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Simnel swirls


imageIf there are two times of the year when you can be guaranteed to find a block of marzipan in my cupboard, it’s Easter and Christmas. I invariably buy a block with grand ideas of all the seasonal baking I’m going to do. Then the packet gets opened and little by little, chunks get torn off, to be nibbled on as a surreptitious snack until suddenly there is nowhere near enough left to consider baking and I shamelessly devour the rest.

So I feel very smug about the fact that I managed to get these buns into existence at all. I can’t say there was zero marzipan snaffling going on, but enough made it into these buns. These are a sort of cross between a cinnamon bun and a chelsea bun with a marzipan core. I considered using a laminated danish pastry recipe for these, but, even though we have a long bank holiday weekend ahead, I didn’t feel the need to spend the time doing book folds in pastry.  A simple enriched yeasted dough, fairly quick to rise, will mean that you can have these ready in a couple of hours, perfect with a mid-morning coffee.

Start by bashing 10 cardamom pods roughly in a pestle and mortar (or use the bottom of a heavy pan). Pop them into a pan with 300ml milk and heat till just below boiling point. Turn off the heat, add 50g butter and leave to infuse for 10mins or so, until the milk is still warm but not hot. Strain to remove the cardamom, then add the finely grated zest of 1 large orange and 1 lemon.

Weigh 450g bread flour into a bowl. Add 7g dried yeast on one side of the bowl and 1tsp salt on the other side. Add 60g caster sugar then make a well in the middle and crack in 1 egg and pour in the milk mixture. Stir until you have a sticky dough, then turn out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky to start, but it should come together after a couple of minutes. If it remains unworkably sticky, add a little extra flour but proceed with caution. Form the kneaded dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover and leave somewhere nice and warm to rise for 45mins until risen.

Meanwhile make the filling. Thoroughly soften 100g butter – I put mine in the microwave on low until the edges are just starting to melt – then stir through 70g soft light brown sugar and 2tsp cinnamon.

imageStretch or gently roll the dough out to an approximate 35cm x 25cm rectangle. Spread the cinnamon butter over evenly then scatter over a couple of handfuls of juicy raisins (around 100g). Roll about 200g marzipan into a long sausage about 1cm in diameter using your hands. Position the marzipan along the long edge of the dough and then gently roll the dough up from the marzipan edge first. Slice the rolled dough into about 10 rounds (11 if you want the full Easter experience) and place them in a rectangular roasting tin lined with non-stick paper. The buns should have a 1-2cm gap between them to allow them space to rise. Cover and place back in the warm place for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180C (fan). Take the cover off the tray of buns and bake for around 25mins until golden. Once out of the oven, preheat your grill to high. Roll little balls of marzipan with the rest of the block and position in the middle of each bun. Place under the grill for around 1 minute, keeping a close eye on them, they catch very quickly.

If you’d like them nice and shiny, pop 2tbsp caster sugar into a mug with 2tbsp water and microwave for 30 seconds until hot and the sugar has melted. Brush the sugar syrup over the buns. Eat whilst warm.

Makes 10, takes around 2.5 – 3 hours, including 1 hour 15mins of proving time and 25mins baking.

Shopping list:

10 cardamom pods

300ml milk

1 orange (zest only)

1 lemon (zest only)

150g butter

450g bread flour

7g dried yeast

60g caster sugar + 2tbsp

1 egg

70g light brown sugar

2tsp cinnamon

100g raisins

500g block marzipan



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