The book had arrived my challenge could at last begin. The book looked wonderful and so enticing, I couldn’t wait to start.
But first things first, I had to read through the fantastic introduction, after which there is a page on ‘Bun Ingredients’. It was lovely to see that in all the recipes you could use fresh, dried or instant yeast. A lot of the bread books I have only give measurements usually for one, so I was pleased to see this as sometimes I bake with fresh yeast and other times I use instant yeast, so there would be no excuse now not to bake (not that there normally is). Jane gives a very detailed description of ‘Working with Your Dough’ which was quite different from the way I had been used to making bread, so this should be interesting. Finally there was a few pages on shaping techniques – again quite different from how I usually shape my buns!!
I was now at the recipes. The next thing to do was to pick one, but which one. I looked through the book numerous times and quite a few recipes jumped out at me, but I couldn’t decide which one to bake. It was left to the family in the end of pick one. However, I had one vital ingredient missing for the first recipe, but a couple of days later when I had to quickly nip into town for a few bits and pieces, I picked up the missing ingredient – Pecan Nuts. The challenge could now begin…
My apologies, I think this blog may be a little long, but please keep reading..
At the beginning of each recipe Jane puts a few words explaining the bread, hopefully she won’t mind if I take this small extract from her book to let you know a little about it too
“The origin of the name Monkey Buns (also called Monkey Puzzle Bread, Sticky Bread, African Coffee Cake, Goden Crown, Pinch-Me Cake, Bubble Loaf and Money Brains) is uncertain. What is not uncertain is that it is delicious in almost any form”
- 600g plain flour
- 12g fresh yeast/3g instant years/6g dry yeast
- 50g sugar
- 225g full fat milk (heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature)
- 12g salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 50g butter
For the Deliciousness
- 100g brown sugar
- 2 tblsp cinnamon
- 100g chopped pecans
- 100g butter
- Bundt Tin or Large (solid bottom) Deep Baking Tin
- 200°C (400°F), Gas 6, Fan 180°C
Having read through the recipe quite a few times in the past few days, I knew the first thing I had to do was to heat the milk up. So when I got up in the morning, I put a pan on the cooker and heated up the milk and put it to one side to cool, whilst I had my first cup of tea for the day, breakfast etc etc, the usual things we all have to do first thing in the morning. By the time I was ready the milk had cooled sufficiently. Into a bowl I put the flour (and I admit I was surprised to see that most of the recipes in the book actually use plain flour and not the strong bread flour that I am used to making bread with) and made a well. Into the well I crumbled the fresh yeast and the sugar. It was then time to pour over the milk. Aaargh, when I went to weigh the milk I found I didn’t have enough, even though I’d followed Jane’s tip to heat up more milk than was needed as it has the ability to reduce in quantity dramatically once heated. I quickly heated a little more milk up and poured this into my already cooled milk. Luckily I didn’t need too much, so it didnt affect the temperature considerably. The milk was poured into the well and then some of the flour flicked over the top of it. This had to rest for an hour, which was perfect timing as it meant I could take the dog out for his walk before I went on to the next stage. I do intend on taking quite a few photos of my experience, but I didn’t take a photo of this first stage as it really didn’t look much different from a ‘bowl of flour’.
Having walked the dog, in the sunshine for once, I was ready for the next stage. I was pleased to see that the yeast had started fermenting and a few bubbles were appearing through the flour. The salt was sprinkled around the edge of the flour and the eggs and vanilla extract were put into the middle. I started to mix everything together with a knife, but soon it was a case of putting my hand in to bring it all together to form the dough.
The dough was turned out onto an unfloured board and with the timer set for 10 minutes I was off kneading. The buzzer soon went off and I had a lovely smooth dough. The next part was another first for me. Usually I put the butter in at the beginning, but in this recipe you cube the butter up and add it now to the dough. I flattened the ball of dough out slightly and put half the butter into the middle and pulled the edges over the top of it. I kneaded it a few times and then spread it out again and added the remaining butter. With the timer set for another 10 minutes, I was off kneading again. Hopefully I’ll soon get rid of my bat wings with all this kneading (I hope so anyway!). This is where it started to become a little messy. Although the butter had come straight out of the fridge, the cubes were so small that they soon began to soften. To begin with it wasn’t too bad, the butter was in the middle of the dough, but as I kneaded it a little more, thedough began to split and the small cubes were being spread across the board. Not to be disillusioned, I scraped them up with my dough scraper, put them back onto the dough and carried on kneading. Within 5 minutes the butter had all been incorporated and I had a lovely smooth dough to knead for the last five minutes. Back into the bowl it went. I coveredit with a ‘shower cap’ (just one of the cheap ones, which covers the bowls perfectly). It now had to be left for two hours. I’m loving this recipe, it means I do a little, have time to go off and do something else and then come back and continue with it!
