There are a couple of smells that I absolutely love early in the morning: coffee brewing, bacon frying, and cinnamon baking. Any of those is likely to pull me out of my warm, cozy bed, which, on most days (I admit!), I’m reluctant to do.
For some reason, it’s been feeling like a long week this week. Monday and Tuesday just seemed to never end, so I thought the whole class could use a bit of a pick-me-up on hump day (a.k.a. Wednesday). At first, I was planning on making muffins, since they’re quick and easy, but I thought, ‘If I’m going to go all the way and really give everyone a midweek boost, I should do it with lots, and I mean lots of sugar.’
It’s a shocking confession, but I’m actually not a huge fan of cinnamon buns. I know, I know! How can I not love those deliciously buttery, sugary, cinnamony concoctions?!? But alas, I always found them far too sweet even for my own sweet tooth, and so I often stayed away from them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love the smell of cinnamon buns though. Who can resist the delicious smell of warm, spicy cinnamon? Plus cinnamon is definitely in my list of top ten favourite spices.
Thus, with a recent craving to make cinnamon buns, I finally got down to business. Since Cinnabon Cinnamon Buns seem to be the queen of all cinnamon buns in the epicurean world, I was able to track down a recipe that claimed to be “just like the real thing.” The recipe intrigued me and I knew I had to give it a try.
Like most recipes I try out, I also made changes to this one. I think the amount of butter used in the original recipe gave me such an initial shock that I could not resist decreasing the amount. Looking at the nutritional value also made me think that I had to justify making these, and so I replaced half of the all-purpose flour with soft whole wheat flour to made these babies slightly “healthier.” I made the buns the night before, placed them into the pans, covered them with plastic wrap and stuck them in the fridge overnight. All I had to do was wake up an hour earlier than usual on a Wednesday morning, pull the pans out of the fridge to bring them back down to room temperature and allow them to double in size, and then popped them in the oven and let them do their magic.
I glazed these buns with a cinnamon-spiked glaze. These would be just as delicious with a cream cheese frosting if you want to go that route, and I’m dying to try these with a maple-laced cream cheese icing the next time around. The buns turned out super soft and sugary. I’m glad they were still warm by the time I got to school (unlike the time I had to fight against -20°C when I made a Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake for my Italian lit class), because cinnamon buns are only really delicious when they’re still warm, gooey and sticky. Be sure to serve these with a lot of napkins!
So, are they like the Cinnabon buns that they claim to be? I can’t tell, because I haven’t had a Cinnabon bun in ages. More importantly though, have I been converted to a cinnamon bun-lover? Not quite. I don’t think I could ever truly love cinnamon buns, since I’m a pancake kind-of-girl, as I’ve confessed many times before. But I’ll definitely be making these again, if not because they make such a wonderful aroma in my apartment that can’t be any air freshener or candle out there.
4 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup water, at 105°-115°F
2/3 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
1 cup milk, warmed to about 90°F
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 ½ cups soft whole wheat flour *
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or more if needed, up to 4 ½ cups—8 cups flour total)
Cinnamon sugar filling
½ cup butter, melted
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ½ to 2 tbsp warm milk
½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
Prepare the dough: In a nonreactive bowl, combine the 1 tsp of sugar with the warm water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, sift together the whole wheat flour and the all-purpose flour.
In a bowl of a standing mixer, combine the warm milk, remaining 2/3 cup of sugar, melted butter, salt and eggs. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium-slow until combined. Add the yeast mixture and ½ cup of the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Continue to add flour to the dough mixture, ½ cup at a time, until the dough begins to slightly stiffen; it will still be sticky.
Switch the hook attachment and knead on medium speed for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of flour occasionally if the dough sticks too much to the bowl. The dough will still be a little tacky after it’s done kneading, but it should still be easy to handle if you flour your work surface well.
Place the dough in a well-greased glass or plastic bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well.
When dough is doubled, punch down dough and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide the dough in half; cover one half of the dough with a clean teatowel, and roll the other half on a floured surfaced into a rectangle that is roughly about 10 x 12 inches. The dough should still be thickish, about ¾ to 1 inch, which will ensure that your cinnamon buns will turn out soft and fluffy.
Spread half of the melted butter onto the dough. Sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar over the buttered dough, using your hands to spread the sugar to the edges and to press it into the dough. Sprinkle a bit more of the butter over the sugar to make sure it sticks to the dough. Starting with the edge closest to you, tightly roll up the dough like you would jellyroll and pinch the edge together to seal. The middle of the roll will be thicker, so roll it out a bit to even out the roll. Cut into 1½-inch to 1¾-inch slices and place into a well-greased nonstick baking pan (or a pan lined with parchment paper), leaving about a ½-inch space between each roll. (I ended up with 30 rolls with this recipe because I made mine much smaller than was suggested in the original recipe. I ended up using one 13- by-9-inch pan, which held 12 rolls, and two 9- by 9-inch pans, which held 9 rolls each.) **
Let the cinnamon buns rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the rolls are nicely browned. Cool rolls in the pan for about 10 minutes before drizzling the glaze over top. Serve warm.
To prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon together. Drizzle in the warm milk and whisk together until a thick, but drizzable, paste is formed. Drizzle with a spoon or the whisk over the warm cinnamon buns.
* I used a combination of soft whole wheat (which is cut specifically for cakes. You could use regular whole wheat, but you’ll get a much rougher texture in your cinnamon buns because of the larger grains of wheat) and all-purpose flour to make these buns slightly healthier, but feel to just use all-purpose flour if you want.
** At this point, you can stick the rolls in the fridge if you don’t want to bake them off immediately. This is great when you don’t have a lot of time in the morning. You can make the buns the night before, and stick them in the fridge. In the morning, just pull them out of the fridge an hour before you plan to bake them, placing them in a warm place to let rise until doubled, and then continue the baking process from there.