17 November 2015

Christmas Spiced Chestnut Cinnamon Buns & Cream Cheese Frosting

 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go

Its round about now that this Christmas song get's stuck in my head until the New Year. I don't have a problem with it, I'm feeling plenty Christmassy already having nailed all my Christmas shopping last weekend. Honestly I'm not normally this organised but as I don't have any free weekends between now and Christmas I've had to get it all done way in advance. In previous years my brother and I have been known to leave our Christmas shopping till the 24th of December (not ashamed) but this year I am the queen of present buying.

Anyway as you all know I'm a holiday lover (it's not just Halloween and Valentines Day people, see posts here and here, respectively) and Christmas is the holiday to rule them all! I can't wait to light up my pine scented candles (yes I bought shed loads, still searching for the allusive pine scented tea lights though) and crack out the Christmas Carols while wrapping up presents festive style. Usually all Christmas activity is banned in our house till December as Dan, my live at home man, is a Christmas scrooge till December 1st when he becomes the most excitable Christmas elf I've ever known. In truth, when December strikes, I think he loves Christmas even more than I do although it is debatable. 

There's a lot of things I'm not allowed to do before December because they've been deemed by Dan to be too Christmassy, including these Christmas Spiced Chestnut Cinnamon Buns (I mean Christmas is their first name) but I had the perfect excuse to make them when British Lion Eggs asked me to put together a recipe using their namesake. Plus Cinnamon Buns hide everything including their Christmassy filling of mincemeat and chestnuts. In this recipe I used a jar of mincemeat (not actual meat for those living outside the UK) I've been hoarding to make mince pies with but if you don't have a stash carefully hidden away and have no idea how to get hold of some you can make it yourself. Mincemeat is incredibly easy to make (I like this recipe here) and isn't confined to the English's favourite mince pies, you can throw it into cakes, crumbles or do what I do and chuck it (nicely roll it) into your enriched dough. It's effectively brown sugar, suet, lots of dried fruit, brandy and mixed peel, with your odd variation.

 I used to find making bread an absolute nightmare so would never attempt anything more difficult than a plain white loaf (very boring I know), but now I've got my proving method down I feel like I can bake anything (bigging myself up for a huge fail now) or at least an enriched dough. Is it just me or are enriched doughs the staple of Christian holidays? You've got your Hot Cross Buns for Easter, Italian Panettone at Christmas and King Cake for Epiphany. There's some history behind that and how Brioche was originally made to be a rich and extravagant bread just for the Church but I say let everyone eat brioche (or cake as the French phrase is commonly misinterpreted)!

In fact if there's one thing I love more than Christmas it's the food at Christmas, King Cake, old faithful mince pies and of course Swiss fondue. As my family is Swiss French our big celebration is on Christmas Eve. This usually consists of a big family get together or party with tons of food but always a big pot of Swiss fondue for the main course, where we dunk bread, baby potatoes and pickled veg into molten comte and gruyere cheese. There's always a lot of wine involved (word to the wise, if you're eating fondue never drink beer alongside you'll have the worst hangover ever, trust me just don't do it) which leads to plenty of forfeits when people lose their desired dipping object in the fondue pot. After fondue, I normally go out to meet some friends for a few drinks at the local pub before joining my family for Midnight Mass at Church. This has on a few occasions led to all my friends and almost half the pub coming to Mass, but the more the merrier (often literally).  

Owing to our big celebration the night before, Christmas Day has to start off with some heavy breakfasting. We're talking eggs, bacon (soz veggie friends), sausages, the whole shebang, as well as plenty of doughy goodness. That's where these Christmas Spiced Chestnut Cinnamon Buns come to play. They're fragrant from all the mince meat and spices, the chestnuts and walnuts add a great texture and nutty flavour, and you can't beat an enriched dough with a cup of tea for breakfast. In France you often dip your pastries and brioche into hot chocolate for breakfast and these buns would make perfect dipping fodder. Whatever you do, don't forgo the icing, the recipe I've used makes tons of cream cheese frosting, we're talking a jam jar full. Don't be tempted to cut it down, you'd only be hurting yourself. Pour it onto the rolls like you'd pour cream onto cake before you serve them. It is quite frankly delicious. Very similar to the one served at Cinnabon (my American chain weakness). I'm a bit of a restaurant snob (what? No!), it's true, but there will always be a place in my heart for Cinnabon and their cinnamon buns.

