Cinnamon Buns

There was a point in time in my life where I absolutely loathed cinnamon buns.

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The bakeries that I used to work in pumped out cinnamon buns by the dozens, every day of the week, multiple times a day. Because they were from-scratch bakeries, the process for making said buns was rather involved. Making cinnamon buns was easily the most work-intensive part of the day, and, as they were kind of a big deal to the customers, you couldn’t half-ass it and do a poor job without getting swiftly reprimanded.

Having to be in charge of making cinnamon buns was the equivalent of drawing the short straw. It wasn’t just me; in fact, everyone hated making the damn things. They were the low point of every morning, maligned by all.

Cinnamon Scroll

Eventually, I got over my juvenile hatred for them and began to view them the same way I now view all breadmaking: a fresh chance to demonstrate skill, ability, and artistic aptitude with every batch you bake. It became very satisfying to be able to make 300 cinnamon buns that all looked identical in size and shape, as if made by a robot and not a human. Although there are many people in the world who have made more cinnamon buns than I have, the amount I’ve made realistically exceeds 100,000, which is markedly more than most. Thus, I gift unto you two things; first, a surefire recipe for stupidly good cinnamon buns, and second, a method in which to make them that will make your cinnamon bun journey all the easier.

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It’s not that hard to make really, really good cinnamon buns. They’re just sweet dough stuffed with a bunch of fat and brown sugar, baked, then iced. There is no more magic or mystique to the art of cinnamon buns than there is to the art of any other bread. It’s just another variation on a theme. I start with a standard brioche dough with a ton of added sugar. This gives you a cinnamon bun that is soft & tender and has a sweetness not only in the brown sugar and icing, but also in the dough itself, because why not? You’re already eating a cinnamon bun; clearly, now is not the time to concern yourself with calories. The added sugar in the dough also gives the finished product a lovely brown color without being dry and hard. The browning of bread is caused by, largely, sugars caramelizing and turning into a most desirable shade of brown. By adding more sugar, we get more browning happening sooner, which lets us have a delightfully colored bread without the dryness associated with a longer baking time.

Truly, this is the best crossroad between science and the arts. Remind yourself that what we are doing is making art, and ART calories do not count. #artcalories

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Also, there’s a lot of butter in this bread. Like, a lot.

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Things you will need:

  • Bread flour, instant yeast, milk (or water & milk powder), eggs, sugar, salt, butter, more butter, and butter. Also, butter.
  • A digital scale.
  • A counter top big enough to roll out about one meter of dough.
  • A rolling pin.
  • Parchment paper and a baking pan.
  • A bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the cinnamon rolls.
    • Alternatively, you can apparently use unflavored dental floss to cut the cinnamon rolls, but this seems weird to me. Why would you want to lose out on the added flavor that minty dental floss brings to the table? I say go full ham and use the flavored floss if you go down this route.
      • OR, if you’re one of those weirdos who has cinnamon dental floss, which is a real thing, definitely go with that. I can’t think of anything more apt for cutting cinnamon buns than artificial cinnamon flavored tooth plaque remover.
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon, and either more butter or spreadable margarine.
  • Some kind of icing like substance, preferably of the cream cheese variety.
  • And probably a gym membership.
  • Butter.

The following recipe will yield enough for 14 good-sized buns. If you want to make less, don’t. If you want to make more, double or septuple the recipe as needed. Overall, it’s a pretty simple setup to make cinnamon buns happen. Get ingredients for dough, make dough, goop on more butter, dump on the brown sugar and cinnamon, roll it up, cut it nice, bake it off, and ice it good. The method for making these buns isn’t some crazy secret. It’s just sweet, fat, bread with more sweet fat in it and extra sweet fat spread on it.

Small wonder why they are so coveted.

