It was a day coloured with endless gradations of grey— in other words, a rainy westcoast Sunday. So baking seemed like the best thing to do. Raindrops pounding down is of little matter when you’ve got a cinnamon swirl bread in the oven, and the sweet, spicy aroma is scenting the house. Weather? What weather?
I had not started out with the intention of making cinnamon bread, but rather cinnamon buns. But, as Beaver and Frippy would say, in one of our long ago favourite children’s book series by Swedish author, Lars Klinting, I made a Foozle. This word has remained in our family vocabulary as a wonderful expression for “an error”.
My mistake was adding too much liquid. But, since it was a yeast dough, to compensate, I simply added more flour until it formed a ball, and carried on.
Using the dough hook attachment on my Smeg stand mixer, after 10 minutes of no-effort-on-my-part kneading, the dough was soft and smooth and ready to rise.
In the past, I’ve made cinnamon buns that were good, but not as good as from a bakery, and by the next day, they were dry and meh. So this time, I decided to make a rich dough, more like brioche, using a 50-50 mix of heavy cream and water instead of milk. The recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.
After I made the swirl bread and popped it in my mother’s old metal bread pan (remember those?), I pondered what to do with the rest of the dough. My son, Max, wandered into the kitchen to check on the progress of the promised cinnamon buns, and looked so disappointed when I told him it was bread not buns, that I decided, despite my error, to go ahead and try making them anyway.
The only photo I managed to take is of one of the small end pieces because the big, fat, swirly, picture-perfect ones in the centre of the pan immediately vanished. The vultures didn’t wait for icing either.
The beautiful, turbinado-topped cinnamon swirl bread cooled and remained uncut until breakfast the next morning. It was delicious too, but just couldn’t compete with the rich, gooey, simply amazing, cinnamon buns.
This is the best, the holy grail of cinnamon bun recipes. Print it, write it down, buy the book— whatever— just keep it. And make it.
It’s exceptional because not only has a bread master developed it, it also has one ingredient others don’t: lemon rind. You don’t actually taste it, but it just adds a perfect hit of citrus as a flavour contrast and prevents the sweetness from being cloying. You wouldn’t think it would work with cinnamon, but it does.
Just a bit of baking genius.
6 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 ½ tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ⅛ to 1 ¼ cups whole milk, room temperature *** I used half heavy cream, half water*
½ cup cinnamon sugar mixture (6 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon) *** I used BROWN sugar and doubled the amount.*
White Fondant Glaze
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
6 tablespoons to ½ cup milk, warmed
Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon or orange extract (I used rum) and 6 tablespoons to ½ cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste. When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops.
Cream together the sugar, salt, and butter on medium-high speed in electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand). Whip in the egg and lemon zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. The dough should pass the windowpane test. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. *** I used butter.** Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about ⅔ inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don’t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. *** I didn’t use a rolling pin, I just stretched and patted it into shape.* Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough. Roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces each about 1 ¾ inches thick for larger buns; or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 ¼ inch thick for smaller buns.
Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof. Preheat the oven to 350 F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops while the buns are warm but not too hot. *** Maybe next time.**
Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack.
Wait at least 20 minutes before serving. *** Not at my house! *