Thursday, 27 February 2020

my perfect cinnamon cardamom buns, or cinnoissants

guys, guys, guys. i'm sorry that it's taken me this long to let you know my cinnamon bun recipe, but i think it works in your benefit, because i've now made them SO many times that i know all the tips and tricks to make them perfect every single time. scroll all the way to the bottom to find my chef's notes, telling you what yeast, sugar and cardamom i use, along with how i like to tweak the recipe sometimes.

the recipe itself is dairy free, but you can of course substitute for the regular options of cream, milk and butter. it will have a different taste, but the results won't be that different.

this recipe is pretty flexible, i've made it with so many different variations of ingredients and it's always worked well, providing i've used good yeast, and left it to double in size before working it. i think the trick is for how long it's kneaded for before it gets used - i'm so grateful for my grandmother's hand-me-down, ancient-but-still-functioning Kenwood Chef for giving me much-needed muscle.

cinnoissants came around because the last few time i've made them i've done a second fold and roll, and a double egg wash, and they've turned out extra crispy as well as so moist and delicious and kind of like a croissant in that way. i'm sure you could even make them even more like a croissant if you wanted to, resting them in the fridge between layers, adding in more butter/coconut oil and rolling precisely... perhaps next time i'll try that, but for now, these are amazing just as they are.

cinnamon cardamom bun recipe
makes 24 buns

for the dough:
2/3 cup soy cream
1 cup soy milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
3 1/2 cups strong white bread flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom seeds, ground

for the cinnamon butter:
5 tbsps coconut oil
2 tbsp ground cinnamon (or 1tbsp cinnamon and 1tbsp ground cardamom seeds)
2 tbsp coconut sugar

to finish:
1 egg, whisked with a fork (for egg wash)
1-2tbsps Swedish pearl sugar (see cook's notes below)

1. add the soy cream, soy milk, and egg together in your mixer bowl. mix together until combined. rest for a couple of hours, if possible, to bring to room temperature (see notes).
2. add the sugar, flours, yeast, salt & cardamom.
3. use your dough hook attachment and mix for 15 minutes. check after 5 minutes to make sure that the dough is coming together, add a tbsp of bread flour if it's sticking to the side too much, and scrape down from the sides. add flour in a tbsp at a time until it comes together. it shouldn't stick to the bowl, but should be moist. if you don't have a mixer, knead by hand for 20-25 minutes.
4. take the dough hook out, and clean. cover the bowl with a damp tea towel, and leave for 1 hour or until the dough has grown to 1.5-2 times it's original size.
5. whilst it's proving, make the cinnamon butter, in a small bowl, add the coconut oil, cinnamon and sugar, and mix with a spoon by hand until smooth and spreadable.
6. when the dough is ready, mix again with the dough hook for 5 minutes, or knead by hand for 10 minutes.
7. tip it out onto a floured surface, cut in half, put half the mix back in the bowl and cover again to stop it drying out.
8. using a floured rolling pin, roll out to a large thin rectangle.
9. spread over half the cinnamon butter, using the back of a spoon. it doesn't have to be completely even, but do make sure you spread it to the edges.
10. looking at the dough landscape. fold the left third of the rectangle over to the right side, so it covers the middle, and then fold the remaining right third over the top.
11. roll out to the same size again. repeat the folds. don't worry about the cinnamon butter splurging out the edges or going over your rolling pin.
12. roll out again. cut into 12 long strands. twist into a bun (there are heaps of different ways to twist - simply try a few until you find your favourite - check YouTube for ideas!). place the twists on two lined baking trays. 
13. cover with two tea towels, and then repeat steps 8-12 with the rest of the dough. place those twists onto baking paper, covered with a tea towel, if you only have 2 baking trays.
14. leave the buns to rest for 30-45 minutes. meanwhile, get the oven warming up - turn it on to 225c, 200c fan, 440f.
15. once the second rise is complete, using a pastry brush, brush over the buns with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar.
16. bake for 10-15minutes, or until golden. leave to cool on a rack, then bake the second batch.

enjoy in true Swedish style with a cup of coffee, hot from the oven!

cook's notes:
- this is THE pearl sugar to use. each country has their own version of what pearl sugar means, so  you want to make sure you get the right kind!

- i like to use white rye flour as my plain flour, it just has a more interesting flavour.
- instead of coconut sugar, you could use soft brown sugar, but again, i like the flavour more with coconut sugar.
- for cardamom i use green cardamom seeds from The Spice Works, on ebay. i just grind them in my coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle and then sieve it. it really doesn't matter if you've got chunks in there. you can also use cardamom pods and grind those, but you will need to sieve out the outer shell. regular pre-ground cardamom is fine too, but the flavour isn't nearly as good.

