To answer the question to the title of this post, no, it’s not the ones you think. I am instead, referring to Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Ultimate Cinnamon Buns. As a sister of the sticky bun, cinnamon buns are a tad more modest; they bravely forgo a rich and sticky glaze that cover their bottoms, and instead make up for it with a mammoth size, a soft, buttery bread base, and a cinnamon-sugar laced filling. To complete the decadence, a cream cheese drizzle completes the delectable dish. The thing I love about these buns is the aroma it creates and how it diffuses throughout our home. Nothing says “look at me! I’m a big shot baker” better than with these oh-so-impressive cinnamon buns.
Here are a few hints to ensure that your yeasted delicacies turns out perfectly:
– aside from the milk, make sure everything is at room temperature before you begin. Everything will jive together better, as in– be incorporated more easily than with cold ingredients. It also helps the yeast to rise.
– sift the dry ingredients together, especially the cornstarch. Otherwise you will end up with clumpy-lumpy dough rather than a smooth, silky one.
– this recipe is similar to making brioche, where softened, but cool butter is incorporated into the mixture. However, this dough is much more forgiving. If you have cool hands, you can even choose to make the dough without a stand mixer- – which in my opinion, should be the preferred choice. Kneading by hand is so therapeutic and fun.
-the directions call for 1/2 of the glaze to top each bun. I think this is unnecessary as the buns are so flavourful already and adding extra sugar would prevent you from tasting the delicate butter. A drizzle on top is the perfect amount needed to complete these special treats.
– if time permits, I would prefer to forgo the rushed first rise in the oven and let it come to double its size on its own (about 2 1/2 hours- 3 hours, depending on how warm your home is). I then knock it down and proceed with the filling, shaping, and cutting. Once the pieces are in the pan, I seal it in plastic wrap, and let it rest overnight in the fridge. The next morning, I let it do its second rise (2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. Sometimes I like to check this by gently pressing the side of the dough. If it remains indented like a belly button– an innie– then I know they’re ready to be baked off). Slow and steady is my chosen route simply because a slower rise helps encourage more flavours to develop in the dough.
– when baking, I always check the oven temperature to make sure it is accurate with an oven thermometer. I purchased mine for only $10 from Loblaw grocery store. Secondly, I always place the baking dish on a baking sheet to prevent the undersides from getting browned too quickly. My cinnamon buns were cooked within 28-30 minutes… so make sure you keep an eye on them rather than take them out at the 35-40 minute mark. Again, I checked that they were cooked through by sight (golden brown hue), touch (firm and set, but soft on the inside), and with a probe thermometer (breads like this should have an internal temperature of 185-190F. I like to err on the lower temperature scale because they will continue to cook once I take the buns out of the oven).
Ultimate Cinnamon Buns
3/4 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise or instant yeast
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon. it has a fiery bite to it.. kind of like a cinnamon-heart candy)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese (Philadelphia is my go to brand and full- fat tastes best)
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
For the dough:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, shut it off. Line 13X9 baking pan with foil allowing excess to hang over pan edges. Grease foil. Grease a medium bowl.
2. Whisk milk and yeast in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs. In bowl of stand mixer, fitted with dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
For the filling:
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll dough into 18-inch square, spread with butter, and sprinkle evenly with filling. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll dough into tight cylinder, pinch lightly to seal seam, and cut into 8 pieces. Transfer pieces to prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
For the glaze and to bake:
Heat oven to 350. Whisk cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Discard plastic wrap and bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 35-40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and top buns with 1/2 cup glaze; cool 30 minutes. Lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze. Serve.
Yield: 8 humongous buns