When leafing through The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak last week, I kept coming back to the page for her cinnamon buns. 

no yeast cinnamon buns from Violet Bakery | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

If you've been around here for a while, you might know that one of my favourite breakfast pastries are sugar buns (Tartine Bakery's morning bun made with a whole-wheat variation on Nigella Lawson's Danish dough, and laced with almond and orange). Besides bostocks, they are usually my holiday morning go-to, and it is rare that I stray from that habit.

However (!), Ptak's recipe is made without yeast; the dough gets its rise from baking powder instead, like the cousin of a scone or sweet biscuit. That was enough to intrigue. Plus they were pretty; perfectly golden arabesques dusted with sugar. Total lookers. So curiosity got the better of me.

You make the dough in a stand mixer, crumbling up cold butter into the dry ingredients, then adding milk until a dough curls up around the paddle. Simple. The dough rolls out smooth and supple, twirls back up into an impressive swirl, then bakes into delicate layers with just a touch of elasticity for some chew. 

The cinnamon swirl is backed up in spice by some cardamom in the dough and the combo comes off friskier than either on their own. It's exactly right. And, if you can find Ceylon cinnamon, this is the time to use it. 

It's Thanksgiving coming up, and we are going apple picking sometime this week — I'm toying with the idea of a second go with these for the holiday weekend, this time wafer thin slices of sautéed apples and blitzed almonds wrapped up in the coil. I think that might be a good idea. Still, I didn't want to hold out on you on the recipe, so here they are. 

Happy start of the week, talk soon.



"Of course a soft yeasty bun can be a wonderful thing, but at Violet we have never had enough space to work with yeasted bread doughs. They take up more room and need larger machines. I came up with these yeast-free buns in my home kitchen by looking back through the cookbooks of the 1950s, when everything was about how o make things more quickly. Quick breads, as breads leavened with baking powder or baking soda are called, were an alternative to the time-consuming yeast or sourdough breads. Truly, they are something altogether different. They both have their place on the table. This recipe can also be made ahead then frozen in the muffin tin until ready to bake."

— from The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak (Ten Speed Press, 2015)

Makes 12 buns


  • 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 250g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


  • 560g (4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 240g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes)
  • 300g (1 1/4 cups) cold milk
  • sugar, for dipping
  • butter, for greasing the pan


Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F (180°C/355°F convection).

Butter a 12-cup deep muffin pan.

First, prepare the feeling. Melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid. Mixed together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

Now make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour into cold milk while the mixer is running, until dough forms into a ball and comes away from the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Clear a large surface, dust lightly with more flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle until almost 5mm (1/8 inch) thick. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter and, before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on to the butter. You want a good, slightly thick layer.

Now roll the long side, keeping it neat and tidy. Gently tug the dough toward you to get a taut roll while rolling away from you in a spiral. Once it’s all rolled up, gently squeeze the roll to ensure it’s the same sickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut the roll crosswise into 12 even slices. Take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back about 5 cm (2 inches) of the loose end of the pastry and fold back under the roll too loosely cover the bottom of the roll. Place in the muffin pan, flap side down. Repeat with remaining slices.

Bake the buns for 25 minutes. As soon as they're out of the oven, flip them over onto a wire cooling rack so that they don't stick to the tray. Dip each cinnamon bun into a bowl of sugar and serve right away.


  • There seems to be an error in the volume conversion in the book for this entry — the flour is listed as 560g or 1 1/2 cups, but that weight is actually about 4 1/2 cups and I've changed the recipe to reflect that.

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Under the counter where the coffee things sit in my kitchen, third drawer down on the left, is a waffle iron. We bought it on a whim years ago when Sean and his parents were talking about the waffle ice cream sandwiches at the CNE

Due to that association, whenever I make waffles instead of the usual French toast or pancakes, it feels like a festive thing. The waffles here however, are celebratory on their own, since they're from Heidi Swanson's very soon-to-be-released cookbook, Near and Far. (Cue the confetti canons and cheers.)

