or with an electric mixer until a rough meal forms.
Little by little, add the milk and continue mixing until you have a cohesive ball of down which pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Gently tilt the dough out of the bowl and leave it to rest for a few minutes on a floured work surface. Give the dough two folds before allowing it to rest for ten more minutes.
After its second rest, roll the dough out into a rectangle (0.5 cm thick), and spread the butter mixture across its surface. If making sweet buns, sprinkle a layer of lemon sugar evenly across the filling. If making savoury, evenly disperse the chopped sunblush tomatoes. If you’d like to sprinkle more wild garlic, or a different herb atop as well, do so now.
Carefully roll the dough from the side of the rectangle, away from you, until you have a tight spiralled log. Cut into 12 equal slices with a sharp knife, and place the buns in the muffin tin or, if using a cake/pie tin, arrange side by side.
Bake buns for 25 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack, and dip the sweet buns in granulated sugar fresh out of the oven, then enjoy warm or leave to cool before tossing them in your picnic basket!