cinnamon raisin challah buns
Mon, 7 September, 2020
Mini challah buns or rolls, rich and eggy challah dough snailed up with lots of raisins, cinnamon and almond flakes inside. And I show you three ways of preparing them!
Challah buns inspiration
These buns were jinxed from the start. I came across Deb’s of Smitten Kitchen jam and cream cheese challah buns while trawling random recipe videos. I respect Deb, am a fan of challah bread and adore buns with filling of all sorts so I was immediately smitten (haha sorry Deb!).
What filling for challah buns?
But as I am no mindless copycat of other people’s recipes – unless the recipes are outstanding, the author renowned or the dish looks just right as is – I set out to put my spin on the buns. Challah dough is straightforward; my recipe for it very much like Deb’s so I didn’t think I could improve on it. But the filling, ah, the filling could be my playground!
Testing the fillings
I’d been obsessed with cream cheese and lemon curd as a combination I’d put on my oatcakes and nosh by a wagonful and I had a mind to put them into baking. Cream cheese and curd that’s almost cheesecake isn’t it? Just mix and bake, right?
Wrong. The first version of my buns, with the unction above, was a fail. The cream cheese made the dough squidgy and the curd evaporated. It was nothing like what I had in mind: cheesecakey filling like in the Italian pastries with sweet ricotta. Lesson learned.
Raisin and cinnamon filling
I experimented further with jam but it made for really boring buns. I also wanted to avoid too much sugar as it was planned to be breakfast fodder. So eventually a cross between cinnamon rolls, Danish raisin wheels and challah buns was born – and another lesson learnt: popular things are popular for a reason. Who will say ‘no’ to a cinnamon raisin bun?
The dough is a dream to roll out as you can see in the video: there’s not trick, it just stretches beautifully to a perfect rectangle. Once it’s filled and rolled up into a log, cut it into twelve pieces. And now the options are many.
One bun, three options
Bake them all straight away after a little prove, nested next to each other in a gratin dish or two. You can delay the gratification and chill them in the fridge overnight – then presto, a fresh bake for breakfast. Or you can pack them into individual ramekins or bun cups and freeze, for an occasional treat.
The individual bun freezer option is clever because you just place one or four frozen buns in the cold oven last thing at night. They defrost and prove happily overnight, and you just press the button in the morning. They should really be brushed with egg wash before baking but frankly, you don’t look a freshly baked pastry for breakfast in the mouth – you stuff it in there.
cinnamon raisin challah bunsServings: makes a dozen bunsTime: 4 hours plus proving overnight
- For the dough:
- 490g (3¾ cups) strong bread flour
- 18g fresh or 7g (2¼ tsp) instant yeast
- 1¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 50g (¼ cup) caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 120 ml (½ cup) groundnut or rapeseed oil
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) warm water
- For the filling:
- 50g (2 tbsp.) butter, melted
- 2 tbsp. cinnamon
- 200g (1 and 1/3 cups) raisins and/or sultanas
- 60g (2 tbsp.) almond flakes
- 1 tbsp. slivered pistachios (optional)
- beaten egg, for brushing
1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the eggs and yolk, oil and water and mix with a wooden spoon or the dough hook mixer attachment into rough dough.
2. Knead by hand – it will be an arduous long job, 30-40 minutes – or in the mixer for 10-12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, clears the sides of the bowl or stops sticking to your hands. Transfer it to a lightly greased large bowl, cover with cling film and put in a warm place for up to 2 hours, until doubled in volume.
3. Turn out risen dough onto lightly floured work surface. Stretch it gently with your hands (it should be very pliable) into a rectangle, then roll out to about 45cm (18 in) by 35cm (14 in).
4. Brush all over with melted butter. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon, raisins and sultanas; more sparingly with almond flakes and pistachio slivers, if using.
5. With the help of a dough scraper or a palette knife, roll the dough tightly into a log along the longer side. Seal the seam. Using a serrated knife cut it into 12 pieces.
6. Place the rolls in buttered, individual ramekins, a muffin tin or nest them into one or two larger dishes. The size isn’t crucial; the buns will spread wider in a larger container or rise tall in a smaller one.
7. To bake straight away, cover the containers with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until risen by half. Go to step 10.
8. For a morning bake, cover the dish(es) with cling film and keep in the fridge overnight. Remove from fridge at least half an hour before baking. Go to step 10.
9. From frozen: remove the buns from the freezer last thing the night before and place in the cold oven to defrost and prove. In the morning turn the oven on with the buns in and proceed as step 10.
10. In any case preheat the oven to 180C (fan if available)/350F/ gas 4. When ready to bake, brush the tops with beaten egg and bake for 20-35 minutes (shorter time for individual buns) until risen and deep golden.
11. Cool slightly in the dishes but they are best served warm.