Columnist’s great cinnamon bun quest rewarded at Java

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 14, 2009

Emily West shapes and bakes her special recipe of cinnamon buns at Cochrane’s Java Jamboree coffee shop, then wows columnist with sample hot out of the oven.
Photos by Warren Harbeck

I think I found what I’ve been looking for, and yes, it was love at first bite.

Twenty-some years ago, when I began writing newspaper columns while living in Alberta’s capital, I was tempted to name the series “The Great Cinnamon Bun Quest.” That was because Edmonton coffee companion Jack Freebury and I would meet every Saturday morning and try out the cinnamon buns at various cafés around town. Partly through that experience I came to appreciate the amazing life stories people would share with us over our morning mugs and buns. Ultimately, however, I settled on the coffee metaphor instead for naming my series of columns.

But that didn’t end my quest for great cinnamon buns, a quest rewarded recently at Cochrane’s Java Jamboree coffee shop.

I was sipping my usual mug of medium roast when Java’s passionate pie maker, Emily West, offered me a sample of her first batch of cinnamon buns.

Clearly, these were no ordinary buns. They were chock full of sliced almonds and walnut bits and finished with a cream cheese topping with a tantalizing hint of lemon.

That was Oct. 5, the day after Sweden, the birthplace of the aromatic confection, celebrated kanelbullens dag, “cinnamon roll day.” Special thanks to Sweden for that delicacy that is so popular in Europe and North America!

Now, Emily herself, who turned 24 this week, is no ordinary baker. A classically trained musician with an honours degree in sociology, she turned her attention a few years ago to writing and performing folk interpretations of her engagements with life – sort of doing with guitar what I attempt to do with this column.

The baking came along for the sheer fun of it, she says, with pies her special claim to fame. But during this unusually snowy Thanksgiving season, she thought she’d experiment with cinnamon buns as a great cold-weather comfort food.

“The warmth of the spice itself, cinnamon, adds to the feeling of coziness as you bite into them, and as winter comes closer I'm compelled to provide doughy, sweet treats that will send people to a nice place for a few moments during cold days. Plus, it's just pure enjoyment on my part – there's something about kneading and rolling out the dough, waiting for it to rise, and watching the sugar and nuts burst out of the top as they bake that makes me genuinely happy!”

Java manager Jessica Johnston is genuinely happy, too. “Her cinnamon buns are fantastic,” Jess told me. “Em and I decided to give cinnamon buns a shot and after her first try they were pretty much perfect. They were an instant hit.”

Well, I’m not putting down the delicious cinnamon buns served in Cochrane’s other coffee shops, but I must say, Emily’s are totally memorable.

And remember, cinnamon buns are best enjoyed hot out of the oven. That way you’ll know why I’m so ecstatic about my great cinnamon bun quest, and especially about Emily’s 10-out-of-10 contribution to this tasty tradition.

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Emily!

© 2009 Warren Harbeck

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