Heidi Swanson's Whole Wheat Waffles with roasted peaches and mapled blueberries | by Tara O'Brady

Heidi is known for getting details right. It comes as no surprise then that this new book is an extraordinary object, smartly designed and impressive to hold. The raised cover, reminiscent of tin ceilings and anaglypta, is slightly velveted. Its pattern is elaborated upon in the endpapers, and the creamy off-white echoed in the matte pages between them. Every inch is considered.

It is a book with clear, learned perspective. Divided into categories—recipes her inspired by her home, then those she likes for journeys, and finally recipes from the around the world—while reading Near and Far it is impossible to ignore a prevailing, longing wanderlust. Through Heidi's evocative photographs and passages, and her characteristic care in choosing just the right ingredients, you are transported to her kitchen and table, even when that kitchen is in Rabat, New Delhi, or Tokyo, rather than her native San Francisco. There is a distinct sense of real, rooted places, and an intimacy in the shared experience. 

Often it is a matter of alchemy in developing recipes; a combination of time, surroundings, outlook, and trend all contribute to a sort of collected whole. Heidi once said certain things "are simply in the air." In Near and Far, you're in that atmosphere with her. 

 (For some more on Heidi's cooking philosophy—vegetarian, with an emphasis on whole foods—here's what I wrote about her last book, Super Natural Every Day.)

The breadth of this latest collection is all-embracing, and I've an eye on some to become new-to-me favourites—tempeh with shoyu butter, Lillet shrub, and farro salad (with this lip-smackingly piquant olive dressing) are all in the running. Then recently, Heidi told me her nephew Jack is a fan of the whole wheat waffles in the book. That was all the endorsement needed.

These waffles, like so many of Heidi's recipes, are familiar, but somehow that little bit better than you recalled. Lacily, crackly-crusted as you expect, but the centre has a set-custard quality, vaguely eggy and slightly elastic, so there's chew to back up the initial crunch. In my mind, that's not just the mark of a good waffle, but a superlative one. 

Utterly fitting, considering where they came from. Tonight, with the leftovers, there'll be ice cream. Hooray, that.

And, once more, Heidi, well done. xo


"These are the waffles I make most often—big, and Belgian-style. A combination of flours and rolled oats is lighted up with a bit of rice flour or organic cornstarch. It is a blend that conspires with lots of buttermilk to give the waffles a nice, moist interior and a crisp, golden crust."

— from Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press, 2015). 

Makes 16 Belgian-style waffles


  • 1 cup | 4.5 oz | 120 g whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups | 9 oz | 225 g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup | 1.75 oz | 50 g rolled oats or 1/2 cup | 1.5 oz | 40 g wheat germ
  • 4 oz | 110 g organic cornstarch or rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 cups | 1 L buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup | 4 oz | 115 g butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs, separated


Preheat the oven to 225°F | 110°C. Combine the flours, oats, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, and egg yolks. In a third bowl, using an egg beater or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks.

Heat the waffle maker, and when it is ready, add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture just starts to come together. Dollop the egg whites across the top of the batter and fold until uniform, using a few strokes as possible. 

Use a scoop to ladle the batter into your waffle iron and cook until deeply golden and crisp. Transfer to the warm oven while you make the remaining waffles—the dry heat of the oven helps them set a bit. Any leftover batter will keep for a day or so, refrigerated.


  • I used the wheat germ suggestion rather than rolled oats.
  • I served the waffles with Five Spice Roasted Peaches, mapled blueberries, and sweet labneh. I prepared the peaches as written, then stirred some wild blueberries through the leftover maple-vanilla syrup while the peaches roasted. I made the labneh from my cookbook, with orange zest, brown sugar, and vanilla (p. 229). The sprinkles are a bit of bee pollen. 
  • This recipe does make quite a lot of waffles; my waffle iron isn't super deep, so I think the yield was about 18. I froze the extras on a sheet pan, then transferred them to a freezer bag. They toasted up beautifully when needed. If preferred, the recipe halves neatly. 
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