Ingredients:

  • Bread Flour:
    • 1st amount: 58 grams
    • 2nd amount: 410 grams
  • Instant Yeast: 12 grams
  • Milk: 102 grams
    • Alternatively, you can use 102 grams of water and 22 grams of milk powder.
  • Eggs: 211 grams (about 4 large eggs)
  • Sugar: 93 grams
  • Salt: 10 grams
  • Milk Powder: 22 grams
  • Room Temperature Butter: 280 grams
  • Brown Sugar & Cinnamon: as needed
  • Cream Cheese & Icing Sugar: as needed

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Once you have your ingredients all scaled out and ready to go, we can begin the process of gaining unnecessary weight via cinnamon bun ingestion. The first step is to create a sponge: combine the first bread flour amount with the milk (or water) and the instant yeast. Don’t spend too much time gaping at the large mound of butter staring at you in the face. Put it to the side for now and move on.

Let this mixture sit for around twenty or thirty minutes, until it has noticeably poofed. This is called making a sponge, and ensures that the yeast is active and ready to go. The amount of sugar and extra junk in the dough itself makes it difficult for the yeast to really get going, so by taking this step beforehand we are giving the yeast a bit of a jump start. You don’t have to do this, and if you choose not to your cinnamon buns may take a lot longer to rise. You also don’t have to make cinnamon buns at all, but here we are, so you may as well do it properly.

Once the goo has poofed up to your liking, add in the second bread flour amount, the eggs, the sugar, the milk powder if you’ve gone that route, and the salt.

Mix it with a spatula until you can’t, then dump it out onto your clean and sanitized work surface. Knead the hell out of it.

The dough will be sloppy to work with, so continually scrape up the dough with your dough scraper as you knead. If you don’t do this frequently, you’re gonna have a bad time. The dough doesn’t need to be perfect, as we are going to add in butter and then knead it some more. A vigorous eight to ten minutes of kneading should do.

Then, get the butter.

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I cannot lie: having a mixing machine makes this step about seventeen times easier. Trying to incorporate this much fat into the dough is no fun task. It sucks, and if your butter is cold, it sucks a lot more. Make doubly sure that your butter is room temperature. I recommend taking it out the day before and letting it sit covered on your counter. If you’re worried about it spoiling, fear not: just eat a cinnamon bun. Cinnamon is a great thing to eat when you’re sick, due to it having a whole bunch of antimicrobial and whatever properties; ergo, any illness you may contract from eating room temperature butter (which you will not) can be fought off by consuming cinnamon buns. This is hard science, people.

To mix the dough, I recommend putting the20170513_192502 dough and butter back into the bowl and smooshing it with your hands vigorously until it starts to combine, then dumping it out onto the work surface to finish working in the butter. It will be difficult. You will think it to be impossible while you are doing it, that there’s no way it’s all going to combine into a beautiful ball of dough. Have faith. It will work eventually.

Once your dough is smooth and round, let it proof until roughly doubled in size. This will probably take between 60 to 90 minutes.

Thoroughly clean your work surface. Remove your dough ball and shape it into an oblong. Refer to the following slideshow for in-depth directions on how to go from dough to cinnamon buns.

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An involved process, to be sure, but, by following the above method, some of the guesswork is removed in terms of how it’s done.

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You now have a long tube of scrolled cinnamon dough. It’s called a “scroll” because it resembles a scroll of old-school parchment, all rolled-up. By calling your baked treats “scrolls,” people will think they are extra artisan or whatever and you will get extra points from your peers.

Let the dough rest for at least ten minutes before you begin the cutting process. This relaxes the gluten and will ensure that the cinnamon buns you cut will retain their shape better and have flatter tops & bottoms. Feel free to get all flossy up in your cinnamon buns, but using a sharp knife or bench scraper and a steady hand will yield similar results. As long as you are careful, steady, and have waited the ten minutes, there’s no reason why dental floss would work better than a sharp knife or decent bench scraper. If all of your knives are garbage quality and your bench scraper is flimsy and weak, go for the floss and tell your loved ones that you’re making “minty” cinnamon rolls while secretly harboring a deep sense of shame and regret. Refer to the following pictures for the best method on cutting even rolls.

