It’s said that our sense of smell invokes profound feelings and emotions within us. Baking this spelt cinnamon bun cake put that to the test and confirmed that a tantalising aroma can put my brain into sensory overload.
The Road Less Travelled.
When talking of food, it’s easy to lapse into trite, oft-repeated phrases, loaded with food-friendly adjectives. An author’s job is to track down the scent of unique expression, rather than propping up the bar with descriptions that we’ve all heard before. Originality provokes interest, I often ponder over how to construct the description of a recipe, without resorting to the usual suspects of ‘simple’, ‘rich’, ‘tasty’, ‘easy’, ‘quick’. Rich brevity is the key to success.
It takes a deeper analysis of the food, a bear-hug of emotional connection with it and an expansive relationship with the English language to venture beyond the obvious.
Follow the Scent.
Estate agents advise making coffee and baking bread when selling a house, the aromas create a sense of homely invitation. Scrub that, I have a better suggestion. Buy some green coffee beans and roast them on your stove, the scent is purely hedonic. Bake cinnamon bun cake, to be specific, bake MY spelt cinnamon bun cake. Whilst it’s in the oven, the entire property will become engulfed with a billowing cloud of quintessentially comforting scents, evocative of warm, tender, sweet nurturing.
Earlier in the week, I tested this spelt cinnamon bun cake recipe to ensure that all of the measurements were pinpoint perfect. This blog is beginning to accrue one of the largest collections of unique spelt recipes around, I take huge pride in testing and ensuring the recipes are perfect. It’s very common elsewhere to see spelt recipes that are regular wheat recipes, with the word ‘spelt’ added to them. Those recipes don’t work very well, because spelt is a gentle character who needs to be handled with care and patience.
At the beginning of this recipe, the milk is warmed with the butter and spices. If using cow’s milk, this scalding breaks down the protein in the milk, which can otherwise damage gluten and minimise the rise of your dough. However, milk also serves as a benevolent packhorse for flavour, which can be saddled up, loaded with flavours and trotted through the dough.
An Olfactory Journey.
Infusing the milk offered the first aroma. As the butter melted into milk along with cardamom and cinnamon, it offered a flavour so enticing that it I had to exercise incredible restraint by not drinking it. It teased my peripheral vision as it cooled, beckoning me to slurp down a huge glug of it, to check if it’s flavour matched it’s glorious smell.
Kneading the dough after the first rise offered another hint of what fragrant dreams may come. Lifting the damp tea towel from the warm bowl exposed a tumescent ball of dough which proffered a gentle spiced aroma on the back of the baker’s-yeast waft. The dough teased me with an intermittant spiced breeze as I shaped it into a rectangle and topped it with butter, sugar and cinnamon, adding more fuel to the aromatic fire.
When the spelt cinnamon bun cake is cooking in the oven, ensure you’re sitting down with your seat in the upright position, seatbelt fastened and secure all loose items. The intoxicating scent will twirl through your house, evoking a romanticised feeling of pure homely comfort. Family, friends and relatives will creep out of their hiding places to peak at the miracle that is being created in the kitchen. They’ll be queueing up to try it.
Once out of the oven, this spelt cinnamon bun cake is best eaten when cooled to room temperature. However, waiting that long in the face of such a seductive, enrapturing smell may be too a leap too far for mere mortals, such as you and I.
Spelt Cinnamon Bun Cake
By Gavin Wren
Uses 23cm springform cake tin. Wooden spoon. Large mixing bowl. Small saucepan. Bowl and bench scraper.
225ml soy milk
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (you may need to grind the seeds of cardamom pods)
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
225g wholemeal spelt
225g white spelt + extra for dusting
100g golden caster sugar
0.25 teaspoon salt
7g fast acting dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
50g very soft butter
75g dark brown soft sugar
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Sift the dry dough ingredients into a large bowl, then add the egg and stir it in. Check the milk is at body temperature or cooler, then pour into the bowl and mix with the spoon.
It will be a sticky, tacky, pain-in-the-arse dough to work with. This is what you want.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface and dust it with a little more flour. Knead it gently with your dominant hand, then scrape it back into a ball with the bench scraper held in your other hand. If it’s a sticky mess, keep dusting with more flour and kneading, until it comes together into a sticky ball, rather than a sticky mess. I used about 30g of flour in this process.
Dust your mixing bowl and place the dough into it. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm place, ideally about 25ºC for an hour.
Grease the inside of your 23cm round springform cake tin with butter.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it three times, then roll out to A4 paper size, getting the corners as square as possible.
Spread the filling ingredients across the top, first the butter, then dust the cinnamon and sprinkle the sugar, making sure you fill corners – don’t deprive the recipients of the end-pieces! Pass the rolling pin across it, to squish the ingredients into the dough.
Starting with the long edge, roll the dough up. Slice it into seven even sized pieces, place the biggest in the middle of your baking tin and the remaining six evenly spaced around it.
Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in your warm place for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 9, 475ºF, 246ºC, 226ºC fan. For more info about oven temperatures, read my free guide, here.
Remove the tea towel and brush beaten egg across the top, you won’t need all of the egg. Scatter the demerara sugar across the top.
Place in the middle of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to gas mark 7, 425ºF, 218ºC, 198ºC fan. Cook for 10 minutes, then reduce to gas mark 4, 350ºF, 177ºC, 157ºC fan for a further 15 mins. Remove from the oven and check it’s cooked by tapping the bottom of the tin, it should sound hollow. If you are unsure, cook for a further five minutes.
Place on a rack to cool, removing the outer of the tin when possible, then tear of a chunk and savour the sweet, sweet aroma!