Whenever I read interviews of chefs, they often talk about the interaction between chef and diner without actual contact but through their plates. A chef is able to really interact with a diner by invoking memories or provoking their thoughts with their food and I happen to greatly agree with this. I find food to be intensely personal and more often than not, deeply comforting.

I guess there in lies the problem with my love for chips, hey? ;)

But in all seriousness, I’m pretty great at attaching momentous moments with food (dates, birthdays, anniversaries, fights, accidents) and there’s all sorts of associations with food that make it so personal. A freshly made batch of basil pesto remind me of my eldest brother and how he cooked us meals during his university holidays and how I loved all his food and his passion for it probably triggered mine; a sweet spicy scented Hokkien dish called hong bak reminds me of my late great grandmother as every time my mum cooks that dish, she reminds me that it is a dish from her childhood and the recipe came from two generations away; and whenever I make Hainanese Chicken Rice I am reminded of my late paternal grandmother who would cook it for us after slaughtering her own chicken and how she so enthusiastically watched us eat every mouthful and proceed to smother us with kisses because we never learned to speak Hainanese so we couldn’t communicate with her and that was the only way she knew how to tell us she loved us.

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

I’m not certain I have an actual memory that involves cinnamon buns but this recipe was the first bread recipe I ever attempted. I must have been about 21 and was testing out the generous gift from my father, my very own KitchenAid in a girly pink colour. To date it’s still one of my favourite presents ever, but my parents are pretty awesome at gifting for “milestone” birthdays.

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

I had the biggest craving for these pillowy soft buns for over a week and I was too busy and lazy to get to it and was pretty close to heading out and just buying some from a bakery to satisfy the craving but I remembered just how great this was and I couldn’t bring myself to pay for something inferior.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite cookbooks of all time, Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess

For the dough:
600g flour (plus more depending on stickiness of dough)
100g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
21g yeast or 45g fresh yeast
100g butter
400ml milk
2 eggs
(A 33 cm x 24 cm roasting tin or large brownie tin, or like me: a 12″ springform cake tin, lined at the bottom and sides)

For the filling:
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten, for glaze

1. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Melt the butter and whisk it into the milk and eggs, then stir it into the flour mixture. Mix to combine and then knead the dough either by hand or using the dough hook of a food mixer until its smooth and springy. (If you find it is too sticky, just add more flour until its easier to handle – I added quite a fair bit more flour just to be able to get it off the dough hook) Form into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave it to rise for about 25 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 220˚C.

3. Take one-third of the dough and roll it or stretch it to fit your tin; this will form the bottom of each bun when it has cooked.

3. Roll out the rest of the dough on a lightly floured surface, aiming to get a rectangle of roughly 50 x 25 cm. Mix the filling ingredients in a small bowl and then spread the rectangle with the buttery cinnamon mixture. Try to get even coverage on the whole of the dough. Roll it up from the longest side until you have a giant sausage. Cut the roll into 2 cm slices which should make about 20 rounds. Sit the founds in lines on top of the dough in the tin, swirly cut-side up. Don’t worry if they don’t fit snugly together as they will swell and become puffy when they prove.

4. Brush them with egg and then let them rise again for about 15 minutes to let them get duly puffy.

5. Put in the hot oven and cook for 20-25 minutes, by which time the buns will have risen and will be golden-brown in colour. Keep a close eye on them and rotate if you need to, because they do brown quite fast.

6. Don’t worry if they catch in places. Remove them from the tin and leave to cool slightly on a rack – it’s easy just to pick up the whole sheet of parchment and transfer them like that. Best served warm and just roughly torn (don’t worry about getting it in perfectly shaped buns, I know I wasn’t fussed!).

Ready for the oven

They don’t taste quite as great cold (although they’re not bad in any way!) but a few seconds in the microwave will fix it right up.

There’s just something soothing about sugar and cinnamon together and the crunchy crispness of that buttery mixture after its been baked in the oven. I’m so terribly in love with these buns that I had to give some away to prevent myself from scoffing it all down. It really pays to be my friend because of the goodies I hand out rather frequently! Apart from the fact that I’m all around awesome and I have modesty in spades.

Pillowy softness

I have to confess that they’re all gone right now and unfortunately, majority went straight into my own tummy during my assignment writing. My snacking habits are rather disgusting but better this and raw almonds than Grain Waves, right? That’s what I keep telling myself but I’ve started punishing myself in the gym by going to RPM classes as well. My bottom hasn’t felt this sore since the first time I attempted ice skating and my friends refused to let me hold on to the sides. I did eventually learn to ice skate without falling but I fear my bum has been permanently flattened from that ordeal. My only consolation is it’s better to have a terribly sore but firm ass than a jiggly one that screams, “I ATE AN ENTIRE BATCH OF NORWEGIAN CINNAMON BUNS BY MYSELF!”

Perhaps a few more years down the road, my memory of this particular recipe would be of the time I made it whilst struggling through my painful assignments as a university student, or better yet, they will forever remind my friends of me and the batch I shared with them.