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The two cinnamon buns you get from the end pieces are destined to be testers. Because they are from the nubbin ends of the roll, they aren’t going to have a flat bottom and won’t bake out as nice. Proof them in a separate dish and bake them whenever. Don’t worry about making them pretty, their only purpose is to fuel you to keep on baking.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cinnamon buns cut-side up  evenly on your baking sheet. They should not be touching. Some people like cinnamon buns that are baked packed in tight, like dinner rolls, but this does them a disservice: by giving them each their own room to spread, they get more surface area. This means more surface area for spreading icing on. This is good.

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Let them proof at room temperature until nice and juicy. This should take about one hour. In the mean time, move a rack in your oven to the middle rack and pre-heat it to 450 degrees. Now is also a primo time to make your icing.

Cream cheese icing is pretty simple, as long as you have a mixing machine. Making icing by hand is a chore, so avoid it if possible. A good secret from the professional world is using a blender to make icing. No need to have room temperature stuff or mix things in order; for plain icing, just toss in your stuff and let it blend. I used one 8 oz brick of cream cheese, 80 grams of butter, 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, and a splash of vanilla for this recipe. Toss it all in a blender and blend until done.

The rolls on the left have just been trayed up, and the rolls on the right have proofed at room temperature for 80 minutes. They are ready to go in the oven.

Toss your buns in the oven on the middle rack and lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Set a timer for 7 minutes. When it goes off, open your oven and check your buns.

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Rotate your buns 180 degrees to ensure they bake evenly. If the middle of the buns start to poke up and out, just use another cookie sheet to gently smoosh them back down. If you have followed along to this point, it shouldn’t be necessary.

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Your buns are done when the outside buns are a golden brown along the sides. Your interior buns will be a tad under-done, but having two under-done buns and 12 – 14 good buns is better than two good buns and 12 – 14 burnt buns. Unless you have a convection oven, you will most likely be unable to evenly brown each cinnamon bun the same. Upgrade your oven or just eat the doughy ones first.

Let the buns cool on the pan for a minute or so, then slide them off, parchment included onto a wire rack for cooling.

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While they are HOT, not lukewarm or cool, ice them. Icing them while piping fresh out of the oven causes the icing to drip down in between the layers of the buns, giving you more icing oomph per bite, which is most enjoyable. As well, the icing creates a moisture barrier between the baked bread and the outside world, locking in moisture and keeping your buns softer for longer. Furthermore, icing them hot gives the icing a nifty, molten look, which is sure to impress your friends and family.

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That’s pretty much it.

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These cinnamon buns are, without question, markedly better than ones you could buy in a store. The reason is, largely, the amount of butter in the dough. Most bakeries wouldn’t put that much butter in their products because it’s expensive and difficult to work with, but here, we aren’t bogged down by things like food cost and profit margins. All we care about is getting as many calories into our faces as fast as possible.

You can make miniature cinnamon rolls with this recipe, bigger cinnamon rolls with this recipe, or even one giant cinnamon roll with this recipe if you feel like burning things in an oven and having to throw food in the garbage.

You can even make full-on babka from this dough. One day, I will show you how. Until then, just make these and eat them while watching Sienfeld for a similar effect.

— The Breadest


EXPRECIPE:

Ingredients:

  • Bread Flour:
    • 1st amount: 58 grams
    • 2nd amount: 410 grams
  • Instant Yeast: 12 grams
  • Milk: 102 grams
    • Alternatively, you can use 102 grams of water and 22 grams of milk powder.
  • Eggs: 211 grams (about 4 large eggs)
  • Sugar: 93 grams
  • Salt: 10 grams
  • Milk Powder: 22 grams
  • Room Temperature Butter: 280 grams
  • Brown Sugar & Cinnamon: as needed
  • Cream Cheese & Icing Sugar: as needed

METHOD:

  • Scale it
  • Sponge it
  • Mix it
  • Knead it
  • Butter It
  • Rest it
  • Oblong it
  • Roll it
  • Spread it
  • Sugar it
  • Scroll it
  • Cut it
  • Tray it
  • Proof it
  • Bake it
  • ICE IT
  • EAT IT
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