Cranberry, Orange, and Cinnamon Bagels

So a new season of Great British Bake Off has started, and I’m determined play along with the contestants. So each week for the next few weeks, I will be attempting at least one of their challenges. I missed the first episode in time to plan for baking last week, so I’ve had to pick it up on episode two, the one where they made bread.

One of the challenges this week involved making bagels, a dozen sweet and a dozen savory. I’m quite a fan of bagels, but I’ve never actually made them before.

Turns out that they’re relatively simple, just time consuming. So I actually spent my entire Bank Holiday Monday in the kitchen baking rather than relaxing, but it was totally worth it!!

Big thanks to Annie’s Eats for the base recipe, which was really easy to adapt for the different flavors I wanted. These turned out so fantastic that had I not planned on taking them to work, I would eat them for breakfast every day this week.


For the starter sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
For the dough:
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • zest from 2 oranges
For boiling:
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • cornmeal or semolina for dusting


1. First make the starter by mixing the yeast and flour in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the water, stirring until it forms a smooth, sticky batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours until the mixture starts to form bubbles and get foamy. It should be about double in size.

2. Next make the dough by adding the additional yeast to the bowl with your starter. Then add in 3 cups of flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and brown sugar. Mix using your dough hook until the mixture forms a ball. As it starts to come together, slowly add the last 3/4 cup flour until the dough starts to stiffen. Then add in the cranberries and orange zest.

3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes on the countertop. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated.  If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required.  The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Weigh the ball of dough, then divide the weight by 12. Then use that number to divide the dough into twelve rolls of equal weight. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

5. Line a few baking sheets with baking paper and spray with a small amount of oil. Form the dough rolls into bagel shapes either by rolling into snakes and then making into a loop, or just by poking a hole through the middle. Be sure to make the hole double the size than what you want the final hole to be, as they will close up a bit when rising and baking. Spray the tops of the bagels with a bit more oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let sit for another 20 minutes.

6. Your bagels will be ready for the next step when they pass the “float test”. Fill a large bowl with water and drop one of the bagels in – if it starts to float within 10 seconds, they’re ready. If not, return to the pan, re-cover with the plastic wrap, and allow them to rest longer, checking every 15 minutes to see if they float. Once they float, place the bagels in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight, to retard.

7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Bring a large, wide pot of water to boil, then add the baking soda. Line a few more baking sheets with baking paper, mist with oil, then lightly dust with the cornflour or semolina.

8. Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently drop as many that will comfortably fit into the water. They should float quite easily within 10 seconds. Boil for 1 minute, then flip and boil for another minute. Remove the bagels from the oven with a skimmer or slotted spoon.

9. After all of the bagels have been boiled, place in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then rotate the two pans, lower the oven to 450°F (230°C), then continue to bake for another 5 minutes until they turn golden brown.

10. Remove the bagels from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If you’re storing the bagels, they’ll keep for 2-3 days in a paper bag.

Soft Pretzels

I love pretzels. When I lived in the US, I made sure to always stop by Auntie Anne’s to get a warm, buttery pretzel to snack on as I window-shopped. There’s just something incredibly comforting about a warm pretzel. Not to mention, they’re amazing with a pint of beer. Unfortunately, it seems the Brits haven’t caught on to the amazingness that is the soft pretzel. I see them every now and then, but usually they look like they’ve been sitting around for a couple of years.

Last December, I was in Cardiff with Ben and we came across an Auntie Anne’s in a shopping center and I forced him to buy some, promising that he wouldn’t regret it. Let’s just say, he’s now a fan as well.

These pretzels are fantastic. Soft and warm on the inside, buttery and crispy on the outside with just the right mix of a subtle sweetness with the salt. The recipe is from Food Network, and is really simple. The key to getting the best shapes is to roll the dough into really thin snakes, as they will puff up quite a lot in the oven! While I kept mine a relatively manageable size, I think next time I make these I’m going to go for the challenge of making a giant pretzel like the one I had in Munich a few years ago – it was literally as big as my face!


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 6 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 20 Tablespoons (280 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 3 cups warm water
  • coarse sea salt (for sprinkling on the pretzels)


1. Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches about 110°F (43°C). It should feel pretty warm if you stick the tip of your finger in it, but not too hot to keep it there. Pour the milk into the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment then add in the yeast. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes before stirring it on the lowest speed.

2. Stir in the brown sugar and 2 cups of flour. Cut 4 Tablespoons of butter into small cubes and soften in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Add the cubes one at a time, allowing them to work their way into the mixture.