 - i like to use Allinson's easy bake yeast, and i keep the little container in my fridge after i've opened it, to keep it active. but any yeast will do - it's about two 7g sachets you'll need for this recipe.

- you can mix up your mixture cold (without leaving the wet mix to come to room temp) and leave it for longer to rise - several hours.
- if the rise is taking a while, you can put it near (but not too close to) something warmer, like a radiator, fire or oven, or even a sunny window, to encourage a rise. i'm pretty sure they only have 'provng draws' on Bake Off?
- for an even crispier finish, do a double egg wash - once straight after the twists are placed on the tray, before the rise, and once after the rise.
- a few useful tools: a dough scraper, a pizza cutter for quicker cutting of the strands, silicone baking sheets (lifechanger!).
- these freeze beautifully, simply pop them in a warm oven for 10 minutes to defrost thoroughly and enjoy. i actually usually put most of my batch in the freezer.

thank you so much for reading! let me know if you make them, and how they turn out! let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, 31 January 2020

the latest & greatest eco disposable nappies

today i’m writing another post about eco-disposable nappies for you. i really hope this can help you navigate the world of eco nappies, so you can buy with more confidence and understanding.

if you haven’t yet read my first blog on the subject do go and read, because in that post i flesh out a little more about why i choose eco disposables, i talk about how regular nappies take 450 YEARS to decompose, and how any option is better than that, especially as we go through 8 million nappies a day. i also say that cloth is far more superior than these ‘eco’ throw-aways, but that sometimes your sanity is more important than perfection. i reviewed Bambo Nature, Kit & Kin, Moltex and eco by Naty.

so let’s talk about the different brands i’ve recently tried…

(quick note – the price per nappy in this blog post is based on a size 3 nappy)

1. Mama Bamboo * - these i love because they're so soft and the fit is fantastic. they have a wetness indicator, which is really handy and lovely to see in an eco nappy. they're chlorine free, and breathable.

the best thing about Bamaboo nappies is that 80% will biodegrade in 2 years! also the packaging is compostable. and they've been awarded best disposable nappy by Mother & Baby.

they're a little bit harder to find, but if you get home deliveries from Ocado each week, then they're the perfect choice for you. you can also get a subscription from their website, which brings the price down from 28.5p per nappy to 22.8p.

they're made in China, and they are proud of it. and they also mention that they ship by sea freight to save on the environmental detriment to air shipping (although the reality is that it's probably a fairly marginal difference). it's good that they're clear about where they're made, because not all of the companies are.

2. Beaming Baby - these are my least favourite of the bunch. partially because it's a company that's been going for so long and the price is so high at 31.6p per nappy, that my expectations were really high.

these were the least soft, and in fact, i'd say the back part is positively hard. they're made of cotton, which is arguably a less eco option too. the fit as well wasn't the best for my little girl. AND it is difficult to tell when she's full in them, as they don't really expand, and there's no wetness indicator, so leaks happened.

they are however 77% biodegradable in 4 years, come in sizes 1-6, and are infused with chamomile.

did i also say that their website needs a major update? so hard to navigate... and they're made in Mexico, so there's the shipping to consider.

3. Muumi - these were the most expensive of the lot at 31.9p per nappy, but my husband's and my brother's favourite of the lot. partly because they have a moomin on the front, and partly because they're really reliable and absorbent, and truly a good overnight 12-hr nappy option.

there are no chemicals or allergens. and the company has the Nordic eco swan label, so the company adhere to responsible manufacturing policies. they are made in Finland from cellulose fibre, made from the trees in the forests in Finland, and they're also FSC certified, and use renewable hydro power in their production.

they are wrapped in biodegradable bags, and you can really easily get them on Amazon. they also come in size 1-7.

4. Mum & You - these were recommended by a reader of mine, and i'm so glad to have tried them. they are the best price of the lot, at 23p per nappy, and with the option of a subscription bringing them down to 18.6p per nappy.

they are free from dyes, lotions and chorine. they come in different designs within each packet, which they call 'nappychat' because you have something different to talk with your baby about each time you put one on.

they have a biodegradable core, but otherwise their website states nothing about how long it will take, or the percentage that will degrade - the lack of clarity on this is concerning, as it shows that the eco factor isn't their main priority. however, the packaging is made of sugarcane, and they're made of wood pulp (which is pretty soft). but they are made in the UK! the only one that is.

they performed ok, but i think i got the size too big to try really - sizing is so tricky with nappies, as each company has a different weight for each size type!

