Can’t beat a fluffy, cinnamon-y, fruit, sugary breakfast bun. These are made with two thirds wholemeal for more of an earthy bite. I’m not sure I really believe wholemeal is truly much healthier than white bread, but it certainly feels more righteous.
Date and walnut are a traditional combination for a number of recipes (not just baking) but, although I do like this, I find pecans preferable. (Often if you can’t get hold of the freshest walnuts they can be a little acrid, where pecans do not seem to deteriorate in this way). I added a maple-syrup sauce for added sweetness, well that and it seemed to instill a sort of North American/Canadian vibe with the pecans (though what the dates are now doing there I am not sure – perhaps next time I’ll swap them from dried cranberries!).
This makes a lot of buns! About 16 in fact. They can be divided and frozen after baking – you can actually put the maple syrup sauce and the nuts on before freezing, though I would recommend adding the icing after you’ve defrosted them. (Leave overnight on a wire rack to defrost thoroughly).
- a tin to place the buns in. I used a 30 cm casserole dish, but any shape is just fine bowl
- small saucepan
- pastry brush
- rolling pin
- large bowl
- sharp knife and a small spoon
- small ceramic bowl or cup (this may be going in the microwave)
Ingredients – for the enriched dough
- wholemeal bread flour – 300g
- strong white flour – 150 g
- easy-blend yeast – 15 g
- caster sugar – 50 g
- fine salt – a pinch
- milk – 125 ml (doesn’t have to be warmed but it’s better if it’s not fridge-cold)
- water – 75 ml (tepid rather than warm)
- medium egg (beaten) – 1
- unsalted melted butter – 25 g
Ingredients for the filling
- butter, softened – 80 g
- ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
- Half a vanilla pod’s worth of seeds
- caster sugar – 25g
- chopped, stoned dates – 50g
Ingredients for the glaze/topping
- crunched-up pecans – 35g
- maple syrup – 30ml
- marmalade (with or without peel – your choice) – 2 tablespoons
- water – “enough” – by this I mean just enough to make a dropping consistency with the icing sugar – this will be around a tablespoon
- icing sugar – about 75g
- extra flour for dusting
Preparing the dough
- Add all the dry ingredients into your bowl (that’s both flour types, sugar, yeast and salt) and mix them up a bit.
- Make a well in the middle and tip in the milk and water, beaten egg and melted butter and start to mix. This is a little wetter than bread and is messy (half the fun) so you may want to use a wooden spoon first to bring it together before you start to knead.
- Tip it out onto a clean surface. Try to resist adding a dusting of flour to the surface if you can (or if it’s not too ingrained a habit). Yes, some of it will stick to the surface but as you continue kneading it will lift off and combine, and then you haven’t changed the chemical constitution of the dough too much by increasing the ratio of flour. Alternatively, I expect you can use a machine with a bread hook – but this will also need 10 minutes (I always find it interesting that elbow grease and electricity have the same effect when it comes to dough).
- If the dough is a little hard work add a touch more milk – as mentioned, it should be just slightly wetter than bread (more like how wet a sourdough or brioche would be).
- The kneading will take about 8 – 10 mins depending on how vigorous you are! Just like other breads, the dough will be smooth and a bit bouncy when it’s ready. This is one of those things that you just get used to seeing after you’ve baked for a while.
- Clean out your original bowl and lightly grease it (or use another) and pop in the dough. I usually chuck a large linen teatowel over my rising bread, and sprinkle over a little bit of water onto the towel, but cling film will do nearly as well (this shouldn’t need dampening as it creates an airtight seal and the bread is already moist).
- Leave it to double in size somewhere warm but not hot – this will typically take an hour or so but it depends on the warmth. Like other sweet doughs you could make this one evening and leave in the fridge or somewhere cool to rise overnight.
Shaping, filling and rolling the buns
- Gently roll the dough out of the bowl on to a (lightly) floured surface and start to press it down gently (no heavy pummeling!) into a rectangle. You’re aiming for something about 65cm by 15 cm (2 foot by 10 inches in ‘old money’).
- Mix in the ground cinnamon, vanilla seeds and caster sugar into the softened butter
- Now you’re ready to add the filling ingredients. Spread the cinnamon butter all over the rectangle of dough – but leave a 1 cm gap down one long edge (this is to help the dough stick into a roulade shape later)
- Scatter over the chopped dates
- Now you need to roll up the dough like a roulade/Swiss roll, starting from the long edge which you haven’t left with a 1 cm gap. Brush a little bit of water or milk onto that edge you left so it sticks to the outside of the dough once you’ve roll it all up. It should look just like a doughy Swiss roll
- Cut the roll into 15-16 slices
- Pop the slices end-on into the tin, so that you can see the Swiss roll shape and all the lovely fillings from the top. You may need to push the back into more of a round shape, as slicing them may have flattened them a little. Space the slices between 1 – 2 cm apart so that when they rise they bump into each other
- Cover with a that clean, damp tea towel or cling film from earlier and leave it to rise and prove a second time. You want them to puff up to about double what they were but this shouldn’t take as long as the first rise – about 30 mins.
- Pop on your oven to 180C fan/200C conventional.
Baking and glazing
- When risen, take off the covering and pop the tin in the middle of the oven and set the timer for 10 mins. After 10 mins don’t take them out – turn the oven down to 160C fan/140C conventional and cook for between 10 – 15 mins more. You want a nice golden top (not light but not too dark). You may need to turn the tin after the first 10 mins if your oven is not cooking very evenly (as you want the buns to all have the same depth of colour).
- Fetch the buns out when ready and leave to cool in the tin a bit.
- Now make the glaze by melting the maple syrup and marmalade together with a tablespoon of water until bubbling and the marmalade has melted completely into the maple syrup
- Add in the crunched-up pecans into the maple syrup sauce
- Brush (or pour) it all over the tops of the buns (while they are still in the tin), try a little to spread the pecans evenly across the buns
- Leave until fully cool
- Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with the water until you get a smooth dropping consistency
- Drizzle the icing all over the buns with a small spoon and leave until the icing has solidified