Every time someone mentions the words "cinnamon scroll" to me I automatically laugh and then drool. The reason for that is because years ago I visited a fast food place with my sister when she lived in Chicago. She and I were trying to order some cini minis at the drive through but suddenly when we were struck by the absurdity of the name cini mini. We pulled up to the speaker and sat there for a good two minutes laughing our guts out and trying to tell them our order, finally spluttering out those two words.
Of course once we got them, we weren't laughing - they were delicious and warm and now anything warm and cinnamoney starts an automatic Pavlov dog response in me. So when Jas invited me to her family's bakery in Hurstville, one famous for their cinnamon scrolls, I automatically started drooling.
Chef and now baker, Tony Jabbour
Oregano Bakery was originally a Lebanese pizza store opened in June 2010 and father Tony is a former Italian pizza chef. He is the brainchild of the cinnamon scroll that sells up to 3,000 units a day. Tony was bored and decided to expand into sweets. They already had Lebanese sweets which they bought in but wanted something unique that other stores didn't have. So that day he took stock of what he had in the restaurant - as a savoury restaurant there wasn't that much to choose from to make a sweet dessert. So he rolled out some pizza dough and added some cinnamon that they used in their chais. It showed promise.
The moving conveyor oven where the pizzas and scrolls are baked
Next came three months of testing - there was the added challenge that he had a very expensive and necessary conveyor oven for their pizzas which was not ideal for baking scrolls. A baker's oven was cost and space prohibitive so instead, he had to make do with the conveyor pizza oven. Months later, they finally arrived at the cinnamon scrolls that are in so much demand. Now they make 3,000 scrolls a week not including the blossoming wholesale trade and 80% of sales are for the cinnamon scroll. Tony has even contemplated closing down the non sweet side of the business just to concentrate on the scrolls and sweet baked goods.
Even the cinnamon paste recipe is a secret from everyone but Tony. Not even his wife or daughter knows the recipe although he tells us that he has written it down "somewhere" they can find it. They make so many that they have a chef come in from midnight to 6am every single day to roll out the dough. They now come in myriad flavours like honey and walnut (the second most popular after cinnamon), sweet tahini, orange and macadamia and chocolate.
The cinnamon scrolls come in two sizes: small at $2.50 or large at $3.90 or a box of six for $12. "We've already sold 60 boxes of the half dozen this morning already" says Jas's mother Sonia who is the force behind the counter. "I have to believe in what I'm selling" she says and we watch as she gives samples to people while telling us that she routinely talks customers out of buying items like the apple scrolls because they're "boring" and talks them into the cinnamon scrolls.
Meat pizza $6.50
Enough talking, it is lunchtime. First up are the savouries before we get to try the cinnamon scrolls (and all of this scroll talk is making me desire them so!). We try the meat pizza which is a traditional Lebanese pizza topped with finely ground lamb mince marinated in fresh tomato, onion, capsicum and middle eastern spices and for our they add some lemon and chilli. The pizza is generously sized with a delicious topping which is lightly spicy with a nice tartness to it from the lemon and chilli.
Sonia wrap $8.50
The Sonia wrap, created and named after Sonia, is also delicious with za'atar with an oregano, mint leaves, green shallots, olives, tomato and labne (yogurt) salad in a soft Lebanese bread round. It is filling and refreshing and with just the right amount of filling and moistness.
Large cinnamon scroll $3.90
Small scrolls $2.50 each
Now I'm getting a bit too eager to try the cinnamon scroll so I take the knife that we're given and slice it in half looking at the swirls. The bread is gorgeously soft and moist and there's a thick blanket of icing sugar on top which turns into an icing in spots deep down in the crevasses of the larger scroll. Cutting into the smaller version of the scroll yields an even more interesting cross section.
It reminds me instantly of the povitica roll that we made for Daring Bakers (the recipe that urged Jasmine to contact me). The layers are numerous and knowing how hard to make but delicious povitica is, I have to say that the smaller one with it's beautiful rippling and excellent filling to softer than soft bread ratio wins it for me. And if I didn't have half a pizza and a wrap I would have polished them both off. The bread is soft and downy and the filling moist with the perfect ratio of aromatic filling to bread. And when we brought the rest of the box to Mr NQN's family to share, they were all swooning and hoping that I had made them so that I could pass on the recipe to them!
Honey and walnut scroll
I next try the honey and walnut and the texture of this with the ground walnuts is quite different to the cinnamon scroll. If anything, this is a cousin of the baklava with the dripping, oozing honey glaze and crunchy walnut filling encased by the thin dough.
The next one that we tried was the tahini scroll. At first I thought that this was a savoury scroll but it is a sweet tahini scroll much like halva. "The Greeks love it, that's their favourite one" Tony says and true to the word, a Greek couple sitting next to us try the cinnamon and sweet tahini and prefer the latter.
The chocolate scroll has a thin coating of cocoa and Nutella that looks like a thin coat of chocolate but is much sweeter like a chocolate frosting. I think I would prefer actual chocolate on it although a blanket of it might be too much (did I really say that?). Or perhaps some drizzles of really good quality chocolate.
There are also other little pastries made and as Jas says "They're all being tested." We see matchsticks made with their own home made puff pastry with real butter, some dredged in icing sugar and other coated with the same chocolate coating as well as raisin snails, apple turnovers and lots more. As for us, we're busy cradling our precious half dozen mini cinnamon scrolls. I don't fancy anyone's chances of taking these from us.
So tell me Dear Reader, is there a recipe that you've always wanted to have from a friend/relative/restaurant? And is there a recipe of yours that you would keep a secret?
NQN and Mr NQN were invited as guests of Oregano bakery
56 Connells Point Road South Hurstville NSW 2221
Tel: +61 (02) 9546 3666