Whirligig Buns

There’s nothing quite like deciding that today is a good day to get some study done to bring out the inner procrastibaker in me.  Procrastibaking is a term coined by Bookworm last year while she was doing the HSC – we ate lots of cakes, biscuits and muffins last year!  I feel some pressure to keep the tradition going and one of the things I love about yeast cookery is that it only involves little bits of time – spread out over a few hours. So, I can procrasti-bake AND feel like I’m not procrastinating too much as it doesn’t actually take me away from what I’m supposed to be doing for too long. Blogging about it is of course another matter entirely….

I call these Whirligig buns only because that’s what Nigella Lawson calls them – and it’s more or less her recipe. They are in fact called ‘Chocolate and pistachio whirligig buns’ and I originally came across the recipe in a delicious magazine many years ago. However, I’ve never made them with pistachios – I love pistachios, I just don’t have them in the house as an everyday pantry staple and this is the kind of recipe you can make when you feel like something a bit special and only have everyday things in the pantry. No chocolate? What about cinnamon and sugar buns instead? Or significantly reduce the sugar in the dough mixture and make cheese & ham whirligigs. Or cheese & mustard. Or cheese & salsa & olives. It’s adaptable is the point.

This recipe made it to my card file (I really must blog about the card file) and my scribblings are all over it as I have adapted and fiddled with the recipe over the years.  Here’s what I make:

5 1/2 – 6 cups plain flour

1/3 cup caster sugar (reduce this to a tablespoon if you’re making a savoury filling – it helps with the yeast to have a bit of sugar but isn’t essential)

3 x 7g sachets dried instant yeast (I buy my yeast in a large jar so this equals 6 teaspoons for me)

100g unsalted butter, softened (I use ordinary as I rarely have unsalted in the house)

1 2/3 cups milk

2 eggs, plus 1 beaten egg to glaze


110g softened butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

3/4 shelled unsalted pistachios

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits

Start with 5 1/2 cups of flour – put it, the caster sugar, yeast & 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl (I don’t use the salt as my butter is usually salted). Put the butter & milk in a saucepan over low heat and heat for 2-3 minutes or until tepid/warm and the butter is beginning to melt. Break the eggs into a jug and whisk, then add the butter/milk mixture, whisking constantly so you don’t cook the eggs. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients.

Mix to form a dough – if it’s a bit sticky and you need the extra 1/2 cup of flour now is the time to add it. Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and springy. (We have a Kenwood Chef with a dough hook but prefer to knead by hand – it’s very good for releasing frustration and really doesn’t take any more time when you factor in getting the Kenwood set up to do it).

The dough ready to prove in the bowl

Form the dough into a ball & place back into the cleaned, greased bowl, turning to coat – cover with a teatowel and leave in a warmish place to rise – it’s really yeasty so should double in size in less than an hour. Line a baking pan – about 25 x 35cm with baking paper.

Punch down the dough to get rid of the air, then cut off about 1/3 & roll or stretch it to fit the baking pan. Roll out the rest of the dough on a floured surface until it measures about 25 x 50cm.

Now you’re ready to make the filling. Mix together the butter & sugar to form a paste, then spread the surface of the 2nd, larger piece of dough with the butter mixture so it is even.

Chop the nuts (Nigella says ‘to a splintery rubble’) and sprinkle over the buttered dough along with the choc bits. (If I’m doing cinnamon sugar buns I have usually added the cinnamon to the butter mixture). Roll up from the longest side to form a long sausage. Cut the dough crosswise into about 1cm slices (should make 15-20 rounds) and sit these cut side up on the dough in the pan.

Putting it together

Preheat oven to 210 degrees C.

Brush the buns with the egg glaze and leave to prove for another 15 minutes or so – they will puff up and fill the pan (or almost).

Ready to eat!

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are risen and golden brown.

Slide them out of the tray to cool on a rack and then pull them apart to eat warm (they are also good re-heated later!).


3 thoughts on “Whirligig Buns

  1. yum… being a yeast avoider, I have made similar with a scone base….. great when you have to bring something…. but not sure what.

    • I must admit I make this kind of thing with scone dough all the time too & it’s an excellent way to make lunches that Mr14 will actually eat (!) – but I do love the slow food feel of yeast cookery and the way it unfolds over an entire day 🙂

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