And you thought you'd tried every cinnamon bun recipe in the world, right?
I mean, there's no way to make cinnamon buns other than the tried-and-true, classic “make sweet dough, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, roll up, cut, rise, bake, glaze, YUM."
There is indeed.
The challenge: cinnamon buns that are AWESOME right out of the oven, but hard and dry within hours.
This is a conundrum we've gone round and round with in the test kitchen. Why does a typical sweet roll dough – high in both fat and sugar – seem to dry out so quickly?
You'd think the fat would keep it soft. But it doesn't. So, is sugar the culprit?
I'm guessing yes. Sugar is hygroscopic; it attracts water. Therefore, when it's in (or on) dough, it must draw water out of the dough making the dough dry. (Food scientists, tell me if I'm all wet here, OK?)
Thus, the less sugar in and on the dough, the more liquid remains IN the dough, the more tender and moist your buns should be.
Where's most of the sugar in cinnamon buns? Truth be told, almost all of it's in that confectioners’ sugar glaze slathered on top, after baking.
If you didn't add much sugar to the dough itself; then didn't sprinkle the rolled-out dough with cinnamon-sugar, but instead used just plain cinnamon, would the buns retain their moisture and stay tender longer?
I tried it. I liked it. These rolls are soft, plenty sweet, and nicely cinnamon-y. And they seemed to stay soft longer than high-sugar buns.
Please try them and tell me what you think, OK?
America's Test Kitchen, indeed – let's ALL get involved here!
Cinnamon buns need to start with cinnamon, of course. And here it is, one of our best-selling products: Vietnamese cinnamon. I recently wrote about this pungent cinnamon in an earlier post, but the information bears repeating.
Because of its higher oil content, Vietnamese cinnamon disperses more fully throughout your baked treats, giving them cinnamon-through-and-through flavor. The flavor of this cassia cinnamon just pops, too – it’s considered by chefs in the know to be the world’s finest cinnamon.
Combine the following in a large bowl:
3 1/2 cups (418g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons (21g) potato flour or 1/4 cup (21g) dried potato flakes
2 tablespoons (14g) Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons (35g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons (57g) butter, at room-temperature
2/3 cup (152g) lukewarm water
1/2 cup (113g) lukewarm milk
Mix to make a rough dough...
...then knead for about 7 minutes, to make a smooth dough.
It's OK if the dough sticks to the bowl a bit; better a dough that's too soft than too dry.
Of course, you don't have to use an electric mixer. You can get the dough to this point by using a bread machine or your hands, too.
Notice this is a fairly smooth dough, but it does have a bit of surface roughness; that's OK.
Place the dough in a lightly greased container — an 8-cup measure works well here — and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it's just about doubled in bulk.
See? Just about doubled. Look at those nice air bubbles.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Shape it into a rough rectangle.
Roll the dough into a 16” long rectangle, about 12” wide. This soft dough rolls easily, so you shouldn't have much trouble with shrinking or “push back.”
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon over the surface of the dough. A small sieve or tea strainer works well here.
How come plain cinnamon, not cinnamon-sugar? Because sugar is hygroscopic, and will draw moisture from the dough. The result? Cinnamon buns that aren't as moist as they might be. Don't worry, the final sugar glaze on top will give you plenty of sweetness.
Ready to roll!
Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a 24” log.
Hey, didn't we roll this into a 16” rectangle? How come we end up with a 24” log? Because as you roll, the dough stretches. If it's not quite 24”, no sweat; it'll be fine.
In order to make the neatest job of cutting the buns, use a sharp knife to mark the log at 1” intervals.
Here's a trick beloved by King Arthur bakers all over the company: using dental floss to cut the neatest possible cinnamon or sticky buns.
Loop the dental floss under the log where you've notched it. Pull the ends in opposite directions. Bob's your uncle - beautifully cut buns, with no squashed dough or oozing filling.
Lightly grease two 9” round cake pans. Divide the buns between the two pans, spacing 8 in each pan. Gently flatten the buns a bit.
Two pans of buns, ready to rise.
Can you freeze one pan of buns at this point?
Well, not quite... Let it rise till they're quite puffy, then cover tightly, and freeze. For directions on how to bake at a later date, take a look at our freezing blog post.
Cover the pans, and allow the buns to rise till they're crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Can you freeze one pan of buns at this point?
Yes. Simply over-wrap with several layers of plastic, and freeze. For directions on how to bake at a later date, check out our freezing blog post.
Uncover the buns, and bake them for 20 to 23 minutes.
They'll be golden brown on top, and the edges of the center bun will spring back lightly when you touch it.
To serve buns immediately: Just before the buns are done, stir together the following:
1 cup (113g) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons (43g to 57g) cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons (28g to 43g) milk
Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush each pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. This will help keep the buns soft and tender.
Spread with the glaze, and serve immediately.
To serve the buns later: Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Cool completely. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature for a couple of days; for longer storage, freeze.
Just before serving, tent the buns lightly with foil, and rewarm in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes (a bit longer, for frozen buns).
Stir together the glaze, brush over the buns, and serve warm.
Want to serve only half the buns now? Make just half the glaze. If you reheat a glazed bun, the glaze melts and disappears. Reheat a plain bun, then glaze – ah, that's the ticket!
Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Now or Later Cinnamon Buns.