Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns and the blissful lesson of taking a break

I started writing a new book eleven months ago. Actually, eleven and a half months, it was Christmas Eve. The moment I decided to dive into this intense adventure again, I couldn’t stop writing down one recipe after the other. It felt like the dishes had been inside my head, waiting impatiently to come out. And all this happened during Christmas 2017, my man thought I was crazy. At a time that’s supposed to be calm and serene, surrounded by our sparkling Christmas tree and piles of cookies, listening peacefully to angelic carols, I stuck my head into my recipe notebooks and discussed undiscovered flavor combinations with my mother. By New Year’s Day, I had an exaggeratedly long recipe list together and felt ready for a new book – and a holiday.

While I wrote my first book, Eat In My Kitchen, I often crossed my limits, I refused to respect them and felt totally squeezed out by the end of it. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I asked for help and found the best kitchen assistant I could have asked for. He made the whole process of cooking and shooting a book far more smooth than I thought was even possible. He also took care of an impeccable playlist filling my kitchen with the most energizing tunes and making me dance around boxes of vegetables and bowls of cooked dishes. But most importantly, he taught me to take a break once in a while. We often went to a tiny coffee shop around the corner for an espresso and a chat to clear our heads. We started working on the book early February and since then I managed – more or less – to stick to this new ritual in my life: allowing myself to take a little break every day.

Sometimes, after an early morning cooking session followed by an extensive shopping tour for meat, fish, and vegetables, we’d get a bit more excessive and head over to a Berlin bakery famous for swirly buns. Whenever I felt tired and empty, a bite of their spongy cinnamon buns put me back on my feet and felt better than the most sumptuous meal in the world. That’s the bliss that you can find in food – and in a break – it will always impress me how good it feels.

It’s been a while since I cooked or baked for the blog, and for months now I had a flavor combination on my mind that I wanted to turn into a sweet treat and share: peanut butter and plums. We need to hurry, it’s getting late, plum season reached its end, but you can still find some very ripe, sugary stone fruits at the markets. I decided to combine the duo with a recipe that Sofie Wochner from Marigold restaurant in Rome shared with me last summer. The Danish pastry chef treated me to the most wonderful, fragrant cinnamon buns in her kitchen, so I took her recipe for the yeast dough and turned it into Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns.

I will keep you posted about my new book, but it’ll still take a lot of time until it comes out, as a book does when you want it to be a part of what you truly are. To be continued …

 

Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns

Mind that the dough has to rise in the fridge overnight before you bake the buns.

Makes 10 swirly buns

For the dough

500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
75g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 (7-g / 1/4-ounce) envelope fast-acting yeast
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
255ml / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, lukewarm
1/2 beaten large egg (about 25 ml)
60g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided into 6 portions

For the filling

250g / 1 cup creamy peanut butter
200g / 1 cup light brown sugar
300g / 2/3 pound pitted fresh dark plums

For the topping

1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. Add the lukewarm milk and 1/2 beaten egg and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes or until smooth. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes then continue mixing, adding the butter, 1 portion at a time, incorporating each portion of butter before adding the next one. Continue mixing on medium speed for another 3 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Take the bowl out of the fridge and let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. Line a 24 x 18cm / 10 x 7 inch baking dish with parchment paper.

For the filling, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Cut the plums into small cubes.

Knead the dough for 30 seconds with your hands. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour then transfer the dough to the floured surface and, using the rolling pin, roll it into a 33 x 33cm / 13 x 13 inch square that’s roughly 0.5cm / 1/4 inch thick. Spread the peanut butter mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 2cm / 3/4 inch border, then sprinkle the plums over the peanut butter, gently pushing them into the peanut butter. To fold the dough, divide it into 3 rectangles, don’t cut the dough, just leave a thin mark on top of the peanut butter. Starting with the long side of one of the rectangles and dusting off excess flour, fold the first third of the dough up and over the middle third of the dough, then fold the other outer third of the dough up and place on top of the 2 layers of dough to end with 3 layers of dough. Using a very sharp knife, cut the layered dough into 10 slices.

Quickly pull and stretch each slice of dough then twist into a long spiral, close in a loose knot, and transfer to the prepared baking dish. It’ll be massy, don’t worry, you can sprinkle any peanut butter and plums that fall out on top of the buns once they are arranged in the baking dish. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let them rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F.

Brush the buns with the egg wash then bake for 25 minutes, cover the top with aluminum foil, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Rub the warm buns with 1 tablespoon of butter and let them cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.