Everyone loves cinnamon buns. Or at least I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like them (so my inductive sample has yet to run into a counterexample). You should also fear not: these are good cinnamon buns. I have no doubt that my fellow BBA’ers — or anyone who gives this recipe a whirl — will enjoy these tasty treats (I know my kids did, especially the 5 year old).
Although I’m a cinnamon bun fan, I have to admit that I wasn’t really all that fired about about this week’s challenge. What’s the problem? Simple: calories. Nowadays I don’ t eat over the top diet buster foods like these. I don’t see them as worth the calories. I can say with certainty that it’s been ages since I’ve walked through the mall and actually stopped at Cinnabon. That doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted to stop, and that I don’t always enjoy the smell walking by – -but all I see are big huge calorie-numbers floating above the buns, and that unfortunately ruins it for me. In fact, I’m certain that I’ll be bringing the ones left over to school tomorrow for my students to eat. After all, what do they care about calories?
Speaking of Cinnabon, Reinhart says in the book that in his opinion, these buns rival or perhaps even best Cinnabon’s own. I’m not sure whether they do, given how long it’s been since I’ve had them myself. I’m curious what the other BBA’ers have to say on this – are these better? Not? All I can say is that they are good, but I’ve been “out of the game” too long to have a meaningful opinion on it.
Reinhart also gives you the directions to either make cinnamon buns or sticky buns. The sticky buns are worse calorie killers (Reinhart even says they are called that because they “stick to your buns”), so I stayed away from those. Moreover, he suggests that you can use all sorts of extras here — jelly, nuts, fruits, you name it. It’s easy to see how to do that, but I skipped all of them. A plain old’ cinnamon bun is enough for me. Plus, like I’ve said before, you shouldn’t screw around with extras until you’re sure you can make the base-level recipe.
Let me spell it out: this recipe is E-A-S-Y.
As a matter of fact, this is the first of the eight challenges so far that I’ve labeled as ‘beginner’. I honestly think anyone can make this, even people who are trying out baking for the first time, or near to the first time. There was little about the process that was challenging at all. That’s not a bad thing – it’s fine with me to have an easy week here and there (especially after the three attempts it took me last week to make ciabatta right).
That said, I’m not saying that making the perfect cinnamon bun is easy. I’m sure it isn’t. Like anything else, it takes tweaking and adjusting, and lots of trial and error. But making a good cinnamon bun can be done on the first try, and that’s a good thing for people to know.
Onward to the process!
Comments on the Process
The cinnamon bun process is simple: two steps – (a) dough/shape, (b) bake. So easy you might fall asleep in the middle of it.
Step One – Dough and Shape
The dough preparation stage is standard – the dough simply has a few extra ingredients, like egg and sugar and milk. One place where I did have a slight problem, though, was in the needed amount of flour to get the dough to the stage that Reinhart suggests it should be in (not sticky and forming a ball) at the end. Taking as the starting place that I used the maximum amount of milk the recipe suggests, I actually had to increase the flour by 10 tbsp over what Reinhart says you’ll need. That’s a bit surprising. 10 tbsp of flour is a bit over 1/2 cup. Given the amount of flour in this recipe, that’s actually a pretty big increase in flour percentage. This isn’t a big issue, but I was surprised to have to go over that much from what he said (from past recipes I have referred to the “I needed to add a lot more water or flour to this recipe” as “getting Reinharted”, so in this case, I got Reinharted again).
The next step, after the first rise, is to shape the dough into a roll. The first step requires flattening the dough out and sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar. Here’s how it looked:
I must admit that for a few minutes I got stuck at this stage, as the B picture in the book on shaping looked odd to me. This time, the directions were clear, but the picture — that B one in the middle — confused me. As it turns out, it’s an optical illusion (like the famous duck/rabbit picture, where what you see in it depends on how you look at it). When I first started looking at it, it seemed to me to be a picture not of a flattened out piece of dough (which it is), but rather like a fat multi-layered tall piece of dough with a thick inside full of sugar. Only after staring at it for a while did I then see that it wasn’t really, it was flat. I guess it depends on how you look at it. I’m curious if anyone saw that too. Up until that moment, I wasn’t sure what the heck the instructions were saying! Of course, that’s not Reinhart’s problem – just a strange optical illusion that caught at least my eye.
The next stage calls for you to roll the dough into a log from one end, over the sugar, to get the layers. Now Reinhart doesn’t say to do this (as far as I could see) but I reserved some of the cinnamon sugar and used it to add cinnamon sugar to the outside of the dough too, as you roll. Otherwise you won’t get the right look, as the cinnamon will only be on one side. Here’s how the roll looks:
- All Rolled Up and Nowhere to Go
Next: cut the roll into 8 pieces and place them on their sides on parchment paper in a pan, and then proof them again. No problem. This is too easy:
Once this is done, you’re ready for the oven.
Step Two – Baking
Comments on the Final Product
Here’s a shot of the final product, and then after a discussion of it.
These are really good cinnamon buns. Everyone in the family liked them, especially the 5 year old. If you recall, this is the one who said that I had my “head too much in the cookbook” and as a result she was boycotting my cooking/baking. Well, that protest movement didn’t last through this recipe. When she smelled these buns baking, her eyes open up like saucer cups. She started peppering me with questions in rapid succession: “Can I have one?” “When will they be ready?” “What kind of icing are you putting on them?” I said, “I thought you said that I had my head too much in the cookbook, and so you weren’t going to eat what I made.” She old me in response that this “wasn’t a rule.” Apparently it’s just a suggestion, and following it depends on how the food I’m cooking/baking smells.
Icing Warning: one thing to be aware of. Reinhart’s recipe calls for lemon extract in the dough. I used it, and I can assure you, you will taste it. So the buns themselves have a lemony taste. This may or may not be to everyone’s liking (I’ve never had a cinnamon bun with a lemony taste). At the same time, though, he says to use some lemon extract in the icing too. I think that’s too much. So I opted for the vanilla extract substitute. This was a good decision, I think. My guess is that if you use the lemon for the icing too, the cinnamon buns will be overwhelmed by the lemon flavor. Unless, of course, you are a lemon fanatic! In that event, do what you wish! I made this mistake once before, with my ricotta lemon cookies. Lemon in the cookie and in the icing = too much lemony. In fact, I think that if I made these buns again, I’d substitute out the lemon extract in the buns for the vanilla extract too.
Next Week: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
I actually made this bread when I first got the book, but I messed up the recipe. So I’m looking forward to giving it another try, now that I know what I did wrong the first time. Since I’ve already made the bread, I can also say that it’s a good one!
See you next week!