Every now and then I go on a bit of a homebaking binge. Not my usual homebaking — I have just about managed to stick to my resolution to bake a loaf of bread every week, and I’ve even added bagels to my repertoire! — but the baking equivalent of exotic birds of paradise. Last weekend I had a craving for hazelnut-chocolate biscotti and whipped up a batch (they mysteriously vanished before they could be documented…), this past weekend I decided I was in desperate need of a sticky bun.
As a non-egg-eater, sticky buns have been off my radar for ages. There is a very occasional blip when I decide to make cinnamon rolls, or on the rare instance I find a vegan one in a cafe. But generally, no eggs means no sticky buns. I’m not actually that put out by it, as I don’t often get cravings for sweets (these last two weeks not withstanding!), but I am one among a legion who really REALLY REALLY wish the people who cater vegan-friendly sweets would step off the flapjack wagon.
Vegans are not all oat-loving granola eaters.
Sometimes the Very Vegetarian just wants cake.
And that leads me to the Plummy Sticky Bun. A fruity variation of the cinnamon roll, this is a perfect teatime treat that will make your vegan (and non-vegan) friends love you.
(Note: This recipe is really easy to de-vegan: butter for marg, dairy milk for non-dairy, honey for maple syrup — easy peasy.)
2/3 c. non-dairy milk
2 tbsp. vegan margarine
3 tbsp. water
1 tsp. dry activated yeast
2 c. plain flour, plus 2 tbsp.
2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. citrus zest (orange or grapefruit work best, but lemon is yum)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
generous grating of fresh nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp.)
generous pinch of salt
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Using a small saucepan over low heat melt the margarine into the milk (about 2 minutes), then remove and allow to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, spices and salt. Stir in the zest.
Test the temperature of the milk/margarine mix with your finger. You should be able to place the whole tip in and hold it without feeling any real heat. If it feels too warm still, leave for another few minutes, as if it’s too hot it can kill the yeast. Add the yeast mixture.
Form a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the milk and yeast mixture. Use your hands rather than a spoon to form the dough, and add flour if it’s too sticky. The dough should be firm but pliable.
Turn it out onto a clean surface and knead for 6 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If any of the zest tries to escape, bring it back by rolling the dough over it as you knead. Shape the dough into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel held in place with a cookie sheet (a much nicer alternative to plastic wrap).
Leave the dough aside until it has doubled in size (this will take anywhere from an hour to over 2 depending on your kitchen and even the time of year).
(Note: Many recipes will tell you to use warm water, but this isn’t really necessary and I happily use cold, with consistently good results. Also, loads of recipes will tell you to grease the bowl where the dough will rise, and to this I am adamantly opposed!!! It just adds unnecessary oil to your dough and leaves you with a bowl that’s more stubborn to wash up! The dough will stick a little to the sides of the bowl, but if you use the flat of your fingers as you’re turning the dough out it will turn out in one piece. Any bits left in the bowl can be scraped up and added to the dough for the next stage.)
6-8 medium sized plums, pitted and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. vegan margarine, just melted
2 tbsp. maple syrup or 1 over-full tbsp. golden syrup
2/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. citrus zest (1 large orange, 1 medium grapefruit, 1 1/2 lemon, etc.)
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Place, covered, in the fridge until ready for use.
Pre-heat oven at 350F/gas mark 4/5.
Punch the dough down and give it a quick knead, then use a rolling pin to roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a rough rectangle, about 11 inches long x 9 inches high, and between 1/4 and 1/2 inches thick. I do tend to leave the dough, covered with a silicone sheet or clean linen tea towel, to proof for 15 minutes while the oven is heating before applying the filling.
Take the filling out of the fridge and give it a stir to ‘rejuvenate’ it after its sojourn in the cold. It will be slightly grainy but still quite viscose.
Using a flat, wide spatula, spoon the filling onto the dough and, leaving a 2-inch band along the long edge furthest from you untouched, gently spread so that the dough is evenly covered and the plums are evenly spaced.
Beginning with the long edge closest to you (i.e. the bare edge), roll the dough into a tight log. This bit is very messy. Roll the log over so that it is seam-side down.
Using a thin serrated knife, slice the log into rounds, about 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch thick. Arrange the rounds 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
(Note: 1 1/2-inch thick slices will give you quite a high baked bun. The narrower you cut, the more pinwheely the finished product. This is really a matter of preference.)
Brush the leftover syrup over the top and sides of each one as the sticky glaze — I have been known to whisk in a bit of added golden syrup at this point.
(Note: The syrup made by the filling will seep during cooking. As such, I err on the side of caution and use a roasting pan which does the same job and leaves me with pools of warmed syrup at the end which I then pour over the top. I haven’t noticed a difference in the finished product, other than a cleaner oven.)
Bake in batches for 25-30 minutes. Once you remove them from the oven, let sit for a couple of minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool.
This is a lovely treat for tea parties, or simply to spice up your elevenses.
This recipe makes about 9 buns.