5. NĂ¼ - these really surprised me! they are 90% compostable in 2 years, which is incredible (the city of Toronto would be proud!) they cost 25.9p per nappy, so one of the cheapest i tried this time round, and they're easy to get on Amazon.

they only come in sizes 1-5, and are also made in China. but they have a really easy to navigate website, and are made of 100% bamboo.

the reason they are so compostable is because there are no tabs on the front of the design, it's just one flat panel, and it fits really well, it's a beautiful clean design.

now, let me quickly tell you the price per nappy for the brands i reviewed last time, based now on a size 3, bought in 2020, just so you can compare them all equally:
Bambo Nature – 18.2p per nappy
Kit & Kin – 23.3p per nappy (subscription available)
Moltex – 19.1p per nappy
Naty – 19.8p per nappy


i loved trying most of these nappies! but we'll still be sticking with Bambo Nature for now, simply because they are so much cheaper.

it's so hard to work out which is the most eco, because it depends on your priorities and you have to weigh up what's important to you - shipping and where it's manufactured, how it's made, what it's made of, how it's packaged, how available it is to you, what size you need...

so, i hope this helps in some way toward helping you make a decision. please let me know in the comments what you think of these brands, and let me know if you use them!

posts you may be interested in:

*gifted item – these nappies were sent to me from the company.

Friday, 24 January 2020

sleeping through the night at 8 weeks : it happened again

today i'm sharing our tips on how we got our baby girl to sleep through the night at 8 weeks old. i thought it was a coincidence that our son was a good sleeper, and he slept through the night from about 12 weeks, but now i'm not so sure it's a coincidence. and just in case it's not, i want to share what we did, what we read, things that helped us, in case some tidbit here makes all the difference for you.

sleep is SO important, for all the family, and when you're both not getting enough, it's really, really tough.

i wish that this blog post could be a formula for success for everyone, but unfortunately i can't guarantee that if you do everything we did that you'll have a sleeping baby. each baby is different, as is each parent and home. i can only share things that i know have helped us establish good sleep. i am not a sleep expert, and i'm not a doctor. these are just things i've spotted that we do differently from other people, and they may be a factor in the sleeping, or they may not.

so let's start with a couple of important pieces of information...

firstly, what do i mean by sleeping through the night? everyone has a slightly different definition of it, and i simply mean that the baby is sleeping whilst we are sleeping, between about 10pm and 6am.

secondly, both our children had breastfeeding jaundice, which made them extra sleepy for the first couple of weeks of their life. this meant that they had to be woken up for every feed, instead of waking themselves, so this enabled me to set the pace of their feeding more easily in those initial weeks.

now let's break it down...

the feeding cycle

one of the things we learnt early on with our son, was that in the neonatal unit at the Belgian hospital in which he was born, ALL the babies are on a 3 or 4 hour feeding cycle. demand feeding wasn't really an option, i had to be there to wake him, change him and then feed him before he feel asleep again, and he was really only awake for about an hour at a time.

this meant that he was never overly hungry. it meant he rarely cried. it meant he was always fed enough to sleep well. i guess if in those first couple of days you let them sleep too long, then you could end up in a hunger cycle that would be hard to get out of.

i used to set a timer for 4 hours in those early days and nights, and make sure to wake baby when the timer went off. the timer indicated the beginning of one feeding session to the next - so for example i would feed at 4am, 8am, 12midday, 4pm, 8pm, midnight, etc. in the neonates, we started on a 3hr feed cycle and then went to a 4hr cycle, because he was smaller to begin with, but with our daughter we did 4 hourly to begin, and 3 hrs when we were treating her jaundice for a few weeks.

after a couple of weeks, as they got more alert, they were awake more often, or waking for feeds themselves. at that point with both my children, at about 3-4weeks, i switched to demand feeding in the day time, especially as both of them did spit up a lot, and our daughter even did a round of projectile vomiting! that way, feeding more like every 2 hours was a little easier for them, and made sure they kept it down.

don't overstimulate

the next 'secret' is that babies often look fully awake and then fall straight back to sleep. sometimes our daughter would even cry really loudly for a few short cries - it sounded like she was having a nightmare - and then go straight back into a deep sleep.

the key to the secret seems to be to resist the temptation to play with them or stimulate them. just let them be, and see if they don't put themselves back to sleep. most sleep therapists would say that the skill of being able to put themselves back to sleep is the key part of getting them to sleep through the night. and to do that they need to be able to practice in those early days when they're sleepy.

what we do is let our daughter make a few noises, and we only pick her up when it's consistent.

