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Cinnamon Buns

August 27, 2008

Yet again, I must praise my own cooking.

This time, I’ve improved on perfection. My cinnamon buns, pretty much the peak of everything I can accomplish in the kitchen, and unrivalled in any bun I’ve had elsewhere; have been made better.

Based on the apparently-famous UBC Cinnamon Bun, my rendition comes straight from the version published in the Vancouver Sun a few years back, with a few minor modifications. I churn these out in large batches on most special occasions, and will sometimes use them as gifts to people I know will enjoy them. I also bake them to unwind – there are few things as oddly relaxing as getting utterly lost in the details of baking, and the buns are demanding enough attention wise that they work perfectly. To be fair, they are time-consuming to make properly. I find that they tend to take me about 3 hours, all told, though there’s easily 2 hours of waiting in the process.

To make the dough, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup warm water – skin temperature is best.
  • 1 tablespoon sugar.
  • 2 tablespoons of yeast.
  • 3 cups of milk – whole is best, but you can deal with 2%. No less.
  • 6 tbsp of butter.
  • 6 tbsp of sugar, salt to taste.
  • 2 large eggs.
  • 7 – 9 cups of flour.

The filling needs:

  • 1.5 cups of butter.
  • 4+ cups brown sugar.
  • 4 tbsp of cinnamon.

Start by proofing your yeast – dissolve your 1tbsp of sugar in the water, then stir in the yeast. Let sit while you heat the milk to scalded. (180º) I always microwave it, but you do it stove top if need be, though you need to watch it carefully to assure it doesn’t burn on the bottom, or worse yet, boil. Put the hot milk into your mixing bowl and add the butter, sugar, and salt if desired – I never bother with extra salt. Add your eggs and mix them in, then wait for the soup to cool to “warm” – not over 110º, or it’ll kill your yeast. Once your yeast is mixed in, start adding flour. You want to toss in 4 or 5 cups of flour right off the bat; then beat it soundly to get it nice and active gluten-wise. 100 strokes or 10 minutes, whichever happens faster.

Begin adding more flour, a cup at a time until you have a soft dough – unlike the bread, it should be very soft and still tacky to the touch. Knead soundly, then toss into a bowl to rise – allow an hour, or until doubled in size.  Turn the now enlarged loaf out onto a floured surface – don’t worry about punching it down, if it’s soft enough, I’ll collapse on it’s own.  Divide it in half, a put one part aside while you roll the other.  You want a large, square-ish sheet, about 1/8 inch thick, 2.5 by 1.5 feet across.  At least, that’s how big I make it ’cause that’s the space I have on the counter.  Melt 3/4 cup of butter, and while that’s melting, mix the cinnamon and brown sugar, beating out as many of the sugar lumps as possible.  I tend to make the precise quantity of “lots” so quantites are more minimums than strict guidlines.  Pour most of the now-melted onto the sheet of dough, retaining about 1/8 cup for the pan(s).  Spread the melted butter to cover the sheet, and then spread 1/2 the sugar (-ish) and cinnamon mixture evenly over the melted butter-covered surface, going for an even, notable layer.  I’ve found anywhere that the melted butter soaks through generally doesn’t have enough sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Carefully & getly roll the whole assembly; if too loose, your buns will fall apart, but if they’re too tight, they will come out tough and not rise properly.  Once you have a long tube of cinnamon roll, get a lenth of unflavoured floss or fishing line, and cut the buns garrotte-style, looping the strand all the way around the tube, then tightening to cut evenly all the way – this means your buns won’t get squashed or pinched by a knife-edge from one side only.  Tip that last bit of melted butter into the pan(s) and coat all the edges with it, then put your buns into the greased pan.

Repeat butter & sugar & rolling with the other loaf.  By the time you’re done this, your oven should be just coming up to temperature.  Fire the buns in and spend 20 minutes or so cleaning up the kitchen and 5 relaxing.  The buns are usually done at the 25 or 30 minute mark, but I start checking at 20, just in case they’re smaller or the oven is hotter.  Expect to see a little scorching of any sugar on top of the buns, don’t panic, a little won’t affect flavour at all.

When done, cool on a rack for a few minutes, then turn at least one pan out upside-down onto a plate and enjoy while fresh & oven hot.

These buns are plainly not diet-friendly, but they’re worth it regardless.  Sadly, all the decadence is somewhat non-negotiable.  You really do have to use real sugar and real butter, and skim milk leaves your dough thin and anemic.  If you cheap on butter or sugar in the last step, you won’t get much nice caramel at the end, cheap on either individually and you’ll either get scorched sugar or oily, buttery bread.  Cheap on both and you’ll have cinnamon loaf; unlike many variants of bun, the bread isn’t sweet enough in it’s own right to survive being cheated on filling.  (That was a learning experience, wasn’t it, Mother…?)

I don’t really go in for icing for the fresh buns, or, at least, don’t want to wait long enough to make icing to eat them.  But my icing, when I do, is simple.

  • 1 tbsp cream cheese, softened.
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened.
  • Appropriate icing sugar.
  • Vanilla.

Extensively soften your cream cheese & butter, and add copious quantitites of icing sugar, then smear together until a icing-like paste emerges.  Add a single drop of vanilla, then beat the shit out of it with a motorised beater.  This’ll get you your delightful fluffy icing, a-la Cinnabon or such.  It’s the beating that gets the effect, once you have light fluffy icing, the flavour is pretty much irrelevant as long as it’s sweet.

Don’t you dare soil my cinnamon buns with bought icing.  Or raisins.  Divine Anything help your miserable soul if you think that raisins have any place anywhere near these marvels.  Don’t even consider it.  You’ve been warned.

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