The Slow & Steady bakers in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge are taking on Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon Buns this week. I sensed an overall lack of enthusiasm for the cinnamon buns at the beginning, a lack of enthusiasm that I shared to some degree -- we're in the middle of a stretch of enriched sweet breads with the BBA, and I think many of us are looking forward to getting to the crustier hearth breads. But once I tasted these cinnamon buns, my enthusiasm returned in full force. These rank right up there with the best cinnamon buns I've ever had. They also rank right up there with the best cinnamon buns I've ever made, although it is somewhat crazy to me to think that I have indeed made enough different cinnamon buns at this point to have several to choose from in declaring one "the best." I've made Dorie's pecan honey sticky buns using her brioche, and they were to die for fabulous. I've made raisin snails using Peter Reinhart's brioche - also very good. And I've made Ina Garten's easy sticky buns, which were delicious, and indeed easy. But for the perfect combination of both simplicity and out of this world deliciousness, I just don't think you can beat Peter Reinhart's recipe.
Making these is no more difficult than making a typical cake or brownie recipe. Mix together sugar, salt, and butter or shortening (I used butter). Another nice thing about this recipe, for all you health conscious cinnamon bun eaters out there, is that it uses significantly less butter than the brioche-based cinnamon buns (5.5 tablespoons, as opposed to a full stick of butter in a half recipe of Peter Reinhart's middle class brioche and a stick and a half in a half recipe of Dorie's brioche. Add an egg and some lemon zest or extract (I used extract because I have it and never use it). Add the flour, yeast and milk (I used nonfat buttermilk), mix until a ball forms, then switch to the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes. I had to knead (er, let the Kitchen Aid knead) mine for a little bit longer before my dough passed the windowpane and the temperature tests.
Once it passed the readiness tests, I transferred it to a bowl sprayed with oil and let it rise. It's supposed to rise for two hours, but as bad timing would have it, I had the opportunity to leave the house (alone) and run errands (by myself) right when the dough had been fermenting for a little over an hour. And NOTHING stands in the way of Mama and her alone time. Therefore, it rose for a good three hours before I was able to shape it. It had at least tripled in size by then, and I worried that I overfermented (is that a word?) it, but it certainly didn't seem to affect the final outcome.
Rolling up the cinnamon/sugar filled dough:
Cinnamon rolls sliced and ready for second proofing (I wanted to bake them fresh the next day, so I covered these with plastic wrap and retarded them in the fridge overnight):
The next morning, I took them out of the fridge - they had to proof for 3 or 4 hours before baking. This worked out perfectly with my timing, since I planned to serve them around "brunch" time at my daughter's two year old birthday party. It was a "Madeline" themed party:
I know that cinnamon buns aren't particularly French, but then neither are pigs in a blanket, and I served them too.
The cinnamon buns smelled incredible as they were baking, as cinnamon buns are wont to do. And they were really, really wonderful. I don't think that my two talking kids have ever been as enthusiastic about anything that I've baked as they were about these cinnamon buns. And my birthday girl?
She loved them too.
Suffice it to say that I will make these again. Peter, I'm sorry I wasn't excited about all these sweet breads. You sure showed me! I am in love with this recipe, and am already plotting and scheming to manufacture some other cinnamon bun occasions in the very near future.
5 months ago