It seems very unfair to have both insomnia and writer’s block, not that I like the phrase writer’s block because it seems so self-fulfilling, but these are the words that rolled around my head like a marble on a wooden floor this entire night (not like the regular marbles that we used to play with in school, or even the double-sized ones we called bonkers, but the rare prize known as the grandaddy, triple the size of a normal marble and like holding a planet in your own hand. Until you inevitably lost them all. I have no idea what the point of playing marbles was when you could spend all your time gazing deeply into them – needless to say I was much better at looking at them than playing with them competitively. Man, I guess I have a lot of feelings about marbles.) I paused only to have a brief but elaborate dream about being unable to go to sleep, which was, I don’t know, a little bit on the nose even for my brain.
But: I have a doctor’s appointment today (which will basically be me pleading “make me slee-hee-heeeeeep”) so hopefully that will start to take care of it. It being a complete state of somnambulance, of being unable to sleep more than two or three hours a night, of being unable to keep my eyelids from flying open and staying that way. Uncool! Sleeping should be one of those things you don’t have to try too hard at, like being funny and paying attention to letters from the IRD.
Also a bit unfair: I’m not sure that today’s recipe is as good/irrefutably perfection as it could be, but I also think I know how to make it better, so I’m sharing it with you anyway. Every time I went to sweepingly refuse to write about it, I had to admit that it did taste really, really good. I’m talking about cinnamon date rolls, by the way.
But first, I’m talking about my Auckland cookbook launch last week. Wow.
MC Rose Matafeo and I. She was super amazing. Also this is her instagram. Hope that’s okay, Rose. Rose?
I choo-choo-choose you.
It was such a fun, incredible night. My mum, dad, and little brother were able to be there, outlandishly stunning Sacha McNeil from Nightline came along; I invited Anna Coddington (who I’ve interviewed on this blog before) and she brought Anika Moa and I was like “HI ANIKA MOA THIS IS SO IMPORTANT”; I got to see so many friends and meet so many gorgeously terrific and terrifically gorgeous new people that I’ve previously only talked to online, like Amanda, Lani and Jilly, I got given a corsage (!!) and there were so many nice people and they were all so nice to me and it ruled. Seriously, do yourself a favour and have a cookbook launch party.
Feverish and fervent thanks to Delaney Mes who helped in a million different ways to get the party happening, to Unity Books who supplied copies of my book and a friendly person to sell them on the night, to the people at the beauteous Bread and Butter Letter boutique for being charming and kind and having such a fun place for my party, and to fizzy sherbet lollies and pretzels for helping get me through the night. So many nights, in fact.
And, if you want, you can watch MC Rose’s delightful intro and my own speech, which, like all public speaking, I ADORED. If you were at the Wellington launch party, yeah, I recycled most of my jokes. I’m not good at letting go.
So finally, these cinnamon date rolls that I’m quite, but not intensely enthused about. Here’s the deal. They are easy. Amazingly delicious. And other such adjectives. But…don’t do what I did and use regular flour. It’s tiresome, but if you specifically buy hi-grade/bread flour, these buns will have the extra gluten they deserve to become puffier and lighter and easier to knead and even more wonderful than they already are. So – if you only have regular flour, they’re pretty much great, but go on. Learn from my stumbles. Since there are so many and all.
What I’ve done here is take two rectangles of dough and roll them, sushi-ly, around chopped dates, butter, cinnamon, and a gritty sprinkling of brown sugar. They’re then scored, garlic-bread-style, and baked so they have a kind of pull-apart quality, while leaving the sticky, caramelly filling thoroughly cocooned in soft dough so it doesn’t burn. Cinnamon is such a warm, comforting scent and for what it’s worth, these will make your house smell incredible. Kneading the dough isn’t so hard, it’s just some patient, rather satisfying pushing and flattening, and the yeast comes in sachets so you don’t have to worry about getting scientific with it. Just throw it in to the flour and go. There isn’t actually that much sugar sprinkled into these, but what’s there melts into the butter and creates sticky, syrupy toffee wonderfulness. That will burn your DNA off if you eat them straight from the oven, so try to let them cool a little.
cinnamon date rolls
A recipe by myself
500g plain flour
1 sachet instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
50g melted butter
3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup dates
2 tablespoons brown sugar
50g butter, extra, cubed
Place the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Tip in the butter, yoghurt, and milk, and mix to make a rough, sticky dough. Knead repeatedly by pushing the dough with the palm of your hand and back into a ball repeatedly, until it forms a solidly cohesive-enough lump, which springs back quickly when you prod it. Cover with gladwrap and allow to rise in a warmish (or at least, not freezing, it doesn’t actually have to be that warm) place for an hour or so, then get back in the kitchen with it. Push it down again with your fist and divide it into two even pieces.
Roll them out into rectangles about fifteen centimetres wide and 25 centimetres long – although really, so long as they’re similarly sized rectangles it doesn’t matter about measurements. You may need to let the dough sit for ten minutes to allow it to relax a bit before rolling it further. Roughly chop the dates, and sprinkle them, along with the brown sugar, plenty of cinnamon, and the and cubed remaining butter, over the two rectangles. Roll them up from one of the long sides so you have two long tubular tubes of dough.
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and sit the two dough rolls in a baking dish lined with baking paper, as I’ve done in these pictures. Using a serrated knife, make some decent slashes across the top of each roll of dough, which will allow you to be able to pull the whole thing apart into segments easier once it’s coked. Allow to sit for a further fifteen minutes while the oven warms up – this stage is called proving, I guess because you have to prove your commitment to breadmaking by waiting again – and finally bake for around 40 minutes.
Homemade bready things don’t last like ones from a packet, but you and I both know (now that I’ve told you) that pulled apart pieces of this come back to life easily in the microwave.
Oh, okay, I guess I didn’t have writer’s block after all.
One more from the launch party –
Here I am signing a book for someone. Clearly my years and years of ballet training have reaped dividends, as far as my impeccable sitting posture goes.
title via: the assuredly ubiquitous Daft Punk song with the splendidly handsome Pharrell, Get Lucky. You’ll probably like it.
Bastille, Laura Palmer. I do like a good Twin Peaks reference. And a good song. This, luckily, is both.
Tim and I hosted a dear friend’s birthday party on Saturday night. We danced till three am. In the morning. I particularly enjoyed flinging myself recklessly to Marina and the Diamonds’ heart-searing song Shampain.
Next time: Sleep. If I have to stay awake and think about all the ways that I should be sleeping in order to make it happen. Also: a recipe that I believe in to some exaggerated percentage, like 799% or 100% or something.