My Favorite Cinnamon Buns

There is nothing that says "Good morning!" quite like the fragrance of cinnamon buns just out of the oven on a cool fall morning! Believe it or not, they are not difficult to make despite the fears of those who shun recipes with yeast. A quick tip — if you would like to serve first thing in the morning, assemble the buns in the baking pan the night before, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for a slow proof. In the morning, set your rolls out to come to room temperature while the oven is preheating and then bake!

These rolls also keep well — I like to divide the rolls into portions that fit well in a plastic zip lock bag. To rewarm, loosely wrap rolls in foil and place in a 350* oven for 5-8 minutes.

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105° - 115°)
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup whole milk, warmed to 115°
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
7 to 8 cups all-purpose flour, and more if needed
1/2 and 1/2 or cream, as needed (for brushing tops of rolls)

FILLING
3/4 cup very soft butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

CREAMY GLAZE
1/2 cup very soft butter (or half softened cream cheese. half butter)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons hot water

METHOD:

TO PREPARE DOUGH:  
In a cup, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar; stir and set aside.

In the mixing bowl of stand mixer, place 2/3 cup sugar, whole milk, melted butter, salt and eggs. Mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined and add yeast mixture. Add half the flour and beat until smooth and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl. Beat batter on high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. (Note: try to use as little flour as possible. The goal is a moderately soft dough. I generally use about 7 cups of flour for the dough.)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. On lightly floured surface, Knead dough until it is smooth. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning once. Cover. Let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled, punch down dough and let rest 5 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll dough into a 15 by 20 inch rectangle.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Prepare filling — in a small bowl, whisk together sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Set aside.

Coat bottom and sides of an extra large baking pan, like a shallow roasting pan (or two smaller pans or dishes) generously with butter. Set aside.

Spread dough with 1/2 cup of very soft butter butter, leaving a 1 inch border at the top of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture on top of the butter. Roll up jelly-roll fashion and pinch the edges together to seal.

Cut into 12-15 slices, depending on the sizes of roll you'd like and the pan(s) you'll be using. Arrange cinnamon roll slices cut side up close together in the pan — but don't cram them in. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise about 45 minutes in a warm place, or until nearly double.

Preheat the oven to 375*. Place rack in center of oven.

Brush tops of rolls lightly with 1/2 and 1/2 or cream using a pastry brush. Bake rolls for 25 - 30 minutes or until lightly golden. It may be necessary to cover rolls loosely with foil about halfway through baking to prevent over-browning. When done, remove rolls from the oven and brush tops again lightly with 1/2 and 1/2. Place baking pan on a wire rack to cool.

When rolls have cooled for 15 minutes or so, glaze the rolls — if you like ooey-gooey rolls, use more glaze. If you prefer just a light glaze, just drizzle the glaze over the rolls lightly.

TO PREPARE GLAZE:
To make the glaze, place butter (and cream cheese, if using) and powdered sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Add vanilla. Add four tablespoons of hot water, then add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until glaze is desired consistency.     

TO PREPARE GLAZE:  
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix melted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until glaze reaches desired spreading consistency. Drizzle (or spread) over slightly cooled rolls.

BAKING TIPS:
Use the best butter you can buy — Kerrygold and Plugra are delicious, full flavored butters with excellent taste.

If possible, use fresh duck eggs from your farmers market. No need to adjust the recipe with smaller duck eggs — they are about the size of extra large chicken eggs. Duck eggs add an extra richness that cannot be beat! In fact, I bake almost exclusively with duck eggs.

The long 5 minute beating of the dough develops the gluten in the flour and lessens the amount of hands-on kneading. It's also what gives these rolls their soft, feather-like texture.

If you'd like to bake the rolls in the morning, after placing the rolls in the prepared baking pans or dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The rolls will proof slowly in the fridge. In the morning. allow rolls to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven. Remove plastic, and bake per instructions above.