3. Slowly add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour into the mixture along with the salt until it forms a sticky dough. Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for about 5 minutes. Add a bit more flour a spoonful at a time if needed so the dough stops sticking to the sides of the bowl and starts to form a soft ball.

4. After kneading, transfer the dough ball to a large bowl that has been lighted coated with butter or oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

5. Preheat the oven to 450°F (235°C). Line a few baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.

6. Once the dough has risen, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently punch it down. Break off the dough into pieces that are slightly smaller than two ping-pong balls. You should be able to get 12 to 14 dough balls out of the mixture.

7. Take one dough ball and begin to roll it into a long, thin snake keeping the thickness as even as possible. Continue to roll out the snake until it is about 2 feet long. Then twist the dough into the usual pretzel shape. To help the ends adhere, dip your finger into a bit of water and use it to glue the ends down.

8. Dissolve the 1/3 cup of baking soda with 3 cups of warm water in a deep baking dish or a round cake tin. Deep each rolled pretzel into this mix for about 10 seconds, then allow the excess water to drip off before placing on the baking tray. Sprinkle eat pretzel with the sea salt while it is still wet.

9. Bake for 10-12 minutes until dark golden brown, then remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

10. Melt the remaining butter in a heat-proof bowl, then dip the top side of each pretzel into the butter. Place them onto a wire rack to allow the excess butter to drip off. This will give them a wonderful shiny gloss as well as add the buttery flavor.  Serve while warm for the best results.

For a sweet version of these, omit the seasalt before baking and instead dip the pretzel into a mixture of cinnamon sugar after dipping into the melted butter. 

Apple Cinnamon Rolls


I found this recipe over a year ago and never got around to actually making them.  I love the idea of putting these into cupcake liners so that they’re in equal portions. I had to adjust the recipe a bit, as I found the dough to be a bit too sticky.  I’d also recommend chopping the apples a little rougher, as I completely lost the flavor of them once they baked.

These are great for breakfast or with an afternoon tea. Just beware, because they get quite sticky!


For the dough:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (115 grams) butter, room temperature

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup (115 grams) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups chopped apples

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • approximately 2 Tablespoons milk


1. In a heatproof bowl, microwave the milk for 30 seconds, stir, then heat for another 30 seconds making sure the milk doesn’t boil. Remove from the microwave and let sit for a few seconds to cool enough that you could dip your finger in it.

2. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer, mix the yeast and sugar. Add in the milk and continue to stir until everything dissolves. At the salt and 2 cups of flour and beat for two minutes.

3. Beat in the eggs and butter. Once they are combined, add in the flour a 1/2 cup at a time, making sure everything’s incorporated before adding the next part. Once all the flour is in, knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

4. Coat a large bowl with a thin layer of cooking oil. Then place the kneaded dough, cover, and set in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes, or until it is doubled in size.

5. While the dough is rising, mix all of the ingredients for the filling except for the butter in a small bowl.

6. Dust your work surface with flour, then roll out your dough into a rectangle until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter (reserving a bit for later), then sprinkle the filling mixture over the top, leaving about an inch of empty space around all the edges. Gently press the topping into the dough a bit so that it doesn’t move around when you roll it up.

7. Roll the dough into a log, beginning at the long edge of the rectangle. Then slice the log into 24 pieces. Place each slice into a cupcake tin with cupcake liners in each well, folding the edges together into a ‘C’ shape. Cover with a clean towel and set to rise in a warm place for another 40 minutes.

8. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush the tops of each of the rolls with melted butter, then place in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden.

9. Let the rolls cool before coating with a glaze made from icing sugar and milk.

Cinnamon Rolls

Another one of my mother’s recipes, but this one is by far one of the best ones ever. The recipe originally came from a family-run dairy and bakery, called Bergey’s dairy. We used to get them on Saturday mornings when my brother and I were little as there was a shop near our mom’s house. Eventually, mom decided to get a copy of the recipe for herself and these have been a family breakfast staple ever since.

They are really easy to make, but you just need to be patient! The best way to do them is to make the dough the night before, and wake up early to roll them out and bake them. Your entire house will smell wonderful as they are rising and baking. My mother can attest to the number of times I woke up from the smell and came downstairs to help her finish making them. And by helping, I mean eating the icing by the spoonful. But if you have kids, these are a simple way to get them involved in the kitchen, as they are pretty much foolproof.

These are best served still warm from the oven, but will keep for a day or two if kept in an airtight container. Most people like them just fine at room temperature, but I love to stick them in the microwave and reheat for about 15 seconds.


  • 1/2 cup very warm water
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream, heated
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) butter, very soft – nearly melted, really
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cups brown sugar, depending on how the dough is rolled
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • raisins
  • icing sugar, sifted
  • milk
  • vanilla


1. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. If the yeast does not foam, it is either too old or the milk was too warm, so dump the mixture and start again.

