The heralding of September always brings to mind the starting of school. It is a new beginning full of potential for good intentions. A clean slate, if you will. 😉 The chaos of summer falls away for the comfortable routine where order reigns. It might not last long, but it always starts out good.
Traditional school days are far behind me, but the last few years I have been taking a French class which will start again for me on Monday. In honour of that, and in memory of my student years, I thought I would make a recipe that I discovered in my teenage days while visiting in Norway. The family I was staying with was doing some baking one day and made these wonderful sweet buns that had a vanilla custard in centre of the top, with a bit of coconut and an icing sugar glaze. I had to write out the recipe for these hearty snacks called “school bread” (skolebrød in Norwegian). I have made them several times over the years and this time decided to try a few alterations, and of course they are now made dairy-free. I recently inherited a bread machine, so I tried throwing all my ingredients in the machine and set it on “dough” setting and it did all the work of kneading for me with little mess.
Oh, and a heads-up: you will need quite a few baking sheets, lasagna pans, anything you can bake on. Borrow your neighbour’s if you have to. This makes about 33 rolls, with about 6 to a large cookie sheet, and they need to rise on the sheet so make sure you have enough before you start! (Moving them to a sheet later before baking really does not work well.)
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) unsweetened almond milk
0.8 cups (200 g) vegetable oil or butter substitute
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large tsp cardamom (or cinnamon)
3 1/2 tsp (10 g) active dry yeast, quick acting
~8 cups (1 kg) flour
2 cups vanilla pudding or custard, prepared dairy-free. (I use Bird’s custard)
1 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
2 Tbsp almond milk
1 cup coconut
In a large bowl, beat together the almond milk, oil, and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, cardamom, yeast, and 4 cups of the flour. Slowly incorporate this into your wet ingredients. While mixing, add another 2 cups of flour. At this point, you will probably need to turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in your remaining ~2 cups of flour until you have a nice bread dough texture. It should be a bit sticky/tacky but not clinging to your floured hands. Place ball of dough into a greased bowl and set in a warm spot to rise until double (about 1 hr). Prepare and cool your vanilla pudding or custard at this time.
Punch down dough, then divide it into small portions, about 33 small egg-sized balls, slightly flattened. Place on greased baking sheets, leaving enough room for their second rising (I can fit 6 onto a large baking sheet, or 4 on a medium sheet or lasagna dish). Then using a soup spoon dipped in the vanilla custard, press an indentation in the center of the bun and then spoon custard into the indentation. Put as much in as you can without it spilling over the edge. Press and fill each bun. Let buns rise again until almost double – about 30 min.
Bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes or until just slightly golden. (Or 225 C for 10 min). Let rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then move to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely.
Mix together the icing sugar and almond milk to make a thick glaze. Drizzle onto outside edges of cooled buns around the vanilla center. Then sprinkle the coconut into the glaze.
These freeze well.
Substitutes: I haven’t tried making these with an egg substitute, but I think it would work well if making a vegan version. Alternately, you can use any type of bread dough, although in my opinion these sweet rolls are the best. If you need to make your own vanilla pudding from scratch, here is a recipe. Any type of dairy-free milk would work in this recipe, and although I haven’t tried it I am sure coconut milk would complement it quite nicely. And if you don’t need to avoid dairy, feel free to make it with regular milk and butter.
Enjoy! Happy back-to-school!