The children are never far from an excuse to eat sweet things. So it seemed that a few days in a country where a national pastime is to share coffee and cinnamon buns would be perfect. And while Noah and I have now developed an unhealthy addiction to kanelbullar (it's possible we had more than one each per day, and I made a huge batch when we got home) it seems that Maya and Bee have left Sweden with successful aversion therapy. Their loss and our gain.Extended city breaks, and that's what last week was, are great but pretty exhausting for little legs. I'm not sure they were to thrilled traipsing round the photography museum, although they loved the view from the cafe as we had a classic lunch of prawns, rye bread, pickles and the like.There were days where the temperature reached 38c, where the light seemed clearer, sharper with a freshness born in the northern skies. Then there were days when it seemed like the four Norsemen of the apocalypse were in charge of the weather. And on one of those days, after we had soddenly trudged through the grey streets to the temporary food market the rain became too much and we needed a quick fika fix. Blood sugar levels were low, the grumpiness scale was high and the warm and inviting café had one spare table in the corner. And this is where Maya found her new love for raspberry shortbread.Demand has been high since then, and to be honest, I'm more than happy to make them. They take about twenty minutes and are so much nicer than jam tarts and if I dare say it, an improvement on shortbread itself. Even Noah, who's in love with his best friend Ruby's Scottish Grandmother's neighbours shortbread agrees.I'm not sure if they do things differently with Swedish shortbread, I didn't ask. But this recipe is standard shortbread and is delicious. (Although I use unsalted butter and season it with vanilla salt) I'd be tempted to make double next time. And as for the cinnamon buns I made, they freeze really well, so come Saturday morning, they'll be on the table for breakfast.Ingredients60g unsalted butter, soft100g golden caster sugar200g plain flour (I used strong white in this case, but you can use either)A pinch of vanilla salt (I use Singing Dog)Raspberry jam to fillMethodGet a small child to mix together the ingredients (apart from the jam) until they are crumbly and soft and come together in a dough when you press it.Half fill fairy cake moulds with the mixture, make a little indentation with your thumb in each and spoon in some jam.Bake in a medium to hot oven for 12 or so minutes, until they are starting to colour a little, but not much.Leave to cool until you can leave it no longer and dust with icing sugar.
I was five or six, and for some reason, every so often in assembly, we would sing 'Yellow Submarine' — I had no idea who the Beatles were, let John Lennon who had just been shot, although not in my assembly — and less frequently, but with no less gusto, 'Sinnerman' by Nina Simone.If you look at me closely, you can tell I didn't grow up as an African American, and yet, the reasons lost to me (and probably the whole of my 1970s hugely white suburban, middle class, Catholic primary school outside Reading), our perm-laden television-sized glasses wearing music teacher used to get us all tunelessly belting these out like some disfunctional gospel choir.To a child just grasping the concept of a cat sitting on a mat, Yellow Submarine is a suitable song. But why anyone would sing a song questioning where some cinnamon was going, where it was running to, where it was going to hide was beyond me.To this day, the two are superglued firmly together; Simone's song and some aromatic tree bark. When I cook with it I sing the song and when I hear the song I think of the spice. It's a strange place, sometimes, the mind.To that end, today's recipe is cinnamon buns. Soft, sweet, pillowy spirals of spiced dough wrapped around melting, sugary cinnamon butter. I quickly made these while waiting for a beetroot chutney to finish cooking. A nice treat, I thought, for the children to come home from school to. They don't go to after school club on Mondays, so they need something to keep them quiet for a little while.Noah loved them. Silence for a calm ten minutes. Maya took one bite and threw the rest in the bin.In the town, where I was born, that would have got me a clip round the ear.Ingredients1/3 small block of fresh yeast or a 7g sachet140ml water300g plain flour1tsp salt1tbsp brown sugar1tbsp ground cinnamon130g butter2tbsp ground cinnamon75g coconut or brown sugar4tbsp icing sugar (sieved otherwise it's lumpier than school porridge)2tbsp waterMethodMix the yeast with a tablespoon of the water and leave somewhere warm for about five minutes.Pour the flour, salt, brown sugar, 1tbsp of cinnamon and the water into a bowl and mix well until you have a soft dough. Almost sticky, but not quite. Knead for ten minutes (stand mixers and processors are handy here) and leave somewhere warm until it has doubled in size. This could take between 30-60 minutes. Longer, probably, if you live in Alaska.Dust the worktop with some flour and roll the dough out into a 25cmx45cm rectangle. Melt the butter, 75g sugar and 2tbsp ground cinnamon together and pour evenly and carefully over the dough.Sprinkle the sugar all over the top and give it a little light roll with the rolling pin.Roll up along the longest edge until you have a long cylinder and then cut evenly into 15.Put face up in an oven tray and leave to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. Cover the tray with some film so they don't dry out.Heat the oven to 180c and bake for about 25 minutes until golden and springy. I think it was about this long, I'd forgotten to set the timer. Just cook them until they're done.Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray for five minutes then transfer them to a wire rack.Mix together the icing sugar and water until you have a smooth glaze then drizzle over the buns. Serve slightly warm if you like.