It’s still plenty chilly outside so waking up is harder than expected, but if I have a batch of cinnamon rolls proofing in the refrigerator overnight, the earlier I wake, the better. Cinnamon rolls have a very special place in my heart. One of the first cinnamon roll recipes I ever tried was from Kamran Siddiqi who runs the blog Sophisticated Gourmet. It was in his cookbook Hand-made Baking from which I was trying a few recipes for his magazine review. His promised to be the easiest, and they really were. So much so, that we printed the recipe out and pinned it on our soft board in the kitchen and made it every chance we got. In fact, we must have made it so often, we eventually had to stop ourselves.
The reason I speak of cinnamon rolls is because this wreath, leftover from Christmas, uses a cinnamon roll recipe for the dough that is without eggs, as opposed to a babka recipe that uses eggs. If you’d like to make this as a babka, follow the link here. Use that dough instead. Speculaas spice leftover from making Ottolenghi’s speculaas cookies was lying around and since I can’t see a perfectly good blend of warm spices going to waste, this wreath seemed like a very good idea.
Speculaas Morning Bun Wreath
Yield 1 medium-sized wreath
Cinnamon rolls might be an everyday, but this speculaas-version is truly special. Full of warming spices, they’re perfect for chilly mornings smeared with cream cheese frosting and bitter coffee on the side.
All-purpose flour 3 1/2 cups
Caster sugar 1/2 cup
Instant dry yeast 2 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Baking soda 1/4 tsp
Milk 1/2 cup
Yoghurt 1 cup
Hazelnuts 1 cup, toasted lightly and crushed
Brown sugar 3/4 cup, blitzed
Speculaas spice 2 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Cream cheese frosting
Cream cheese 113g
Vanilla essence 2 tsp
Icing sugar 1 1/4 cup
Pinch of salt
Ground cinnamon 1 tbsp
Ground Ajwain 1 tsp
White pepper 3/4 tsp
Ground ginger or Sonth 3/4 tsp
Ground coriander 1/2 tsp
Ground cardamom 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg 1/4 tsp, freshly grated
Cloves 1/4 tsp, freshly ground
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and baking soda.
In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, add in the milk and yoghurt and bring it up till just warm to the touch, not hot. (49-55 degrees celsius). Add this to the flour mixture and using a spatula, combine everything together to form a shaggy dough.
Knead this dough for 20 minutes it until you can stretch it out without tearing it. A small piece torn out, stretched and held up against a light should ensure the light passes through it.
Cover the dough with clingfilm and let it commence its first rise for an hour and a half in a warm dark place. Meanwhile get on with the filling.
Make the speculaas spice by mixing together all the spices. You can use a mixer grinder to briefly blitz everything together as well.
Beat together the butter, brown sugar, the speculaas spice and salt together using an electric hand mixer on low speed till combined, then increase the speed and beat for an additional 5 minutes till it is well creamed and light. Set this aside.
Once it feels puffy and light and has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a square as evenly as possible.
Spread the creamed speculaas filling over the square using an offset spatula and sprinkle over the toasted crushed hazelnuts. Start rolling from the longer side inwards gently until you have rolled it into a log. Lift and transfer the log to a tray that will fit in your refrigerator.
Using a very sharp knife, slice the log into half vertically from the centre to divide it into two long snakes. Face the filling-side upwards and start braiding the bed over each other. Bring the two ends of the wreath together around a glass or any circular object. Transfer the wreath to the refrigerator, cover with foil and let it rest there overnight or up till 48 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and take the rolls out of the refrigerator. Let them sit out till the oven heats up, for like 15 minutes during which you should make the frosting. Using a hand mixer, combine half the icing sugar, vanilla essence and the cream cheese with a pinch of salt in a bowl for a minute, then increase the speed to high for 4-5 minutes or until fluffy.
Bake the rolls still covered in their foil for 40-45 minutes or until puffed up and firm to the touch. For the final 15-20 minutes, uncover the rolls and let them get a good colour on them. A light golden brown is all. Take them out of the oven and serve topped with the cream cheese frosting.