I keep the butter & cream cheese icing separate, warm the buns before serving, and let people slather on as much or as little icing as they like
This is my new favourite recipe for cinnamon buns. With a dough not too far away from a brioche, they’re a bit crispy on the outside and, inside, beautifully soft and light but not mushy.
Adapted and expanded from the King Arthur Flour recipe here: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/cinna-buns-recipe
Makes 12 very large buns or 24 medium buns
Ahead of time: An hour or two ahead, take two sticks of butter (three if you’re doubling the icing), a package of cream cheese, and two eggs out of the fridge so they can warm to room temperature. Note that you can use salted butter if you want – there’s a negligible 1/8th teaspoon of salt in a quarter-pound salted stick, so it won’t make an appreciable difference.
Ratios are crucial in baking, so I measure by weight – especially important for the flour.
- 1 cup lukewarm milk [heat in microwave about 1 minute until 115F/45C or so]
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz, 75g) softened unsalted butter, cut into half-tablespoon pieces
- 4 1/2 cups (19 oz, 540g) all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz, 100g) granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz, 75g) softened unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed (7 1/2 oz, 210g)
- 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons (generous 1/3 cup, 3 oz, 85g) cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup (half stick, 2 oz, 57g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz, 170g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
[I usually double the icing recipe and then let guests use as much or as little as they like. I also decrease the sugar and increase the butter and cream cheese to make the icing not as sickly sweet as the original recipe.]
- To make the dough: Mix together and knead all of the dough ingredients – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – to make a smooth, soft dough. [In a stand mixer with a dough hook, this will take 6 or 7 minutes. When the side of the bowl is fairly clean and the dough starts to climb the hook a bit, it’s ready. Note that, like brioche dough, which is similarly enriched with butter, sugar, and egg, this may seem too wet at the start, but it isn’t.]
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 60 minutes, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk. [Enriched doughs can take longer to rise – up to two hours in a cold kitchen or if your ingredients weren’t at room temperature or if your yeast is a little tired.]
- Deflate and roll out the dough: Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. [It’s very important to grease the surface – you’ll need two feet by a foot-and-a-half – because you’re rolling a fairly wet dough to 3-4mm thickness and it would stick like tape otherwise. This may seem daunting, but don’t worry, the dough is very pliable and easy to stretch without tearing.] Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle, then roll to 16×21″/40x53cm, keeping the corners as square as practical.
- Filling: [For this step, I find it’s easier to microwave the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon for about 30 seconds, then mix to form a paste that you can spread fairly evenly onto the dough. Allow it to cool a bit if it feels hot. This method also stops a bunch of the filling from falling out and ending up on the bottom of your pan.] Original method: Spread the dough with the 1/3 cup butter. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough.
5a. For 12 large buns: Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a 16″/40cm log and cut it into 12 slices. [Cut in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each quarter into three equal pieces.]
5b. For 24 smaller buns: Starting with a long end, roll the dough into a 21″/53cm log and cut it into 24 slices. [Cut in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each quarter in half, then cut each eighth into 3 equal pieces.]
6. Place the buns in a lightly greased 9×13″/22x33cm pan. [3×4 rows for 12 buns or 4×6 rows for 24 buns.] Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they’re nearly doubled in size, about 30 minutes. [Again, your results may vary – it can take up to an hour. Be patient and let them puff up.]
7. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400F/200C
8. Uncover the buns, and bake them until they’re golden brown, about 15 minutes. [Check them every few minutes starting at 15 minutes, but I’ve found that golden brown won’t appear until more than 20 minutes have passed. If you have a probe thermometer, 190-195F/87-90C inside the center buns is your target.] While the buns are baking, make the icing.
9. To make the icing: In a small bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese, softened butter, sugar, and vanilla. [I double the icing recipe and modify by using a little more butter and cream cheese and less confectioner’s sugar.]
10. Remove the buns from the oven. Spread the icing on the buns while they’re warm. [I keep the icing separate, partly so people can have as much or as little as they like and partly because only the baker normally sees that nice spiral. It would be a shame to hide it away permanently.]
11. Serve buns warm, or at room temperature. [Room temperature? Stop it.] Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for a day or so; freeze for longer storage.
This is how slack the kneaded dough will be
The first rise will result in nearly two quarts/litres
Island surface sprayed with canola oil
Patted into a rectangle, then rolled out to about 16×21”/40x53cm and 3-4mm thick
Filling spread over dough – it doesn’t have to be perfect
Dough rolled up on long side, sliced in half, then quarters, then eighths
Those eighths cut into thirds for 24 medium buns
Arranged in buttered 9×13”/22x33cm pan for second rise – a bit wonky looking, but…
…after the second rise, the wonkiness from the slicing has corrected itself
Out of the oven
A previous bake of the larger size – they’re pretty huge