For those who’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that my idea of the ultimate baked breakfast food is something that fits somewhere betweeen bread and cake. I grew up in Cape Town with a Jewish grandmother who made legendardy challahs and orange cakes each Friday, and I’ve never really lost the sense that a weekend is somehow more complete when the house has been filled with the sweet fragrance of baking bread.
“Recipes do not belong to anyone – given to me, I give them to you. Recipes are only a guide, a skeletal framework, to be fleshed out according to your nature and desire. Your life, your love, will bring these recipes into full creation. This cannot be taught. You already know. So plunge in: cook, love, feel, create. Actualize breadmaking itself.” (Edward Espe Brown)
So, setting aside the sourdough non-starter, for a bit, I decided this morning that it’s been far too long since I did a good, sweet breakfast bread. The very first book I ever ordered off Amazon was a little book called The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. It was first published in 1970, and I notice with interest that the copyright is assigned to the Chief Priest, Zen Centre, San Francisco. Edward Brown is a Zen priest who lives in San Francisco, and the book is suffused with a gentle, meditative and loving approach to bread-baking.
I’ve used this book so often that it has the look of an old schoolbook handed from one generation to the next. The page with the classic Tassajara Yeasted Bread recipe is literally worn through (fortunately the recipe is repeated in various forms elsewhere in the book, and by now it’s etched in memory too).
As the author says, though the recipes all lend themselves to creative variations. I love the Tassajara Yeasted Breakfast Bread Dough, which forms the basis of cinnamon rolls or coffee cakes or other breakfast breads with sweet fillings.
Note: Most bread recipes will divide the breadmaking process into two parts: making the sponge, and then turning it into dough. This is followed by rising and baking stages. With fast-action or instant yeast, you can conceivably leave out the sponge step. I still like letting the sponge develop. If you’re a fan of less kitchen time, mix up the whole thing in one go. It’ll still work.
Date and cinnamon buns
2 packages dry yeast
1 1/2 cups unbleached white or wholewheat flour
3 tablespoons honey or sugar
1 cup lukewarm water + 1/3 cup dry milk OR 1 cup of warm milk (can be soya)
1 egg, beaten (vegans can leave this out)
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates
zest of 1 – 2 lemons
3 tablespoons butter or oil
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 – 2 cups more flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup butter, softened/melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
egg, beaten with about 2 tablespoons of cold water for brushing onto dough before baking (vegans can use soymilk or margarine, or leave this bit out)
1. Mix up the dry ingredients from the Part 1 list. Stir in the wet ingredients and beat it well – about 100 strokes. Leave it somewhere warm for about 10 to 15 minutes, til it’s bubbly and puffy.
2. Fold in the oil and salt. Then mix in 1 more cup of flour till the dough starts coming away from the sides of the bowl. I like adding the rest of the flour by hand, as it gradually forms an elastic dough.
3. Turn it out of a board and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be soft, smooth and encouraging, and shouldn’t tear easily.
4. Leave it in an oiled bowl in a warm place to rise for 30-40 minutes.
5. Roll it out on a floured board to a rectangle of about 30 by 35 cm (12 x 14″).
6. Spread the butter onto the rectangle, and sprinkle the rest of the filling ingredients onto it too.
7. Gently roll it up into a long log shape, and slice it into sections about 2 to 3 cm (1/2 – 3/4 inch) thick.
8. Place the sections flat on a greased baking sheet, leaving a bit of space around them for rising and spreading out. At this point, you can freeze them if you like – I froze half the batch for another morning! If you’re baking them now, them rise for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
7. Brush them with the egg solution, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown.