Cinnamon is my most adored spice. It has connotations of warmth, fresh mornings, firesides and families. The taste of cinnamon can trigger me to sink comfortably into my bones and clutch whatever food item or receptacle I’m holding in both hands, close to my chest. Cinnamon is for buns, biscuits, porridge and hot chocolate. It enriches comforting carbohydrates with its scent and its speckles.
I associate cinnamon buns with the men in my life; my Dad and my favourite supermarket bought Danish pastries and, later, my partner and his unapologetic veneration of Kannelbullens Dag (Swedish Cinnamon Roll Day).
I was a strange child and I enjoyed trips to the supermarket with my Father, in fact I enjoyed just about anything with my Father. I remember trips to Sainsbury’s whilst I was still small enough to fit into the child seat in the trolley and I remember the metal and plastic digging into my legs as I started to outgrow it. At some point I decided that I liked the cinnamon pastries from the bakery section, they became a shopping trolley staple. As I became older I temporarily became far too cool and moody to attend these trips but he was sent with strict instructions to buy Muller Corner yoghurts and strawberry Nesquik milk powder. He always returned with cinnamon pastries. We called them ‘Cinnamon Whirls’. These pastries were always the same regardless of the supermarket. They were perfectly round spirals, a little bit dry in the crumb; somewhere between puff pastry and dough pastry, probably hastily proved and mixed on an industrial scale. They were scantily swirled with an eye-twitchingly sweet, brown, cinnamon paste. The top was sticky, glazed with an unknown sweet substance. I adored these pastries. I would inhale them whilst I sat in front of the television or sat in the garden on a picnic rug. The outer edges were my favourite, dryer and flakey whilst the inner circle became overwhelming in its syrupy sweetness.
As an aspiring pastry chef it would be easy for me to look back and reflect upon the many shortcomings of these little spirals but really that’s not what it’s about. It’s never what food is really about; it’s about the story, the memory and the moment. Only recently, when I was home from my travels for a visit, my Father had disappeared off to the supermarket during a busy Saturday. I had stayed at home, most likely packing, sorting for my next trip. When he returned he brought in the bags from the car (roughly five bags to each finger because he is superhuman) and I could see, on the kitchen counter, peaking out from one of the bags a Cinammon Whirl in its translucent plastic bakery bag. This was a moment when I felt totally, unconditionally loved.
I made these simple pastries with a sheet of leftover made-from-scratch all butter puff pastry and a brown sugar, cinnamon, butter paste. I simply spread the sheet with the mixture (by eye), rolled it up, cut into discs and baked. Another day and another time will be for Swedish style, yeast leavened buns.