It was May 2020, the first lockdown. Everything was closed. Everyone was asked to stay at home. During this time, everyone started baking, but for Robin, the baking bug had started a few months prior. Baking cinnamon buns, in particular. She put two and two together and started an Instagram campaign called ‘Sunday Bunday’. People could order buns through her account, and Robin would deliver them every Sunday by race bike.
It was through ordering buns that Vincent and Susan met Robin and, fast forward, indirectly, how Robin ended up applying to join the marketing team at SUSAN BIJL. Robin has been part of our team for a few years now, and we call ourselves lucky (and admittedly clever) that she still sometimes bakes buns at the office.
With Easter approaching, below is the revisited buns recipe and a few notes by Robin herself:
My love for baking buns started mainly because I failed many times. Just before COVID I had a month of free time and wanted to get better at baking. I tried many things, from sourdough bread to eclairs.
My boyfriend suggested I make buns because he had great memories of eating them in Scandinavia. It took me 7 attempts to create something edible. Anyone who says it’s easy is lying, or so I thought. I studied approx 20 different bun recipes to create one that worked best for me. Perseverance and slight anger made me determined to improve.
I admit, though, that every bake is a gamble. Many factors are weighing in, from weather to the type of oven and ingredients. Having baked in many different kitchens under many different circumstances, I hope I’ve written a recipe that is accessible and inspiring. My main advice is to keep going and try again if needed; next week will be another Sunday! (Or any other day, of course).
Another tip that helped me during my days of desperation and despair is: ‘Don’t be afraid of the dough. You are in charge; the dough is your friend.
A few notes on the recipe:
I tie my buns in a knot. This takes more time and effort, but I like the look of it. If it’s your first time, no pressure on looks. It’s the taste that counts and in Julia Child’s voice: ‘Never apologise!’. You can also roll the dough and cut pieces to create ‘rolls’. A quick google search will show you how.
Glazing: Like Rome, there are many ways to get your buns golden brown. I usually glaze them straight after baking instead of using egg wash before they go in the oven. The sugar glaze creates extra shine and a touch of stickiness.
Extravagant topping: I’ve recently started using a white miso topping inspired by Nigel Slater (my cooking hero). If you’re into anything with the word ‘umami’ or ‘sweet & salt’, I highly recommend trying it!
Makes 10-12 buns
170g butter* (93g for the dough and the rest for the filling)
7g instant dry yeast
120g ish soft dark brown sugar + 1/4 cup for glazing. You can any sugar, or a mix. My preference is brown sugar as it creates a slight syrup-like texture.
cinnamon (and cardamon if you like)
* All dairy products can be substituted with plant-based products. I use 93g of dairy butter in the dough and approximately 75g of vegan butter spread for the filling because it spreads so nicely. If you’re using dairy butter for the filling, make sure it is soft. If your dairy butter is not soft enough to spread, you could grate it on the dough sheet.
In a small pan, slowly melt 93g butter. When melted, turn off the heat and add the milk. The mixture is now lukewarm; you can add the instant dry yeast. (Anything above 36C will ‘kill’ the yeast)
Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.
Add the lukewarm milk mixture and stir until no dry patches are left. Add the salt and mix again.
Now the kneading process can start. If you’re using a stand mixer, start on the lowest setting and knead for approx 4 minutes. Transfer the wet dough to a clean and dry surface if you're kneading by hand. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes with the ‘slap & fold’ method. (There are many instruction videos on YouTube, this is just an example.) If you’re using a stand mixer, check after 4 minutes and stop kneading when the dough is wrapped around the dough hook. With both kneading methods, you can check if the dough has been kneaded enough by doing a ‘windowpane test’. Drizzle a few tiny drops of oil in your used bowl and return the dough ball to the bowl.
Cover with a clean tea towel (or shower cap!) and rest in a warm place for about 40/45 minutes, till doubled in size.
After the first rest
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside for later. Carefully scrape dough on a lightly floured surface. Massage the dough for a few seconds with your hands as if gently waking up the dough. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough to an A3 size rectangle, with the long edge closest to your body. If the dough isn’t stretching enough, leave it for a minute or so and continue. Not too thin; you’ll flatten and stretch the sheet even more later.
Cover the sheet of dough with approx 75g of either soft butter or vegan butter Lightly sprinkle the brown sugar, making sure the whole surface is covered. Not too thick, as brown sugar can become very liquid and heavy. Lastly, sprinkle cinnamon all over. And if you like, cardamon. Fold your sheet in 3, like a letter: top long edge to the middle first, then the bottom long edge.
Gently roll and stretch the folded sheet with a floured rolling pin. You’ll end up with a rectangular sheet of roughly 15cm X 35cm. Cut strings of 3cm / 2 fingers width. Create ‘legs’ by cutting the middle of each string to 2cm near the end.
Now the knotting can start
Spin the legs around themselves, creating a swirl (think whipped cream on hot chocolate). Tuck away the end of the swirl gently underneath.
Place the knotted buns on your baking tray with three fingers distance; they will expand! Cover with a tea towel, and rest in a warm place for approx 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 220C.
Prep your glazing
Sugar glazing: Combine 1/4 cup (brown) sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small pan. On low heat, slowly melt the sugar. When melted, turn up the heat slightly and simmer to thicken the liquid, making it more of a syrup-like texture. Not too thick, but just enough!
White miso topping: Mix 1 tablespoon of white miso paste with 20ml of boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Sieve approx 70g of icing sugar into the bowl, beating with a small whisk to a coating consistency. Taste as you go along! Add more if you want it sweeter.
When the buns have rested, place them in the middle of the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. When the buns are golden brown, take them out of the oven. Transfer the sheets of parchment paper with the buns to cool on a cooling rack. Gently brush the buns with the glazing syrup. If you’re using the miso topping, give it a few minutes before generously covering the buns. Leave them to set and rest for at least 15 minutes as the interior of the dough is still adjusting to life. It’ll be worth the wait!