Cinnamon Buns (Not Rolls)

Bread, Breakfast, Meatless / Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

WARNING: The following recipe is for Peter Reinhart’s Cinnamon Buns. It has much less fat content than what you’re probably used to, so the results more closely resemble a bun than something you would find at Cinnabon. Think bready, not gooey.

You should be seeing a delicious Dimply Plum Cake here, since that is today’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, but I’m in the midst of a food-related allergic reaction that has turned my bottom lip into something that could be entered in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So, I will not be introducing anything semi-unusual into my diet until The Lip leaves the building. Seriously, how does Angelina Jolie drink coffee with these things?

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I made Peter Reinhart’s Cinnamon Buns. Once upon a time, I made cinnamon rolls for a living, so when I saw that the Daring Bakers had tried this recipe, I wanted to give it a go. Plus, the day we got married, I promised Jeff I would always make him cinnamon rolls, just like the ones I brought him every weekend from the bakery. Almost nine months later, it was time to make good.

Reinhart’s sweet yeasted dough came together beautifully in the mixer. His recipe offers a range in the amount of whole milk or buttermilk to add to the dough. You’ll need less liquid when the humidity is high – a fact of baking that drives a lot of people crazy. Just add the milk slowly, and look for the dough to start forming a ball. Don’t panic if you add too much; just toss in a little more flour to balance things. Then mix the dough for about 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it comes together, feels smooth and slightly tacky (not sticky) and can be lifted easily out of the mixer without scraping or profanity.

After the dough has doubled in size (about two hours), you’ll roll it into a rectangle and sprinkle the filling over the top. Reinhart’s recipe calls for a simple cinnamon sugar filling on bare dough, but the next time I make these, I’ll brush melted butter over the dough before adding the filling (and increase the filling from 1/2 cup of cinnamon sugar to 3/4 cup). I admire Reinhart’s restraint, but I like my cinnamon rolls gooey.  Good enough to regret later.

Slicing the roll of dough into buns can be intimidating. I like to spray a little water along the seam and gently press the flap of dough to keep it from opening while I’m slicing. Roll the seam onto the table, and grab something to measure the buns. If you’re feeling anal, grab a ruler and mark the slices with a knife. If you’re in a hurry, grab a McCormick tin and use the edge to measure the buns. I slice mine with a bench scraper, but you could use dental floss, a chef’s knife or a serrated knife. Find the one that works for you.

So, after all the mixing, fermenting, rolling and slicing, the moment is finally here. The moment of supreme anticipation, when you slide the baking sheet into the oven and wait for the house to fill with the scent of cinnamon and sugar. I love that moment. I love how the whispered scent of “something’s baking” builds into a shout that calls everyone to the kitchen, starving for cinnamon buns even if they’ve just had a meal.

If only carrots and cauliflower smelled like cinnamon and sugar …

Straight out of the oven, these buns required discipline I didn’t know I had to wait 10 minutes before glazing them. If your constitution is particularly weak and you just HAVE to glaze them early, be careful about handling the hot cinnamon sugar. As in, don’t. “Sticky” and “burning” are a bad combination.

Since Reinhart’s cinnamon sugar filling was a little skimpy, I topped the buns with a thick layer of cream cheese glaze. I’m sure it’s good for the environment. Cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla, beaten within an inch of their lives. Perfect for liberally smearing onto rows of waiting cinnamon buns. By the time I had the first one glazed, Jeff had vaulted from the garage across the basement up the stairs and into the kitchen. That smell! Nothing short of man-catching.

With the holidays approaching soon enough, it’s the perfect time to teach yourself how to make cinnamon buns. Yes, there are many instructions, and the process is a little time-consuming. But people will look at you with the sort of unbridled joy typically reserved for babies, puppies, Santa and Pamela Anderson. That look, and the rush of footsteps on the stairs, make the entire process worth it. That and the cream cheese.

Cinnamon Buns

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller buns

  • 6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract or zest
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups (9 to 10 ounces) whole milk or buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  1. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, salt and shortening on medium-high speed. Whip in the egg and lemon extract until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Switch to the dough hook, and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is tacky but not sticky.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to cover it with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Mist the counter with spray oil, and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top of the dough with flour. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns.
  6. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough, and roll the dough up into a log, creating a spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 even pieces, each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns; or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.
  7. Line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart.
  8. 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 could place the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to two days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.)
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
  10. Bake the buns for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  11. Cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then glaze the tops. Remove the buns from the pans, and place them on a cooling rack. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Bun Glaze

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, “Bon Appetit”(March 2008)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Spread glaze on rolls.

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56 thoughts on “Cinnamon Buns (Not Rolls)

  1. Nice buns, lady! (I mean that will all due respect of course.)

    Sorry you are having allergic reactions. Did you try benadryl? My hubby, who is very allergic to legumaceous nuts and less allergic to legumes, keeps both an epi pen and liquid benadryl in his desk, his car and at home.

  2. You poor thing! Allergies aren’t fun. I guess there are worse things than Angelina lips but I hope you get back to your coffee-loving-thin-lipped self soon. ;)
    PS. I just made that amazing brown sugar salmon from your blog. OHMYGOD. Fan-FREAKING-tastic! Thanks for sharing the recipe! :)
    Clara @ iheartfood4thought

  3. apology accepted. :) once my face swelled up so enormously, the doctor had to hide me in the back room instead of the waiting room because i was scaring young children. thank you, oil of olay. allergies suck.

  4. Okay, now you’ve got me wanting to make cinnamon buns. =) After all, it’s fall, and time for all things cinnamon. I’ve made Reinhart’s recipe, and really enjoyed them.