If you're wondering where the hell you're going to find time to make these buns, don't they have to rise for ages. Let me just say this is one of the quickest doughs I've ever made. Using my proving in the oven method they only take an hour and a half to prove. So you can leave the dough to do it's thing while you peel the mountain of vegetables for your Christmas dinner. They're a deliciously extravagant bread, with very little faff involved. My perfect kind of bread. Anyway before I move on to my top 10 breads, let's get down to the recipe.

Christmas Spiced Chestnut Cinnamon Buns & Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes 9 large buns and a jam jar of frosting)

500g strong white bread flour
5 1/2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
7g dried yeast
300ml milk
270g butter
200g cream cheese
400g icing sugar
1 egg (I used a British Lion Egg)
100g baked and peeled chestnuts
80g chopped walnuts
250g mincemeat
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Step 1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and create a well in the middle. In a saucepan heat the milk and 40g of the butter until the butter is melted, then set until it's lukewarm (tip is to put your finger in the mix if it's too hot to the touch leave it for a little longer, until the mix is comfortably warm). Once the milk is lukewarm add the yeast and 1 tbsp dark brown sugar and leave to stand for 10 minutes so the yeast can start fermenting. 

Step 2. After 10 minutes pour the yeasty milk into the well with the beaten egg and mix it with a wooden spoon (or your fancy pants dough hook if you're lucky enough to have an electric mixer) until it begins to come together into a dough.

Step 3. Once the dough has come together, knead it on a floured surface for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and is no longer sticky. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove for 1 hour. If like me, you don't have a warm place to prove your dough you can prove the dough in the oven. To do this put a large roasting tin filled with boiling water from the kettle on the bottom shelf of the oven, then put the dough on the top shelf (do not cover it with a tea towel). Once that's done, on your normal oven setting (not fan that will dry the dough out) turn the oven on to 200°C for exactly 1 minute then turn it off. Bear in mind you're not waiting for the oven to come up to 200°C. 

Step 4. While the dough is proving, make the filling for the rolls. Blend the chestnuts to a paste, and in a bowl combine the mincemeat, chestnut paste, chopped walnuts, nutmeg, ground allspice, 1/2 tbsp cinnamon and 4 1/2 tbsp soft dark brown sugar. 

Step 5. Once the dough has proven till doubled in size after 1 hour, knock the dough back by kneading it on a floured surface until it's the same size then roll the dough out into a 1cm thick rectangle. Melt 30g butter and brush the dough all over with the butter then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon on top before evenly spreading the mincemeat mix over the dough. 

Step 6. Dough covered, it's time to roll it up lengthways into a tight cylinder and cut it into nine 4 cm thick rounds. Place these rounds onto a lined baking tray and let them prove for 30 minutes until doubled in size.

Step 7. Heat the oven to 180°C and bake the rolls in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown. I'm not going to lie I like to eat these hot straight out of the oven without even a backwards glance but when they're cool I'll put a bit of cream cheese frosting on them or just dip them into a bowl full. To make the cream cheese frosting combine 200g softened butter, 200g cream cheese and 400g icing sugar together until smooth and creamy, good for drizzling or just drinking out of the jar!

Just looking at these photos is making me hungry for Christmas. I'm so excited to go home and celebrate with my family, and for a cheeky couple of drinks with my friends before Midnight Mass. I don't attend a Church where we live right now (haven't found one that fits), one of the things I love about living in and around London is the amount of different communities you have. Every year the Muslim community donates the money for a huge Christmas Tree to go up in the town centre where we live and it makes me proud to live somewhere where, on the whole, communities can live together peacefully. Anyway in short of this turning into a political crusade, I'm going to eat another cinnamon bun. Make a batch, share them around, and spread peace and good will to all men (and women!).
Thanks to Fran from Total Media and British Lion Eggs for sponsoring this post. Check out British Lion Egg's website for more egg recipes. All opinions are from yours truly!

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