With most new spring bulbs planted snugly in the ground to appear from early January, I am ashamed to say that I am sitting looking at two huge boxes full of bulbs still in their net bags. I have taken it upon myself to plant over a thousand spring bulbs for a friend for whom spring 2017 will be significant, as it is likely to be her last. I wrote a couple of years ago in ‘Truly’ about Bhavna, my friend who is living with an aggressive brain tumour. Then I told you about her love of spices and pepper. However she also adores colour – the brighter the better, so this spring planting scheme will be a blaze! With Bhavna and her family’s agreement, we will plant the already potted bulbs by digging up the lawn to create new beds. Come January–April she will be able to enjoy the spring colour from the house. It should be quite a display.
I can’t be trusted with a bulb catalogue, especially those with ‘wholesale’ on the front as you can only buy in quantity, pampering to my weakness for doing things to excess. As well as the thousand plus bulbs for Bhavna, I also have 200 wild garlic rhizomes and 500 saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus) to plant in my own garden and am thankful for two young apprentices (13 years going on 14) who will be coming to help me tomorrow.
The saffron crocus grows well in this country although they flower in autumn rather than spring, which is why I am worried I have so many of them trying to flower in their net bags now. A very small amount of saffron can totally change the aroma and colour of a dish, and happily so, since saffron is the most expensive spice in the world – gosh I could be sitting on a gold mine! What I must master still, is the skill it takes to collect (with tweezers), dry and grade the saffron laced stamens. So….look out. My saffron could be sold in Ludwell Stores in a couple of years – who couldn’t resist a few grams of local gold dust!
Whilst I love the intense colour of saffron, for me I associate it more with summer, so at this time of year I turn to cinnamon. Christmas memories for me are sparked by the smell of cinnamon, in iced biscuits and mulled wine for example, filling the house with their amazing aromas. I am a great fan of cinnamon, probably using it more in sweet rather than in savoury dishes although they can be spectacular there too, adding colour and depth to Moroccan dishes like tagine. I might add cinnamon to ice cream, apple puree, custards and pies perhaps with some star anise or nutmeg. To add a word of caution however, I find ground cinnamon stales more quickly than any other spice so check the best before date or you will be adding coloured dust to your dishes, rather unpleasant and disappointing. Do try these wonderful cinnamon rolls this season, giving yourself a few relaxing moments to knead and roll before family and guests arrive home to the wondrous smell of home baking and yes, of Christmas. Have a merry one everyone.
Makes 24 if you are skilled and experienced, however for those trying this for the first time (and you really must – it’s easy-peasy) you will have anything between 1 merged lumpy loaf for tearing and sharing or 30 smaller buns. Read the recipe first as it’s best to have trays buttered and mixes made beforehand.
Approx. £5.75 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
Cinnamon roll dough
250 ml warm milk
2½ tsp (or one packet) yeast
110 g caster sugar
113 g butter – melted gently
2 tsp salt
2 eggs (medium) mixed together well
575 g plain flour and a little for handling
Cinnamon roll filling
220 g soft brown sugar
2½ tbs freshly ground cinnamon
113 g butter
Cinnamon roll frosting
113 g softened butter
192 g icing sugar
57 g cream cheese
½ tbs vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 200°C / Gas mark 6. AGA top oven – middle shelf (at stage 8)
1. Add the yeast and sugar to the warm milk in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine and allow the yeast to foam. Once the yeast has stopped bubbling, stir in the melted butter, salt, eggs and flour. Gently mix until well combined.
2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10–12 minutes (it will be wet to start, don’t despair), then form a large ball and place into a large buttered bowl.
3. Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and stand in a warm place, allowing to rise to double the size.
4. Place the risen dough on a large lightly floured surface and roll to a 1 cm (¼ inch) thickness. Your dough sheet will be quite large. Keep the dough long side to you (i.e. rectangle landscape style).
5. Spread the softened butter (not melted) over the top of the dough (be gentle).
6. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle generously all over the buttered dough, right to the edges.
7. Now …. with the long edge to you (as above landscape orientation), start to roll the dough tightly, front to back, long edge first like a tight swiss roll, until a log of rolled dough has been formed (with lovely layers of cinnamon sugar visible).
8. Taking a sharp knife, cut the dough roll in 2.5 cm (1 inch) slices and place on a lightly buttered sheet.
9. Allow rolls to rise for 30 minutes then cook until lightly browned for 15–20 minutes only. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
10. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by creaming together butter, icing sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and salt.
11. Spread frosting generously over rolls while they are warm. Please share them.
A truly, truly scrumptious treat especially with a mug of steaming hot chocolate
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.