You know how Picasso had a Blue Period? Well, I’m having a Pistachio Period. Exactly the same kind of thing. Except my phase is less artistic. And less sad. And will hopefully last for less than three years, because pistachios are really expensive.
I tend to get obsessed with certain ingredients, and before I know it, they’re in everything. Poor James has had to put up with an absolutely unreasonable amount of pistachios in the past month. There was the pistachio, dark chocolate and apricot cake, which I will post the recipe for at some point because it’s one of my favourites. There were the pistachio and walnut brownies. The pistachio and apricot frangipane tart. The pistachio and pomegranate cake. Pistachios stirred through innumerable salads. Pistachios eaten by the handful. And now these pistachio and chocolate buns. I’m also working on a pistachio-crusted chicken recipe.
Actually, now I’m listing it all, it’s even worse than I thought.
What can I say? They’re delicious. And so pretty! Purple flecked when whole and shelled, pale green when chopped and ground. And so versatile! A great addition to sweet and savoury recipes. And healthy! Full of Vitamin A. Although admittedly they may be less healthy when you mix them with huge amounts of sugar and chocolate.
I’ll shut up now.
I’ve always been like this about certain foods. I will become utterly obsessed with them, eat them daily and work out sneaky ways to include them in every meal and hope the people I am feeding don’t notice and become perturbed by my sudden obsession with pistachios, or pomegranate seeds, or salted caramel, or avocado… Then something else will catch my attention, and we’ll be off on a new tack. I’m the same way about music: I will listen to a song five hundred times until I know it more intimately than my own hands, and then move along to a new backing track for my life. I’ll binge-watch every single episode of a TV show and be interested in nothing else. I’ll watch a film, then rewind it and watch it again. I am intensely loyal in my obsessions… for a limited amount of time, until I’m obsessed with something else.
Anyway, these were a bit of an experiment, and I was really happy with them in the end. When I mentioned that I was making them to a friend, who (normally) has excellent taste, he was doubtful:
‘am not sure about chocolate and pistachio?
pistachio seems too… salty?
Well, I’m happy to say he was wrong. And not just because I was right.
Notes: I prefer to let this dough develop in the fridge overnight, because I think the longer prove gives it a deeper flavour, and also I rarely have time for two proves in the morning. However, if it’s easier, you can just cover it and leave it in a warm place for an hour for the first prove.
These buns are best eaten on the day of making, as they do stale fairly quickly, as does all fresh pastry. However, if you keep them in an airtight container they should be alright – although not quite as good – the next day.
for the dough
500g strong white flour, plus a bit extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 sachet of fast acting yeast (they are usually 7g and can be bought in any supermarket)
300ml whole milk
1 large egg
fairly flavourless oil, for greasing (vegetable, corn, rapeseed, whatever you have lying around)
for the filling
30g butter, melted
100g shelled pistachios
120g sugar (I used caster, but whatever you have should work as long as it’s not too dark)
120g butter (you will have an easier time if it’s a bit soft)
100g chocolate (I used 70%, but use milk if you prefer)
for the topping
2 tbsp apricot jam
100g sifted icing sugar
- Pop the milk and butter in a pan to warm through – you want the butter completely melted and the mixture to be ‘blood temperature’, which I always think sounds creepy, but basically it shouldn’t feel either particularly warm or particularly cool when you touch it. While it’s warming through, combine the flour and salt into your largest mixing bowl, then make a well in the middle and pop the yeast in. Lightly dust a large surface with flour in preparation.
- When the milk and butter mixture is ready, pour it into your dry mixture, add your egg, and stir it all together – I find a silicone spatula easiest at this point, but if you’re the type that likes getting your hands messy then live that dream. When it’s all come together, tip it out onto your prepared floury surface and knead it however you like until it becomes smooth and elastic – it should take about five minutes.
- When it’s kneaded, pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with cling film, and pop it in the fridge overnight (or cover it with a damp tea towel and leave it in a warm place for an hour if you prefer).
- Prepare your filling. Put your pistachios and sugar in your food processor and pulse them until you get a chunky sandy texture – the sugar should stop the pistachios turning into a paste at this stage. Then add your butter and blend until well combined – you should end up with a paste with clearly defined bits of pistachio in it. Chop your chocolate into small pieces.
- Tip your dough out onto a floured surface, and roll it into a 30cm x 20cm rectangle. I am useless at judging measurements by eye so tend to check this with an actual tape measure. Brush the melted butter all over the dough, and then take your pistachio paste and spread it all over your rectangle. Sprinkle your chopped chocolate on top.
- Roll up your dough. The long side of the rectangle should be facing you – roll it in tightly towards you from the opposite long side. When you’ve got it tightly rolled, cut it with a sharp knife (I find my bread knife works best) into thick rounds. You should get around 10 – 12. Place the buns, cut side up, into a deep pan or dish which has been greased with butter, leaving about a finger-width of space between each. I use my big rectangular brownie pan but a circular dish will work too.
- Cover, and leave to rise in a warm place for about half an hour. When this prove is done, the buns should be touching each other in the pan. Preheat your oven to 190C/ gas 5. When it’s nice and hot, pop the buns in. Bake until they are starting to turn golden – around fifteen minutes. I prefer my buns slightly under-done, as I like the doughy squishiness and think they stale less quickly this way. However, if you prefer them darker and crisper, bake them for an extra five to ten minutes.
- Pop the jam in the microwave with a splash of water and heat if for around thirty seconds until it’s smooth and spreadable. When your buns are ready, brush them with the jam. Mix your icing sugar with enough water to make a thick paste (start with one tablespoon and go from there) and drizzle it over the buns. I prefer to do all this in the tin and take them out a few minutes afterwards, once they have set, to minimise the amount of jam and icing all over my kitchen.