Something happened this week. I was teaching a class on enriched breads, and had spent weeks testing and testing to get everything perfect. There was pain de mie, beautiful braids of challah, petit brioche a tete, and lots of parker house rolls. When I envisioned the class, I pictured mountains of breads, which I personally found very appealing. But I was worried that people wouldn’t think it was exciting enough. I needed some intrigue. A wild card. Something to get people in the door. I needed cinnamon rolls.
I’ll be honest, two weeks ago I was pretty ambivalent about cinnamon rolls. Sure, they were nice. I mean, who’s going to complain about swirly squishy bread covered in cinnamon and frosting? But I had never had my mind blown by a cinnamon roll. Cinnabons are pretty good, I guess, but I can literally taste the chemicals on my tongue after attempting to eat one of those. Weirdly enough, when I was thinking back to formative cinnamon bun years, they seemed to revolve around those canned ones at the grocery store that you ice yourself and aren’t even swirly. A dressed up version of those, that was the cinnamon bun of my dreams. So with that weird little canned bun in mind, I set about developing a recipe.
It only took about four tries. It helped that I already had the dough worked out from the sticky pecan buns that I taught last summer (aaaah, another blog post that I started and never finished…sigh). It was all about getting the flavors right. And I’m pretty sure I nailed it. I’m also pretty sure that in those four days of trying, followed by four days of teaching and baking the rolls, I transitioned from an ambivalent cinnamon roll passer-by to a full fledged devotee. Around day 6 I started dreaming about them. Then I started seeing them everywhere: coasters, camera lenses, even my cat all rolled up while sleeping started looking like a cinnamon bun that I really, REALLY wanted to nibble on (as if I actually eat them that daintily). It was all I talked about on facebook, prompting some recipe requests, which made me think: “hey, I know what I haven’t done in a while: a blog post!” So here I am, sharing these rolls, because dammit, they are worth breaking my four-month blog pause to share. Enjoy.
Yield: 12 rolls
12 ounces bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces whole milk, lukewarm
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, soft
5 ounces brown sugar
5 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces unsalted butter, soft
Cream Cheese Glaze:
2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, soft
2 ounces unsalted butter, soft
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
Make the dough:
– Stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a stand mixer bowl (or large mixing bowl). Combine the milk and eggs in a separate small bowl. Pour the egg mixture in the dry mixture and stir until smooth. Let this mixture rest for about 5 minutes so that the gluten can begin to develop.
– One piece at a time, knead in the butter, waiting until each addition of butter assimilates before adding more. This will take a few minutes. Continue mixing for about 6 more minutes, or until the dough is very well mixed. You will have to scrape down the bowl from time to time as the dough will cling to it. The dough will be very smooth.
– Place the dough in a large bowl. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. If making that day, place in a warm spot to rise. Once risen, place in the fridge to chill before rolling, As cold dough is much easier to work with. If making in advance, put the dough into the refrigerator and chill overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
Assemble the buns:
– Mix together the cinnamon, sugar and salt and set aside.
– On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a long side is facing you. Spread the soft butter evenly over the entire surface of the dough, then sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar mixture. Starting from the side closest to you, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1 inch from each end of the roll to make them even. If at any point the dough becomes warm or sticky, place it in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.
– Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the roll into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.
– Butter a 9”x13” baking pan. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.
– Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. While the cinnamon rolls are baking, prepare the glaze.
Glaze the buns:
– Whisk together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth.
– When the cinnamon rolls are finished baking, you can decide whether to glaze them warm or after they’ve cooled. One at a time, invert the buns onto a wire cooling rack. Spread the glaze onto them, you will have more than enough.