Chewy, gooey cinnamon buns

The basis of excellent cinnamon buns is a moist, slightly sweet dough. (Darryl Dyck/QMI Agency)

The basis of excellent cinnamon buns is a moist, slightly sweet dough. (Darryl Dyck/QMI Agency)

ELIZABETH BAIRD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:54 PM ET

It was a cold drizzly Saturday that made me think of cinnamon buns. Sheer comfort, cinnamon buns offer a ray of sunshine when they emerge from the oven, all fragrant and moist on a weekend morning.

And speaking of the weekend, cinnamon buns are a wonderful Saturday project when you’re around the kitchen but have other tasks on tap. Because, like all yeast baking, cinnamon buns take a whack of time.

But for almost all of the time needed to let the dough and buns rise, you can get on with something else. Another plus, you can make cinnamon buns straight through and reheat the next day, or hold the rise in check by refrigerating the unbaked buns, bringing them out in the morning to finish rising, and then baking them to an astonished and appreciative household.

CINNAMON ROLLS

The basis of excellent cinnamon buns is a moist, slightly sweet dough. This one is easy to make with an electric mixer, a stand mixer if available.

Sweet Yeast Dough:

1/3 cup (75 ml) butter

2 large eggs

1 cup (250 ml) sour cream

1 tsp. (5 ml) salt

1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50 ml) lukewarm water

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) active dry yeast

4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour (approx)

Filling:

3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml) ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened

1 cup (250 ml) raisins or chopped walnut or pecan halves

Cinnamon Glaze:

1 cup (250 ml) icing sugar

1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cinnamon

1/2 tsp. (2 ml) vanilla

1 to 2 Tbsp. (15 to 30 ml) light cream, 10 or 18%, or milk

Melt butter and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sour cream. Let stand until room temperature, about 20 minutes. Whisk in butter, salt and vanilla.

Meanwhile, stir 1 tsp. (5 ml) of sugar into lukewarm water; sprinkle yeast over top. Stir and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Scrape into egg mixture with remaining sugar.

Using electric mixer or well-exercised arm, beat in about half of flour. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in enough of remaining flour to make soft, slightly sticky dough.

Sprinkle counter generously with some of remaining flour. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead, sprinkling counter with as much of remaining flour and more as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Note, with stand mixer equipped with dough hook, simply continue in the work bowl, adding remaining flour and kneading.)

Place dough in large buttered bowl; turn dough to grease all sides. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Press dough to flatten – no need to “punch” dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes to get rid of its elasticity.

Butter 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan; set aside.

FILLING:

In bowl, mash together brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside. On floured counter, roll out dough to 12- x 24-inch (30 x 60 cm) rectangle. Spread butter evenly over dough, leaving 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) border on 1 short end unbuttered. Sprinkle sugar mixture, then raisins or nuts, evenly over buttered dough. Press filling gently with metal lifter or spatula.

Roll up, starting at short end opposite unbuttered end. Pinch dough to seal seam. Cut into 12 equal slices; arrange cut-side up in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 12 hours; remove from fridge.) Let buns rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1/2 to 1 hour for buns from the fridge, 1 to 1-1/2 hours for buns at room temperature.

Bake in centre of 375F (190C) oven until golden brown and enticingly fragrant, about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn cinnamon buns out onto rack; top with second rack and turn over so buns are right-side up.

CINNAMON GLAZE:

Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk together icing sugar and cinnamon. Whisk in vanilla and enough cream until glaze is thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over warm buns for a glazed look, and for visible drizzle look, let buns cool before drizzling with glaze.

Makes a dozen buns.

VARIATION:

Sticky-Top Cinnamon Buns: While dough is resting, before filling and rolling, heat 3/4 cup (175 ml) butter with 3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar in saucepan over medium heat, whisking until no longer granular. Pour into buttered baking pan. Arrange cut buns evenly over sugar mixture. Bake as directed; remove from oven and turn out onto rack positioned over rimmed baking sheet or tray. Leave, bottom side up. Scrape any syrupy goo from the bottom of the pan over the buns. Omit Cinnamon Glaze.

CINNAMON MUFFINS A.K.A. CINNAMON CUPCAKES

Muffins are a simple, less intimidating alternative to yeast-raised cinnamon buns. While you might expect there to be cinnamon in these delicious little cake-like muffins, there is not. Instead, the hot currant-dappled muffins are dipped in butter, then in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Like cinnamon toast, only better.

3/4 cup (175 ml) butter

1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla

3 cups (750 ml) all-purpose flour

4 tsp. (20 ml) baking powder

3/4 tsp. (4 ml) each salt and nutmeg

1 cup (250 ml) milk

1 cup (250 ml) currants, golden raisins or chopped walnut or pecan halves

Cinnamon Crust:

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

1-1/2 tsp. (7 ml) cinnamon

1/3 cup (75 ml) butter, melted

Line 12 large muffin cups with paper liners or grease; set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until batter is smooth. Then stir in vanilla.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In three additions, stir dry ingredients into butter mixture, alternating with milk in two additions. Scatter currants over top; stir just until combined.

Scoop into muffin cups, filling each to the top. Bake in centre of 350F (180C) oven until very light brown and nicely puffed, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Place muffin pans on rack. In small shallow bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Pour butter into second similar bowl. When muffins are just cool enough to handle, dip tops, first into butter, letting excess drip off, then into cinnamon mixture to form crust. Place upright on rack to cool. (Make-ahead: Let cool. Store in airtight container for up to 1 day. Reheat briefly to serve.)

Makes 12 muffins. While still warm from the oven, these muffins/cupcakes give the lushest cinnamon thrill.

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