Remember back when I started this blog and wrote a halfhearted 2-second blog tagline which ended up staying permanently? Books(?), I thought. I sometimes still read. Sort of. Maybe I’ll write about books. Let’s put books(?) to be safe.
Today it’s only gotten worse. I read one novel in 2020 (plus one graphic novel)- it was perfect for the early pandemic days when I had the massive privilege of being able to stay home, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, about a man under house arrest in peri-revolution Russia.
Recently I confided that I had not read anything in 2021 over the phone with my cousin (The Cousin, in fact). Reading is second nature for The Cousin so understandably she gasped in abject horror.
But! I finally read something this year (The Cousin, I know you’ll read this eventually so… LOOK! I read!). Helen Oyeyemi has been one of my favourite authors since I first chanced across her novel Mr. Fox in high school. Most recently, she wrote Peaces in which a couple alights, due to some slight coercion, aboard a mysterious train for their not-honeymoon honeymoon. The train has a sauna carriage, a portrait gallery and a holding cell (of course), and three other passenger-residents plus or minus a few others.
It was an effortlessly engaging read, in a way that I had forgotten novels can be. With Oyeyemi, I think it’s always how she builds the balance and juxtaposition inherent in magical realism. There are fantastical situations and as equally fantastical characters, but in their interaction they are all the more real: half-grounded, half-positively buoyant. And in Peaces, it is the way stories are nested within stories within stories; they unfurl amongst anecdotes and dialogues and letters and then telescope back to the present. And it’s the way that everything is so carefully, deliberately connected. (In summary, unequivocal recommendations from me!)
And, for fall, here are some buns. A lightly spiced gingerbread molasses bun, with the heft of the flavour carried by the tart apple butter filling and browned butter icing. As much as I like to avoid frostings, there really is something about a frosted bun – so the buns themselves are minimally sweetened to balance the frosting, which itself is surprisingly browned buttery.
apple butter gingerbread rolls with browned butter icing
Icing vaguely based on Striped Spatula’s brown butter glaze.
- 175g whole wheat flour
- 50g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp star anise
- ¼ tsp cloves
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 120g milk at room temperature
- 40g molasses
- 32g egg
- 50g soft butter
- 200g apple butter (recipe below)
- 25g brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
browned butter icing
- 40g butter
- 55g icing sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 tbsp cream
For the dough, in a bowl, combine the flours, yeast, spices and salt. Add the milk, molasses and egg. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed. Knead on a lightly floured counter until smooth, then knead in a chunk of the butter at a time until all the butter is incorporated.
Place the dough in a container and let rise in the fridge overnight.
For the filling, combine all the ingredients. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
The next day, butter an 8″ square pan and line with a parchment paper sling. Take the dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured countertop until it is rectangle about 12×14″. Spread with the filling, aside from a strip of dough along one long edge where you will seal the roll. Brush this bare bit of dough with a bit of water to help the log seal.
Starting from the other long edge, roll up the dough into a log and pinch to seal. Use floss to cut into 9 pieces.
Arrange the pieces in the pan and cover. Let rise 1 1/2-2 hours or until puffed.
Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375F.
Bake the risen buns for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
For the icing, place the butter in a small pan and cook, stirring, until the butter solids are browned. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar and then the cream. As the butter cools, the frosting will thicken.
Spread the frosting over the buns while they are still slightly warm. Best eaten day of!
To make the apple butter, place a few of cups of unsweetened applesauce (recipe here) in a saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the applesauce thickens in a thick, jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a jar and cool. Store in the fridge.