2. In large bowl, combine the heated sour cream and butter. Once mixed, add the salt and eggs. Gradually mix in the four cups of flour until the dough forms a soft, slightly sticky ball. Cover the bowl with a lid or some plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight. When you get the dough in the morning, it will have doubled in size, so be sure your bowl is big enough that it has room to grow.

3. The next morning, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and with your rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

4. Once the dough is rolled out, use the very soft butter to coat the top of the dough, spreading it with a spatula (or your hands, if you don’t mind getting a bit messy).  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl (feel free to experiment with the ratio of brown sugar to cinnamon), and sprinkle the mixture over the buttered dough, completely coating the entire surface.

5. Sprinkle the dough with raisins, spreading them out as evenly as possible. You can add as much or as little as you’d prefer. Then gently press the raisins into the surface by grazing your rolling pin over them, being careful that you don’t actually roll the dough out more. This will help the raisins stay in place when you roll up the dough, otherwise they’ll all just fall out as you roll.

6. Starting at the longest edge closest to you, roll up the dough into a spiral, making sure that you do it evenly. Once everything is rolled up, seal up the edge by pinching the dough together. It also helps to put a bit of butter on the final edge to help it stay in place. The ends of the roll are usually kind of flimsy, so I sort of pat the ends of the roll as if I were straightening a pile of papers, to sort of “beef up” the end bits. (I realize that it’s a terrible description, but it will probably make more sense when you do it.)

7. Using a serrated knife, cut the roll in half, then each half into six rolls, giving you a total of twelve. You can get a few more out of the batch if you roll the dough out in a rectangle that is longer than it is wide, so you can slice more rolls. I managed to get eighteen out of this batch, and they were still pretty big.

8. Place each of the slices onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper, or into a glass baking dish (as seen in the background). Be sure to leave quite a bit of space in between them as they will need plenty of room to rise, and they’ll grow a bit more when baked as well – a good rule of thumb is to keep them about 2 inches apart. (The rolls in the picture above are in mid-rise, so they’re a bit bigger than what you’ll see when you first cut them.)

9. Place the baking trays in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until the rolls double in size. As I’ve mentioned before, if you don’t have a warm place, you can put them in a cool oven with a pan of warm water on the bottom. 

10. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake the rolls for 15 – 20 minutes until they start to turn a light gold color. Be sure not to overbake, or else the outside gets a hard crust, which you definitely don’t want on these. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 – 10 minutes.

11. Mix together the icing sugar, vanilla, and milk to create a really runny icing. Add the liquids a VERY small amount at a time – it doesn’t take as much as you think. 1/2 cup icing sugar to 4 teaspoons of milk makes a pretty good starting point. It may be easiest to mix the milk and icing sugar first, then add a few drops of vanilla once you get close to the right consistency. If you dribble some off of a spoon back into the bowl, the icing from the spoon should disappear immediately back into the rest.

12. Drizzle the icing all over the still slightly warm buns. (If the rolls are too hot, your icing will melt right off/disappear, so make sure you’ve allowed them to cool for a few minutes.) Serve them up with a nice glass of milk/coffee/tea, and enjoy.

Hot Cross Buns

As it comes up to Easter, all of the grocery stores around the UK start selling hot cross buns. So I figured I’d give them a go, having never had one in my life. They turned out alright, except that I’m pretty sure I overworked the dough a bit, so be sure to avoid that!


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted


1. Heat the 3/4 cup milk until lukewarm, then gently stir in the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until it gets foamy. If the yeast does not foam, it is either too old or the milk was too warm, so dump the mixture and start again.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and orange zest.

3. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the milk and yeast mixture. Mix until combined, then add 2 eggs and mix until the yolk disappear. Add the butter and raisins then mix for about four minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Place the dough into a large bowl coated with oil, cover with a clean towel, and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (If your house is chilly, like mine, I suggest putting the bowl into a cool oven and placing a dish full of hot water below it. If it’s a sunny day though, a warm window sill works well!) 

5. Once the dough has risen, punch it down once, and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

6. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form each piece into a round ball. (I used a scale to make sure everything was even.) Place each ball onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, making sure they are evenly spaced.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of milk. Brush the tops of each dough ball with the mixture, and save the remaining egg wash. Place a clean towel over the tops of the rolls and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Then brush the tops of the rolls again with the egg wash before placing in the oven to bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

9. Allow the rolls to cool completely on the baking sheet, then combine the icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Place the mixture into a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off), and pipe a cross over the top of each cool bun.