we also don't overstimulate in the day time, she's 3 months old and she doesn't do classes or too many outings, about all she can manage is to kick on her mat and attempt to grab her rattle, then she'll get annoyed and want less stimulation, so we pop her in her moses basket. it's ok to let them lie in a basket not doing too much, not looking at anything, i believe that in those times they're being allowed to figure out how to use their muscles and keep their brain calm in idle moments. and they're also figuring out that it's ok to be by themselves.

more sleep equals more sleep

we've always been sure that the whole idea of keeping them more awake in the day so they sleep at night is a myth, that actually you want to encourage sleep in the day, and that actually helps them sleep better at night.

sometimes it's imperative to force sleep by driving them around in a car seat or putting them in a baby carrier or wrap. that's what we did when our son was out of routine and we needed him to sleep more so that he would sleep more, and it's always worked.

if you're not sure how much sleep your child should be getting, you can check the Gina Ford book The Contented Little Baby Book (UK/US) - i found this a really helpful guide for how much sleep and how many minutes of breastfeeding, etc, was normal or appropriate for each age. i didn't and don't follow it word for word, but it's really helped us keep moving forward and find patterns.

swaddle, swaddle, swaddle

one of the things we also do is to swaddle in the first few months, because it mimics the feeling of the baby being back inside mummies tummy, all warm and tightly held. if you're not sure how to swaddle, you just need a 120x120cm muslin (like these ones - UK/US), and then to wrap them like a burrito (like in this Youtube video). it's important to do it safely.

a couple of other things we make sure to get right about their sleep environment:
  • not too many layers
  • wearing only 100% cotton to sleep in 
  • in a sleep suit, so there's nothing pulling on their tummy and no socks can fall off
  • in a sleep sack when they're too big for the swaddle
  • covered with a heavy cellular blanket over the swaddle in the winter months, and a lighter cellular blanket for the summer
  • safe - see The Lullaby Trust
  • their nappy/diaper isn't too tight (we usually use the size up for night time), and is fresh on before nighttime
  • the room they're sleeping in isn't too hot or too cold, we keep our house at 18.5c (65f)

avoid sleep associations

this is a really difficult one, and our boy got addicted to being bounced to sleep in the Ergobaby for a long time, and we had to wean him off of it at 18 months (read how we sleep trained him at 18 months here). it will be interesting to see how we handle sleep regressions and periods of sickness this time, because that's how we ended up with that situation with our boy. it's no bad thing to want to cuddle them to sleep when they're unwell, but it was tricky to get out of that cycle.

there are a couple of sleep associations we did avoid that can be tricky to get rid of. but the main one i hear problems with is using a dummy/pacifier - we just never used one, we just let our children be loud, which was not very well looked at by people around us in Belgium who all had one when my son was little. i think this is a bit of a cultural/family thing, but i do know that some kids wake up if they fall out of their mouths and parents have to go in to put it back, causing sleep disturbances

we sometimes feed to sleep, but not always, so it's not a requirement for sleep. i think this all stems back to the first point, of not feeding every time they cry and find other ways to settle them first. we also keep our baby in a separate moses basket and then in their own crib, rather than in our bed. our children, and we, just prefer to sleep that way, we don't really have anything against co-sleeping as such, as it's worked brilliantly for some people we know.

we tried to get our son to enjoy listening to music to relax and sleep and always played him Ed Sheeran. but he never needed it to sleep, or even really associated it with sleep - though it would've been nice to just play some Ed and have him fall to sleep!

one really positive sleep association is darkness - our daughter will sleep so long as it's really dark, it's how she knows it's nighttime. it's quite easy to provide darkness with blackout blinds during the summer months too. but it does mean that our son sleeps better in the winter than the summer, he basically hibernates and still takes a 2 hour nap in the winter at the age of almost 4.

some people swear by a bedtime routine, but we've never done a strict bedtime routine of bath, pyjamas, books, prayers, etc, because we knew we'd be travelling a lot with our son, and we wanted it to be easy for him to sleep anywhere and at different times. so instead, the only solid thing in the routine when they're little is that they're in their room and it's dark. we do incorporate the other things a lot of the time, but we're not strict on it, and we haven't found they really need it to relax before bed, until they're about 18months old when it gets a bit more important to teach them how to do that.

putting them down partially asleep

one of the things we learned from Gina Ford was the importance of putting baby down to sleep when they're half asleep, half awake.

with our son, we got to the point of having to make sure he was fast asleep before we put him down, and with our daughter i'm trying to put her down when she's just fallen asleep, and then letting her drift herself off to sleep again. she will usually put out a couple of loud cries and then fall asleep.

