Cure for the blue days: the best cinnamon rolls
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I know that I use the words, “my favorite” frequently, but please understand that the “best” in these cinnamon buns is really no exaggeration. At least I can say they converted me from feeling ho-hum about this breakfast gluttony to waking early just to pounce on the lot.
Over the past two weeks I’ve made batch after batch, and what started as a damp weather project became a serious endeavor, resulting in the recipe below. I found a dough that has a shorter rising time than most cinnamon bun recipes and a cake-ier, more even-cooking crumb so the buns are good the next day, with or without frosting. I got the idea from a German plum cake I had, and adapted that dough. Try adding zest or toasted chopped nuts to the filling, or pumpkin pie spice for Thanksgiving flair. The house will fill with the most homey aroma as these start to turn golden in the oven.
German Cinnamon Buns
makes 12-14 buns
3 tsp yeast (doesn’t have to be quick rising)
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
3 1/3 cups flour, divided
6 TB butter
2 eggs, room temp.
pinch of salt, generous if using kosher salt
2 TB cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 TB butter (half a stick)
optional: lemon zest, orange zest, chopped nuts, chopped dried cranberries
4 oz. cream cheese (half a package)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 TB butter, just melted
1 tsp vanilla
Warm milk in small bowl and sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over the top. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, then 1 cup of the flour and stir until completely combined. Let sit to ferment for 10 minutes, I put it in an “off” oven.
Beat butter and remaining sugar, then beat in one egg at a time. Sift flour and salt three times and fold in to yeast mixture in layers with butter and egg mixture.Combine well, adding a little flour if too wet. Knead in the bowl a few times and bring into the center of the bowl. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let sit in the oven again, turned off.
Let rise until doubled in size – usually takes no less than 1/2 hour and no more than an hour. At 100 degrees F, this dough is happiest and rises most readily.
Mix filling together and make frosting while the dough rises. I made soup and some buckwheat salad during the time, too. For the filling, simply stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar. For the icing, whip all ingredients together.
Flour surface and turn out dough. Roll into an oblong rectangle, about 8-inches tall and 15 inches long. Don’t over-roll or roll the dough too thin, it should be at the very least 1/2 inch thick. Smear with 1/2 stick room temperature butter then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Carefully roll the long side down, tucking in the end, then roll toward you until you have a long cinnamon bun log.
Use a sharp knife to cut 1 1/2-inch sections, and arrange in a lightly-buttered 9×13 Pyrex. Cover them with a kitchen cloth and let sit while the oven heats to 375 degrees F or a bit longer, say 20 minutes, then pop them in. Bake for 14-18 minutes, or until the top edges start to turn golden. Let sit to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting in. They will be completely connected when they are done, so use a little spatula to release them. I like them best individually frosted, but if you’re serving up a gaggle of hungry folks, by all means go ahead and frost them all once they are mostly cooled.
I must say, they taste incredible with a hot pot of fruity black tea.