Today is Shrove Sunday or Quinquagesima meaning we are 7 weeks from Easter and only a few days from Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Traditionally in Finland Shrove Sunday was a happy, even a bit boisterous celebration, the last occation to eat meat and greasy food before the Lenten fast. After the Lutheran Reformation in the 16th century fasting lost its importance, but many aspects of the old Shrove celebrations continued. Shrove buns became popular in the 19th century. They are buns with whipped cream and marzipan or jam filling, and are sold in every supermarket in Finland in the weeks leading to Shrove Sunday either individually or in packets of two.
Heated discussions are sometimes had between supporters of marzipan and those saying that the only real Shrove bun is one with jam inside. Which party do Cinnamonda belong to, you may ask. Well, I am a pro-marzipan person. :) Today, however, because my corner store had run out of marzipan (not so unusual at this time of year) and I did not have the time to make my own, I had to change sides and use jam. Actually jam worked just fine. Jam is good. Jam is very good! I like jam, too.
The dough I used for these buns is a rather typical "pullataikina" i.e. a dough for Finnish-style coffeebread. You can make any kind of buns or braided coffeebreads from it. I spiced up the recipe a little by using not only cardamom, but also some Mallorcan saffron bought from Madrid last November.
Supersized Shrove Buns & 1 Extra Large Braided Coffeebread
For the dough you will need:
5 dl (organic) milk (can be substituted with water)
22 g dried yeast (or 50 g fresh yeast)
2 teaspoons salt
1 dl sugar
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
14 dl wheat flour
200 g liquid vegetable oil product for baking (or melted butter)
a pinch of saffron
some egg for brushing
1. In a large bowl mix 7 dl flour, salt, sugar, saffron and cardamom with a spoon.
2. Heat the milk to 42 degrees Centigrade (a little warmer than your hand) if using dried yeast or to 37 degrees Centigrade ( same temperature as your hand) if using fresh yeast. My method of getting the milk (or water) just warm enough is to keep my fingertips in the milk (or water) while heating it. :) Too cold or too hot will lead to the dough not rising. Pour the milk onto the dry ingredients and mix with an electric mixer using dough hooks.
3. Add the vegetable oil product or melted butter and the egg. Mix again.
4. Start adding more flour 1 dl at a time until the dough feels silkysmooth to your hand and does not stick to the sides of the bowl anymore. This should happen after 14 dl of flour, but sometimes you may need a bit less or a bit more flour.
5. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
6. Take the dough from the bowl. Knead it with your hands on a clean (slightly floured) surface. Cut 9 good-sized pieces of the dough and mould into round buns between your hand and the surface. Place the buns onto a baking paper covered baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
7. While the buns are rising, heat the oven to 225 C, and make the braided coffeebread from the remaining dough.
8. Cut the dough into 3 parts.
9. Knead each part into a long (circa 30 cm), thin bar.
10. Braid the bars, and let the braid rise for 30 min in a warm place and covered with a kitchen towel.
11. After the buns and the braid have risen brush them with some slightly beaten egg and decorate with flaked almonds.
12. Bake the buns in 225 C for about 15 minutes or until they are beautifully golden. After taking them from the oven lower the temperature to 200 C and bake the braided coffeebread for about 25 minutes or until it, too, is beautifully golden.
For the filling of 9 buns you will need:
6 dl cream
berry jam of your choice (it should actually be strawberry, but let's not be too strict here :) I used raspberry jam)
1. Whip the cream until its quite hard (not butter, though!:))
2. Cut off the tops of well cooled buns. Place 2 teaspoonfuls of jam in the middle of the bottom part of each bun.
3. Add lots of whipped cream. It should show between the "hat" and the bottom part of the bun.