during the night however, i used to put her down when she was pretty awake. i would change her, nurse her til she didn't want any more, burp her for 5 minutes and then put her down, however awake or asleep she was. then i switched off the light. if she cried, i picked her up and fed her again and then put her down again. i repeated until she made no noise when i put her down. it’s tiring, but eventually she got the gist that being awake at night isn't something we do. i didn't talk to her, didn't play, kept the lights low. so by 8 weeks old, she was sleeping through.

take care of yourself mama!

so much of the time, sleep is related to how much they've fed, and how well they've fed. so i want to dial in on that a bit more, and give you my top tips for making sure baby is well fed. if you want to read more, check out my blog post about increasing breast milk supply.

- ditch dairy.
this has been a key thing for so many people i know, so it's worth giving it a shot if you're struggling. i restrict my dairy heavily, i might eat a tiny bit of butter on toast once in a while, and when i go out i might end up eating a little cream in a sauce or something. but i keep dairy-free ice cream and cream and milk in the house - i did this before i had kids to clear my acne (i still only get a spot when i eat dairy, otherwise my face is clear!). check this article out for more info on cows milk protein allergy in babies.

- increase fats and galactogogues.
making sure that you have a really rich diet is so important, you can't expect to make great milk if you're eating nutrient-poor foods, or not getting enough calories. i make a huge batch of cookies each week and eat two each day, full of coconut oil, oats, eggs, and other milk-enhancing foods. i usually have porridge and fruits for breakfast, eggs for lunch and fish for dinner. and i eat a LOT.  you need to keep yourself nourished. one of my favourite books for post-partum health is The First Forty Days (UK/US) - it teaches you why and how to get the vitamins in and looks at traditional cultural ways of doing so.

- feed for long enough!
one thing most people say about me is that i feed for way too long, or my kids are slow. but it's an intentional thing to make sure they're getting the fatty milk that comes at the end of finishing one side. if they get one whole boob, rather than two halves, they sleep loads because they're getting all the nutrients! so make sure you finish one breast before starting on the next!

if baby is fussy at the breast, you need to be the one to keep latching them back on. that happened a lot in the early days, and it's physically exhausting getting them to keep latching on again, but it's so worth it. feeds took 45minutes-1 hour to begin with, and now at 3 months she's taking 20-30minutes for a good feed. make sure you plan the time into you day for this, and relax into it (you want to make sure you also get a good let down or two).

- keep them upright
with both my babies, i kept them upright a lot after feeds, to burp but also to prevent them spitting out too much milk and help them digest. i try to keep my baby upright on my chest for 30minutes after a feed, so sometimes i put her in the Cuddlebug wrap so i can do other things too! the need for keeping her upright disappeared at about 10-12weeks as her digestive system matured.

- make sure you've had plenty of rest
i've said it before, and i'll say it again. babies always copy your emotions, so if mama is grumpy, they're grumpy, if mama is happy, they're happy, etc. so if i'm tired and stressed, what do you think baby is going to be? i make sure to do VERY little during the day, i maybe spend about an hour cleaning each day, and a lot of the rest of the time i'm doing something relaxing, meditative and peaceful - which for me is faith journaling, baking and watching a lot of Gilmore Girls.

dream feeding is the best

our daughter just turned 3 months old, and with that, she had her first dream feed. she'd fallen asleep at 8:30 and i could tell she was in a deep sleep for the night, and as my breasts were still a little full (i hand expressed for a second to check how full they were) i decided to try and dream feed her at 11pm as i went to bed as she still hadn't stirred. and she did it! it takes a while to dream feed, because you pick them up asleep and get them to latch and they keep falling asleep! but twenty minutes later she was done and had emptied them, and then slept all the way through until 7am! so she almost slept 11hrs! she's now been doing this for the last week, and so essentially she's sleeping a whole twelve hours in the night with no wake-ups.

i dreamfed my son for months and months, because it kept my milk supply up, but also allowed him that deep rest throughout the night.

for the first 3 months, she would wake for a feed at 10:30. and i can guarantee that if she doesn't have that dreamfeed she'll be up at 3am hungry for milk, at least until she starts solids.

i know this is a lot of information, so thank you so much for reading, and please do get in touch if you have any questions or comments. and please let me know if any of these things work for you!

i honestly don't want to sound at all preachy or like we have it all figured out. we don't. we've been really blessed with good sleepers. but like i said at the start, i wanted to share what we do because people are always so surprised by how well our kids sleep and they want to know the why, so here it is. plus also, if for some reason we have another child, i'll have all those notes of what we did to look back on!