  5. Ugh – so sorry to hear about your allergy (a couple of my little ones suffer from food allergies – I know what a pain it can be trying totrack down the culprit). Those buns look so much better than my dimply plum cake! I have had that same cookbook for over a year now and haven’t made a thing in it yet – these may well be the first. Yummy!

  6. Yikes — sorry about your lip! Hope you get to the bottom of that. I SO want to learn how to make these buns, but they truly scare the bejeezus out of me. I will read and reread your post to try to build up the courage to attempt them. I DO want to be greeted with unbridled joy, and I figure I have a better chance of learning how to make cinnamon buns than I do of ever looking like Pamela Anderson.

  7. Your pictures make me feel like crying – seriously, those cinnamon rolls look *that* good!! I’m sorry to hear about your allergic reaction, that can be really scary, but if it’s not a serious danger, maybe you can take the opportunity to hole up with a pan of those gorgeous cinnamon buns until the swelling goes down. Cream cheese frosting has amazing curative properties, I’m sure. :)

  8. Wow, they look amazing! Good luck with the food allergies… we are working on that with my son and figuring them out in killer! But seriously… I’m going to have to go make those. Now.

  9. Wow those look wonderful. I tried out Peter Reinhardt’s recipe too but found that the end result was a little bit bread-y rather than soft as I had expected. Perhaps it was due to the lower fat content? Or did you use any other substitutions?

    Thanks and great job :)

  10. I dont know which I admire most, your cooking/baking skills, your photography or your creative and fun to read writing style! After printing off this recipe to try today, I dived into the rest of your recipes and can’t seem to tear myself away to get started on these beauties! Thank you!

  11. I am so lucky and have eaten old Ezra’s cinnamon rolls. They are absolutely wonderful and if you eat more than five, you will be down for the count. They rate right next to school cafeteria ones, that, after all are the gold standard for cinnamon rolls served with chili, cheese toast and a carrot stick.

  12. My husband would have preferred I made cinnamon buns over plum cake. These look fantastic! I may have to make him some this weekend to finish off his birthday month celebrations.

  13. NO apology needed when you’ve got cinnamon rolls like that. I love buttermilk in my baked goods so I’d love to try these. Get better soon.

  14. Cinnamon buns are something I have wanted to tackle for quite a while, but I’ve always been a bit wary (read: terrified) to make them. But your look so delicious I think I’m finally going to give them a try! I just started my own blog and I am so inspired by your photos! Hope your lip is feeling better.

  15. “people will look at you with the sort of unbridled joy typically reserved for babies, puppies, Santa and Pamela Anderson” LOL! I am so making cinnamon buns this weekend. :)

  16. I’m not sure how I ended up here, but what’s even more puzzling is how your beautiful blog has been keep a secret from me. Web conspiracy?

    I’m sorry about the allergy, although I could certainly do with an Angelinaesque pout these days.

    Your rolls look fabulous! I keep saying I want to make them but my Bookmarked Recipes folder is a scary place to visit these days. I’ll just bookmark these and pray.

  17. […] – An Apology with Cinnamon Buns saved by zilchnerd2008-09-26 – Parchment Paper, Not Just For Baking saved by monicadear2008-09-19 – […]

  18. Oh My Gosh! I’m from the south and cinnamon “buns” or rolls as we call them are enough to make me melt, give up all promises to stay away from sugar (all to make the running easier). Yes that perfectly unbridled abandon when the scent of cinnamon, sugar and butter hits your nose. YMMMM Thanks for sharing and I hope you feel better soon : ))

  19. Cinnamon buns beat out Dimply Plum Cake every time! Wow. Those looks amazing. I’ve never made them before, but I’m definitely going to now. Thanks for sharing the recipe. :) I hope your lip is getting better.

  20. Oh, I feel your pain! I had the very same allergic reaction with my bottom lip once. Woke up in the middle of the night and thought “Hmmm…what’s that on my chin?” Turned out to be my huge Sherman Clump-esque lip! I actually had to go to the ER and get shot up with steriods, which brought down the swelling in 24 hours. Good luck with yours – and I love love love your blog!

  21. Ack! I KNOW whatyou mean about allergies! I’m allergic to soy and the first time I drank soy milk, my throat and lips swelled. Scary! I love your pictures and this dessert looks WAAAY good.

  22. With buns like that, there need be no apology. OK, I’m sure you received a lot of comments on “bun” innuendos, but seriously. SERIOUSLY. I’d pay lots of money for those. Lots and lots. That is absolutely GORGEOUS. My mouth is watering.

  23. I’m trying to keep myself from licking the screen and at the same time I’m calculating how the hell you can get these made for breakfast?!? I think you have to get up at 4 am or some such rot, in order to have them 10am. Not fair!

  24. My friend and I tried this recipe today and I’m sorry to say they came out AWFUL. The two of us are not inexperienced bakers, we know how to follow a recipe, and we did follow your recipe. To be honest i feel your recipe was very disorganized and the amount of flour needed was COMPLETELY off because the dough came out entirely too sticky and we needed to add almost a whole cup of extra flour to get the dough to form a ball. The next problem was after they finished baking they tasted like bread, the only flavor on them was from the frosting. I am highly disapointed because I really wanted to like them…but they ended up being a waste of time, effort, and groceries.

  25. Dissapointed: If you were going for that yummy, gooey, kind of Cinnabon-tasting cinnamon roll, I’m sure these DID taste awful. It’s a Peter Reinhart recipe, and he’s all about making a bun with less fat content. It’s definitely bready. What you were probably looking for is something with a brioche dough.

    The issue with the flour was probably humidity. I always have to add a little more flour to any dough when it’s been raining or generally humid.

    Sorry for the disappointment!

  26. […] was the recipe that made me feel confident enough in my abilities to try out some bagels. I took Rebecca’s suggestion of pairing the rolls with some cream cheese icing rather than Reinhart’s sugar […]

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