It was actually a little longer than 2 hours when I returned as the dog had to have yet another visit to the vets – I actually asked them if they did a loyalty card as I seem to have spent most of the month and most of my money this month with them! They are lovely there and the dog actually loves going to see them, although my purse doesn’t. Anyway, enough of that, back to the recipe!
It was now time to shape the dough. The dough was tipped out gently onto an unfloured board, I was determined not to use any extra flour and divided into 4 portions. I actually weighed the bread so that each portion was the same. Each portion had to be shaped into a tight sausage. You’re probably all thinking, hang on she hasn’t knocked the bread back. No, that is another thing that you shouldn’t do. Instead you should ‘stretch and fold’ the dough. I quickly turned to the beginning of the book to make sure I did this correctly. Basically you need to pretend your dough is a clock. Starting at noon, pinch about 1cm from the edge of the dough and pull it away from the blob, stretching it as far as you can without breaking it. Fold the pinched piece back over the blob and gently lay it down. Continue around the blob, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc etc. I found it easier to turn the dough around, rather than trying to twist yourself and your hands around the dough. Once this had been down it was time to shape the dough into a tight sausage.
Each sausage was then cut into 6 pieces, so you ended up with a total of 24 even pieces. These were put onto a board and covered with a clean tea-towel and left to rest for 15 minutes. Whilst the dough was resting I greased my bundt tin (although a deep round tin can be used if you haven’t got one). A great tip in the book is to use a pan with a solid base not a removeable one because the butter that goes on at the end will leak out and go all over the bottom of your oven. I’ve made that mistake in the past, so I was pleased to see this tip in the book!
I also took the opportunity to get the ‘deliciousness’ ready. The brown sugar and cinnamon was mixed together and the pecans were chopped up. In a jug I melted the butter and allowed it to cool (you don’t want it at boiling point).
Once the pieces of dough had rested, they had to be rolled into tight balls. This is something I love doing when making buns, for some reason I find it very relaxing and theraputic (I’m easily pleased). To roll the dough into a ball, cup your hand over the dough with your fingertips on the table and your palm touching the dough. Move your hand around in a circle, keeping your fingers on the table and your palm gently on the dough (don’t push down). Because the dough is slightly sticky it creates enough tension to pull the surface of the dough around itself.
Six dough balls were placed in the bottom of the bundt tin and a third of the cinnamon sugar was sprinkled over the top, together with a third of the pecan nuts. This process was repeated until all of the dough balls, cinnamon sugar and pecans had been used up. The tin was covered with the shower cap again and left for 45 minutes. I was pleased to see after this time that the ‘buns’ had increased in size.
With 10 minutes to go the oven was put on to preheat. I reduced the temperature by 20°C as I have a fan oven and I wasn’t sure whether or not the temperature in the book was for a fan oven or not, so to be on the safe side I thought I’d reduce the temperature for the first recipe.
Before baking the buns the melted butter was poured evenly over them – the reason you don’t want to use a loose bottomed tin! Into the oven it went for 45 minutes. Within about 10 minutes the smell of buttery cinnamon was wafting through the house. After 30 minutes the top of the tin was covered with foil so the buns didn’t go too brown during the last 15 minutes. Once removed from the oven the buns were allowed to rest for 10 minutes before turning out. I’ll admit I didn’t think they would turn out, I thought they would stick, but they didn’t. The finished product looked amazing, although it did look a little too brown compared to the photograph in the book. I think in hindsight I should have used light brown sugar, but I used dark brown sugar (well it wasn’t that dark more of a medium brown) – hopefully it wouldn’t make too much difference to the flavour. The bottom of the ‘bun cake’, ie before turning it out looked the same colour as the photo in the book.
I couldn’t wait to dive in. I ripped a bun off the stack and wow, they were amazing, I don’t think I have every made such light buns. The buttery cinnamon sugary outside was to die for and the pecans topped it all off. Even my son liked it and he is so, so fussy, he drives me mad when I bake things and he says he doesn’t like it. Within minutes he was back for more. It is the sort of bread you can eat any time of day. My husband had some for his breakfast the next morning and even took some into work – it must have been good.
So pleased with my first recipe, although it does look a little dark, but it’s definitely not burnt, I think the buns have taken on the colour of the sugar – obviously the sugar I used was a little too dark! Can’t wait now to bake the next recipe!!