I have spent a good week learning how and perfecting the art of making “tahinopittes” – the very traditional Cypriot sweet tahini pies. They are a pretty tough food to crack, but once you’ve figured out the secrets, they become pretty straightforward. However, at the beginning of last week I had not mastered “tahinopittes” and while I was trying to, I was also in a kitchen occupied by a pug that was driving me crazy. Barking, begging for food on mass rotation.
So much so, that my efforts to learn how to make “tahinopittes” were thwarted and left me without much energy to persist with my baking research. So instead, I took the easy part of making “tahinopittes” and combined it with a straightforward recipe for cinnamon rolls. The result: soft, fluffy and flavourful tahini rolls. “Tahinopittes” are similar to cinnamon rolls. Instead of cinnamon, butter and nuts/lemon rind/raison flavouring in the middle of the roll, there is sweet cinnamon tahini flavouring and the “roll” is sort of “squashed” – for want of a different word. You can find the recipe for traditional “tahinopittes” here.
What I like about this recipe, is that it is not intimidating to make. It is the kind of “tahinopita” recipe that one could make even if you don’t live in Cyprus, and have never tried eating or making “tahinopittes” before. And a heads up: if you are used to “tahinopittes” and have never tried cinnamon rolls, you may be tempted to think these are “tahinopitta” mistakes. They are not. They are stand alone yummy dessert food. And even my (naughty) pug would bark to that. Recipe adapted from the incredible The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls.
for the tahini filling (you may not need it all):
2 cups brown tahini
2/3 cup & 2 full tbs white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vegetable oil
for the roll:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 package (7g) active dry yeast
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp (scant) baking soda
4 cups all purpose flour (plus 1/2 extra, reserved)
3/4 tbs salt
for the topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest of 1/4 lemon
dash of salt
1. Heat the milk, oil and sugar in a pan on the stove on low-medium heat. Remove from heat just before the mixture boils. Set aside and leave the mixture to cool until warm (so when you touch the mixture with your baby finger it does not scald you).
2. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the mixture and let sit for 1 minute. Add 4 cups of flour. Stir until just combined, cover with a kitchen towel and leave for an hour in a warm place.
3. After 1 hour add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away or place in the fridge to cool for an hour (it’s easier to handle this way). Note that if the dough is sticky, then add more flour. I always find with dough recipes, it comes down to feeling your dough more than following the measurements of a recipe exactly. Don’t be scared to add a little more flour if you find the dough too sticky to work with and roll out. You can also make the dough a day ahead and keep it in the fridge until the next day – simply punch the dough down the next day and add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky (which is what I did).
4. Preheat the oven to 190C.
5. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a rectangle – about 30 inches wide, 10 inches tall. The dough should be pretty thin.
6. Combine the tahini filling ingredients in a bowl to make the tahini mixture – the texture should be gritty. Spread tahini filling over the dough until it is well covered – you don’t need much, so err on the side of “less is more”. Leave some space on the top (i.e. the long side furthest away from you) and bottom of the rectangle. (Note that in the collage above, I made cinnamon rolls with half the dough which is why half of the spread looks very dark. You could do this as well, but I have not included a recipe for cinnamon rolls here.)
7. Beginning with the edge furthest away from you, begin to roll the dough towards you. Do this slowly, and make sure the roll is tight. Don’t worry if the tahini starts to ooze out, or the rolls looks a bit flat – it will bake OK. When you come to the end, pinch the seams together. Cut the roll into slices about 1 inch thick. Press the slices next to each other into the pan with the cut surfaces facing up. One disposable silver pan will fit about 8 to 9 rolls.
8. Cover the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for 30 minutes before baking.
9. While the rolls are rising, prepare the topping. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of the rolls before placing in the oven.
10. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Watch the rolls to ensure they don’t become too brown or burn.