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Updated: Nov 17, 2021

"Homemade cinnamon rolls. I can hardly think of three words more welcome on a wintry morning. Just saying them is soothing somehow, calling up visions of warm, butter-rich bread and icing as smooth as fresh, unsullied snow. Homemade cinnamon rolls. Say it, and the tongue does a little jig, then curls up and purrs like a cat on a pillow."

Molly Wizenberg - Bon Appétit

This month's Coles Magazine has a section on Homemade scrolls - the reasoning being that "Cinnamon scrolls have taken the world by storm recently." I bookmarked it and pondered on whether I would do something on them or not. But I didn't - and then at our sort of memorial for David's sister, my granddaughter Zoe produced a wonderful tray of cinnamon scrolls that she had made for us all. They sat in a syrup of some kind which I think had pecans in it. Alas I took no photos and I don't know where she found the recipe so I can't even show what they were supposed to look like. But they were pretty professional. I was impressed, and this reinforced my thinking about a post on the subject. And along the way I have picked up a couple of interesting little things.

The first being that the Coles Magazine statement that they are in, is in fact true.

"The frequency of Pinterest searches for cinnamon scrolls has more than doubled within Australia since the start of April and Google searches for cinnamon scroll recipes spiked by over 90% over the last month. Publications everywhere are dropping new cinnamon scroll recipes this week" Ang Collins - Guardian Australia

As indeed Coles did. So cinnamon scrolls - buns in England - here we go. Well scrolls sort of in general.

First thing I did not know - they are Swedish in origin. This is an example of a Kanelbulle from Sweden. You can see the similarity in the shape - that's pearl sugar on the top - and they do use cinnamon as a flavour, but also cardamom apparently. And it's a yeast bun. They look somewhat wider and flatter though than what we think of as a cinnamon scroll. Or coffee scroll - I think that's another name that we use here in Australia and indeed in the past I remember us going through a phase of addiction to a particular variety. I think they were from that franchise Michel's Patisserie and were probably full of all sorts of awful things but they were delicious - sticky and gooey and spicy. The ones we liked had apple in them as well. If it was Michel's I think that either the place I am thinking of no longer exists and the current chain with the same name is different, or they have just stopped making them. But I digress from origin stories.

The Brits call them Cinnamon buns, and they are very similar to the Chelsea Bun. Felicity Cloake, of course, tells you how to make the perfect one (she does a Perfect Cinnamon Bun too), Chelsea buns have more dried fruit in them, and I think the spice is in the dough, not the filling.

They are called Chelsea Buns after an 18th century Café, in London's Chelsea which was patronised by royalty and called the Bun House. Elizabeth David, in her book English Bread and Yeast Cookery, tells the story. Felicity Cloake seems to think that Elizabeth David's recipe for Chelsea Buns is the most delicious, although her own final version is a bit simpler I think. The pictures show her own attempt left above and the result from the website on the right, which gives the original recipe in all its glory. Lots of butter I believe. Jane Grigson is also a fan and says of Chelsea buns:

“the best of all buns, on account of their buttery melting sweetness, and the fun of uncoiling them as you eat them.”

And last small fact - the Romans brought cinnamon to the western world. It came from Sri Lanka, so I'm not actually sure how it came to the Romans - via Arab traders I suspect.

But back to cinnamon scrolls and their current popularity. Why? They - I saw several theories - mostly seem to think that during COVID we first started making bread, then focaccia and now we have moved on to cinnamon scrolls. We have got used to making bread dough - which is in fact the basis for cinnamon scrolls.

"The recipe given is for a simple yeasted bread dough. It has very many uses in our house: small balls flattened with the palms of our hands and rolled thin to make pizza bases. Pushed out into a tin, dimpled with fruit and slathered with olive oil for a fruit focaccia. Shaped into a loaf, slashed along the top and given a dusting of flour to be baked as a breakfast loaf. And also this, rolled out and spread with a beaten cinnamon sugary butter and sprinkled with raisins, then rolled (as young children might go about a block of plasticine), chopped with a knife and popped in a baking tin." Claire Thompson - The Guardian

It's a kid thing isn't it? The squishy dough, the magic of it rising like that, and then the rolling it up with some kind of filling spread out all over the flattened dough, cut into pieces and then baked. Plus the joy of the unrolling as you eat it.

The somewhat misshapen version you see at left of Cinnamon rolls/scrolls/buns is a kiddy production from Claire Thompson, that her children call Snail Bread. I include the picture because it is so wonderfully childlike:

"They're a loose interpretation of a Chelsea bun and a copycat attempt at a breakfast cinnamon roll, and they satisfy a three-year-old's fondness for raisins, brown sugar and squidging bread dough." Claire Thompson - The Guardian

But even adults can get that pleasure. Molly Wizenberg writes amusingly about being put off the whole yeast thing for years, until she was hit by a cinnamon scroll craving.

"I wanted a warm one, fresh from the oven, with a crumb-like dense brioche, a modicum of gooey cinnamon sugar at the center, and a thick white frosting. I didn't want a sticky bun in a pool of caramel, or a glorified croissant swirled with cinnamon. I wanted a good old-fashioned cinnamon roll, and I was prepared to pay for it." Molly Wizenberg - Bon Appétit

She sought advice on where to buy the best, but was ultimately unsatisfied. One of her correspondents told her she should make her own- it was the only way, but deterred by the yeast thing she put it aside for some time. Until one day she decided for some reason to give it a go and found:

"Making cinnamon rolls, it turns out, is the ultimate in tactile pleasure: the rolling and the filling; the soft butter and cinnamon sugar; the fat, tender spiral of dough; the way it warms chilly fingers." Molly Wizenberg - Bon Appétit

Her ultimate recipe is Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese glaze - an American thing I think. I think my moment was tasting delicious cinnamon scrolls cooked by my eleven year-old granddaughter. Surely if she can do it I can too. So I might give it a go soon.

There are hundreds of recipes out there, and the really enticing thing is that you don't have to stick to the traditional cinnamon. It's a wonderful basic thing that you can experiment with. Coles in it's Homemade scrolls section points you in four different directions - Traditional Cinnamon Scrolls, Jam Doughnut Scrolls, Pepperoni and mushroom pizza scrolls and Spanakopita scrolls

The Australian Women's Weekly has suggestions for 15 different versions of sweet and savoury scrolls, including these rather exotic Raspberry, polenta and pink peppercorn scrolls.

I guess the point is that in times of COVID some of us have rediscovered the joy of baking simple homely things. Possibly not that good for us, but useful lunch box fillers too - especially if what you roll up - with your kids or grandkids - is something rather more wholesome than jam, or cinnamon and sugar, delicious though they may be. Vegemite and cheese seems to be a popular Australian thing.

Then there's all those other things that we make by rolling something up in something else - jam roly poly, apple strudel, rotolo ... But they all deserve posts of their own.

Thank you Zoe. I'll have to give it a go.


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