Violet Bakery Cinnamon Buns

If you like cinnamon buns and you like biscuits, then these sweetly spiced little numbers are for you.  The dough is melt in your mouth flakey, with a salty note from the baking powder that is perfectly balanced by the buttery cinnamon sugar filling.  A final dusting of crunchy sugar at the end serves to enhance their rustic beauty and adds another layer of sweetness and texture.  

The best thing of all about these buns is they don't need to be proofed.  There's no yeast and only a 10 minute rising time because the dough is actually more biscuit than bread.  The recipe comes from one of my favourite baking books The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak.  Ptak worked with celebrated American chef and food activist Alice Waters for years before moving to London and subsequently starting her own popular bakery, The Violet Bakery.  She says of this recipe, that the dough was inspired by quick breads of the 1950's.  To me it's like a more refined, homemade version of bisquick, that all purpose baking mix that can be used for everything from pancakes to chicken pot pie.   When I was a kid, I remember enviously eying those bright yellow boxes in friend's cupboards after school and asking if they maybe, you know, wanted to make some biscuits?   And the add-ins were endless!   At our house there were only ever two types of mixes:  a special cinnamon swirl muffin mix that my Mom would buy on shopping trips to Buffalo and Quaker oatmeal muffin mix so anyone over the age of 8 could bake muffins at their leisure.  Made from scratch was the general rule, and while I sometimes felt deprived of those brightly coloured packages and novel flavours calling out from grocery store shelves,  I'm now grateful for all that my "from scratch" upbringing taught me.  Especially when it means that I can wake up on a Saturday morning and and be eating fresh, homemade cinnamon buns in less than an hour!  

From The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Preheat the oven to 390F and grease a 12 cup muffin pan. 
For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

Melt the butter and in a separate bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup plus 1 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1 1/2 cups cold milk
sugar for dipping
butter for greasing

In the bowl of a standard mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients with the butter and mix until you have a coarse meal.  Slowly pour in the milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms into a ball and comes away from the sides of the bowl.   Turn the dough on a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes.  Fold it over once or twice to pull together and then leave for 10 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's a large rectangle about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Brush the surface with the melted butter and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar into a good, thick layer.

Roll up the dough, starting at the long side, keeping it neat and tight.  Once it's rolled up, squeeze it to make sure it's the same thickness throughout.  Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into 12 even slices.  Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom of the roll.  Place it in the muffin pan, flap side down.  Repeat with remaining slices.   

Bake buns for 25 minutes.  As soon as they're out, transfer them to a cooling rack .  Dip each bun into a bowl of sugar and eat immediately!  

These buns can be made ahead of time and frozen in the muffin tin until ready to bake.  






Spicy Tofu Crumbles with Quick Pickled Cabbage

For the first 5 weeks leading up to the holiday season, we celebrate at least one family member's birthday a week. This includes dinners and brunches and and cake filled celebrations all of which roll on into more festive gatherings and heavy eating for the Holidays.  So, to counter all of this delectable debauchery and to stay friends with my non-elastic waisted pants,  I try my best to eat breakfasts and lunches are light and nourishing, which for me is mostly plants.    


In order to actually make this happen, I have get organized, otherwise I'll just grab whatever is easy (i.e. cheese and bread).  So I make up batches of green smoothies and homemade vanilla almond milk to soak my oats in for breakfast.  For lunch, I make hearty veggie stews and soups that I can eat for a week or chuck in the freezer in individual servings,  or I gather up the ingredients for a big satisfying Grain Bowl a.k.a. Dragon Bowl a.k.a. Buddha Bowl. Whatever I end up eating, it has to be sufficient and satisfying, or I will inevitably end up raiding the stash of kid snacks before dinner, which post-Halloween is particularly dangerous.  

Sometime last year, during a similar healthy lunch kick this Bon Appetit feature came up in one of my feeds about How to Make a Week's worth of Healthy Meals in Two Hours. (I think the internet might be reading my mind!)  Included in the mix, was a recipe for Spicy Tofu Crumbles made with mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste I buy at PAT, a well known Korean grocery store here in Toronto. (BA says you can also sub Sriracha).   At the time, as is often my way with cabbage, I had purposeless, leftover cabbage kicking around, because one cabbage can provide a little too much cabbage eating for my family.   So, inspired by a few recipes I’d recently seen in whole foods blogs and books, I whipped up a batch of quick pickled red cabbage to go with the tofu crumbles, both of which could last in my fridge for up to 5 days - a perfect match.  I steamed up some quinoa and broccoli for added flavour and texture, et voila I had my very own week’s worth of healthy meals. 

This combination was so intensely flavourful, fresh and satisfying that I’ve repeated it many times since, with some variation depending on the season and what’s in my fridge.  It’s a perfect balance of tangy, spicy and crunchy and I swear these tofu crumbles could convert even the biggest tofu-hater.  You can stack it in a mason jar and take it to work, or pile it up in a big bowl at home.  I usually garnish it with some seeds and a few slices of avocado for added richness. 

As a bonus, both the tofu crumbles and the cabbage work in many other ways, together or separate - in tacos, on salads, in stir-fry or even in guacamole. So if you’re also looking to cram in a week of wholesome meals in before the Holidays while also committing to an entire beautiful purple cabbage while it’s in season, this is a great way to go.   

1 lb extra-firm tofu, sliced ¾ inch thick
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. mirin
2 Tbsp. Sriracha or gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. neutral flavoured oil

Press slices of tofu with a paper towel to dry.  Heat oil in a medium pan and then fry the tofu slices on both sides until golden brown, around 5 to 7 minutes total.  Whisk together remaining ingredients.  Once tofu slices are cool enough to handle, crumble into the spice mixture and toss to combine.  Store in a jar or glass container for up to 5 days in the fridge.  Makes 1.5 cups or around 4 servings.  

1/2 of a red cabbage, or around 4 cups, shredded or sliced thin
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
Massage vinegar and salt into the cabbage until soft, around 2 minutes.  Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Makes 4 cups.  

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa and then add it to a pot with 1.75 cups of broth (I like better than bouillon) or water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it "pops".   

Steam 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets for 3 minutes, until bright green and still crisp.

To assemble take 1 cup of cooked quinoa and top with generous handfuls of spicy tofu, pickled cabbage and broccoli.  Garnish with preferred seeds and avocado slices.

The quantities here will give you 3 to 4 hearty bowls depending on appetite size and other add ins.  Everything should last up to 5 days in the fridge.