These little weighty wistful whirls of whimsy came about entirely by accident. I was going to stay with friends in Manchester for the weekend, to all fling our small boys at one another for a raucous time, and I never like to accept hospitality empty handed. So, I set about making a hulking great fruit bread big enough to energise 3 grown men, 3 grown women, and 3 small and boisterous boys.
I mixed it, kneaded it, left it to rise…and promptly forgot all about it until I was halfway across the country. Silly me.
I came home to find it fermenting beautifully, tickling the top of the teatowel flung over the top of it. I gave it a ginger sniff, it smelled a lot like sourdough. Vaguely remembering a yoghurt based bread I had made a few years ago, I figured it would be fine, and whipped it into these whirlybuns. J and A, here’s what you coulda had… Sorry!
Makes a dozen pleasingly enormous buns at 11p each
750g plain flour, 28p (55p/1.5kg/Basics)
500g yoghurt, 55p (55p/500g, Basics natural yoghurt or £1/500g, Alpro dairy free yoghurt)
up to 100ml warm water
13g dried active yeast, 10p (£1/125g)
100g sultanas, 20p (£1/500g, Basics)
3 tbsp sunflower oil, 5p (£3/3l)
2 tsp cinnamon, 8p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC)
2 tbsp sugar, 2p (80p/1kg, Fairtrade)
First grab the largest mixing bowl you can find, and weigh and pour the flour into it. These are dense, clunky buns, so there is no need to sift the flour. Just fling it in.
Make a well in the centre as best you can, and slop the yoghurt into it, and shake in the fruit. Mix firmly to form a stiff dough. Some cheap yoghurts are quite sloppy, so this step should come easy, but if not try using a knife instead of a spoon to mix it. The smooth flat edges of the knife act in a similar way to an industrial dough hook, and give a generally better result.
Don’t worry about this stage being too perfect, as there is more to come.
Take a mug and fill with 100ml of warm water. It should be just warmish, too hot and you run the risk of killing off the poor yeast granules. Add the yeast and mix well, and leave to stand for a few minutes until it starts to bubble up – this is your yeast waking up from its slumber, and never fails to amaze me!
Tip it into the bigger bowl and add half the oil and a pinch of salt, and mix until well combined.
Heavily flour your work surface and tip the dough onto it. Rub oil onto your hands to stop the dough from sticking to it, and knead it well for around 10 minutes. Push it away from you with your knuckles or palm, fold it back towards you, turn it a quarter turn, and repeat. You’ll find your own way of doing it, but it’s therapeutic and fascinating as you feel the dough literally take life beneath your hands. This is a heavy dough, so it will take some work; you can split it in half if you find it easier to work with smaller chunks.
When you’re satisfied that you have pummelled it enough, put it to bed in the original mixing bowl, and cover with a clean teatowel or clingfilm. Pop it in a warm place for 3 hours (or longer – mine hung around for 3 days remember…)
When you’re ready, tip it back onto a heavily floured surface. Give it a quick 30 second knead to push it back into shape but not so much as to knock the air out of it.
Cut the dough into four equal sized pieces, and set three to one side. Take one
of the quarters and cut into three. Now, pay attention.
Roll one of the pieces (1/12 of your original dough) into a long sausage shape about two inches thick and as long as it gets. Take a rolling pin (or wine bottle…) and roll it longways to flatten it. Then fold in half horizontally to make a long, skinny piece of dough. It’s less work than I’m making it sound, honest! And well worth it, trust me.
Now take a small mug or bowl, and mix the cinnamon, sugar and the rest of the oil together. Using a pastry brush, teaspoon or your good trusty fingers, smear the sweet spicy oil across your dough.
Roll it into a whirl by taking one end and rolling it up to the other. Tuck the outside end under the bottom of the bun, and gently pat it on the head to press it all together.
Lightly grease a deep baking dish and pop your first bun into it and set aside. Now would be a good time to preheat your oven at 160C, and make sure the shelf is in the middle.
And repeat eleven times! Once you have the first one done, it’s a breeze, I promise. A sweet, sticky, Autumn spiced breeze.
When they’re done, pop them in the oven to bake for an hour. Allow them to cool before breaking one off for yourself, and digging in…
I have had these toasted with jam and (soya) cream today, smothered in butter icing, sliced and toasted, plain, and I have a dozen left…
However you have them, enjoy them! They are deliberately not sweetened, so could be a vehicle for cheese and chutney if that’s your bag, too…
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