In the aftermath of the weekend of revelry, I decided to do something that I've wanted to do for quite some time: yeast free buns of some kind. This time, it's cinnamon rolls!
I have a few friends who are not only uncomfortable with wheat and gluten, but also with yeast. I've heard of a few people of late with yeast sensitivities or intolerances, and for the last year or so it's been a constant trial and error process of finding the best way of baking traditionally yeast leavened recipes without using yeast.
Spelt and yeast have a fraught relationship too, in my experience, so for my own peace of mind finding a way of making things without it would be just great. Last year, I attempted hot cross buns without yeast, but it was less than successful.
As such I took to the world wide web. I googled things like 'yeast free bread', or 'yeast free Chelsea buns' or 'hot cross buns', et cetera. However, the thing that brought the most promising results was searches for yeast free cinnamon rolls: apparently, Americans seem to want to have a yeast free life too.
This research brought up a few recipes that centre around the kind of dough used to make Southern American style 'biscuits'. What is called a biscuit over there seems to be something of a bready savoury scone, kind of like soda bread. Obviously, 'biscuit' over here means a little crunchy flat cake that you dip in your cup of tea, so this was a word I never considered googling to find a recipe for bread.
I compared a lot of recipes for 'biscuits', and found that overall it's a combination of flour, butter, buttermilk, and raising agents. The recipes all depend heavily on buttermilk, which makes designing a dairy free version kind of, well, impossible, unfortunately. But I will be developing that in the future.
Once I had compared and contrasted the recipes, I used the following recipe and it turned out very well! I will definitely convert this recipe into something suitable for a hot cross bun for Good Friday, and I'll also being having a go at something I personally feel a little more familiar with: a Chelsea bun.
- Use a soft touch with the dough: the more you work it, the tougher it will be when it's cooked: treat it like moose meat, or Swedish ladies.
- You need to use all spelt flour, just like you would when making bread: the whole spelt/cornflour mix just doesn't cut it like it does in cake.
- The trick to lovely fluffy and light no-yeast bread is the adage "cold dough, hot oven": all the ingredients must be cold, and the oven must be as hot as you can get it. My oven gets to about 220*C (450*F, Gas Mk.9), which is just about right. 250*C (500*F) would be better.
- Bake them so that they're nice and tightly packed: this ensures that they'll rise nicely and get the height they need.
So, let's get cracking!
For 12 cinnamon rolls
- 12 ounces (340 grammes) white spelt flour, refrigerated for 20 minutes
- 2 teaspoons (10 millilitres) baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (2 millilitres) bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 ounces (85 grammes) cold block butter, preferably frozen for 20 minutes
- 8 fluid ounces (240 millilitres) cold buttermilk
For the filling,
- 1 ounce (30 grammes) soft butter, for spreading
- 2 tablespoon (30 millilitres) soft brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) ground cinnamon
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon (2 millilitres) ground cloves
- 4 ounces (115 grammes) icing sugar
- Milk, to make up the glaze
- Preheat the oven to as hot as you can, about 220*C (450*F, Gas Mk. 9), and grease a 9 inch (22 centimetre) round tin.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, and salt. Mix to combine fully, then grate the butter in with the wide side of your box grater, dipping the butter in the flour after each grate.
- With your fingers, gently toss and break up the butter in the flour until you get a coarse crumbly mixture.
- Using the tip of a knife, stir in the buttermilk. The dough will be completely uneven: sticky in some places, dry in others, etc., but don't worry.
- Lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour, then turn out everything in the bowl. Gently flatten the dough, and fold it over, and flatten and fold until it becomes a smooth dough. This should take about 5 folds, and all the flour and buttermilk will be nicely brought together. Do not knead under any circumstances: the dough will get tough.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle about half an inch (about a centimetre) in thickness.
- In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the filling to make a paste. Spread the paste out on the dough rectangle, spreading all the way out to each short end, but leaving a border of about an inch (2 centimetres) at each wide side.
- Roll the dough into a sausage, wide side to wide side, keeping the dough roll nice and tight. Cut into 12 slices with a sharp knife.
- Arrange the slices, neatly packed, into the tin, and put in the centre of the preheated oven for about 20 minutes,or until nice and brown on the top. I actually took mine out a little too early because I was afraid of them being too crunchy.
- Mix the icing sugar with enough milk to make a thick but still running icing: it should coat the back of the spoon, but it should be able to run off.
- Take the buns out of the oven and, while still hot, spread the icing over the top of the buns. It will melt, but that's part of the charm.
- You can turn them out all in one big piece, allowing people to tear and share themselves, or you can cut around the edges and take each one out. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before eating freshly baked.
These are lovely and doughy, having the texture of a fluffy bread, but without the hassle of yeast. It's obviously not exactly the same as bread, but it's close enough!