Ah, cinnamon buns. Is there anything better than waking up to a home bathed in that cinnamony warmth? I mean, it's the weekend and while I am a bit of an early riser, the promise of an ooey gooey, freshly baked cinnamon bun is sure to get me out of bed with a smile on my face.
This base recipe is fantastic as is but also lends itself perfectly to the whims of the baker. This weekend, I found myself with a surplus of raspberries and oranges so I snazzed up my traditional cinnamon buns with a bit of fresh raspberry jam, orange zest, nutmeg, ginger, and clove, and a handful or two of toasty walnuts.
If you're the earliest bird, feel free to make these from start to finish first thing in the morning but if you're less inclined towards a 5am alarm, I'd suggest taking a peek at my notes on an overnight rise. This offers you all the glory and praise due after pulling freshly baked buns from the oven before noon but allows you a more human weekend wake-up time.
Cinnamon Buns or, you know, whatever type of breakfast bun your heart desires
¼ cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ¼ - 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 ½ tsp dry rapid-rise yeast
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
5 tsp melted unsalted butter
*The filling is where you can get creative. Feel free to change it up with nuts, dried fruit, a thin swipe of jam, spices, or citrus zest. For the buns pictured above, I mixed the brown sugar and salt with 3 teaspoons of cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cloves, and freshly grated nutmeg. I then rolled out the dough, spread a thin layer of raspberry jam across the top, lightly brushed that with the melted butter, scattered the sugar mixture over top, and dotted the whole thing with fresh raspberries and walnuts.
¼ cup softened cream cheese
2 Tbsp room temperature unsalted butter
3 Tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 ¼ cup – 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
*As with the filling, feel free to jazz up the icing with different extracts or citrus zests.
In a stand mixer, whisk the sugar, egg yolks, and whole egg together until light and fluffy. While whisking, slowly pour in the melted butter followed by the buttermilk and vanilla.
Remove the whisk attachment from your mixer and add 2 cups of the flour and the instant yeast. Holding the hook attachment in your hand, vigorously stir this mixture until it comes together. Once mixed, attached the dough hook to the stand mixer and add 1 ¼ cup of the remaining flour as well as the salt and knead the dough on low/medium-low for 5 minutes. At this point, the dough should be soft and moist but not sticky – if it is sticky, slowly add some more flour, ¼ cup at a time, until it no longer sticks to your hands. Whether or not you add more flour, continue to knead the dough on low for an additional 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times, and shape into a tight-skinned ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 2 – 2 ½ hours.
While the dough is rising, mix up the filling by combining the brown sugar, cinnamon or other spices, zest, if using, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Prepare a 9x13” pan by generously greasing and lining with parchment paper. I like to spritz a bit more cooking spray on the parchment paper just to make sure that all of my buns come out of the pan easily.
Once your dough has risen, melt the 5 teaspoons of butter for the filling and punch down the dough.
Form the dough into a 12x18” rectangle, brush with melted butter, and evenly sprinkle with the filling mixture. If you want to add nuts or fruit to your buns, now’s the time.
With the long side of the dough towards you, tightly roll it into a snake, seal the seam by pinching the dough together, and cut into 12 even slices. Arrange the buns about an inch or two apart in the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap, and place the buns back in that warm spot for another 2 hours or so.
*If you are preparing your buns the night before to bake fresh in the morning, see the note below for instructions.
When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F and bake your buns for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and glorious.
As soon as the buns come out of the oven, carefully flip the pan over onto a baking sheet or cutting board and tap to release all of that ooey goodness.
While the buns cool slightly, whip up a batch of icing by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until smooth.
Serve warm smeared with a good dollop of icing and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee if you’re so inclined.
Notes on an overnight rise
Once you have arranged your buns in the prepared pan, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight or up to 14 hours.
When ready to bake, boil a kettle of water and place a second 9x13” pan on the bottom rack of your turned-off oven. Remove your buns from the fridge and discard the plastic wrap. When the water has boiled, pop the bun pan onto the middle rack of your oven and carefully fill the empty 9x13” pan about halfway with the boiling water. Shut the oven door and allow the buns to proof (rise) for 30 minutes.
This creates an at-home proofing station and can be used for any doughs coming out of the fridge!
Once your buns have been proofed, remove both 9x13” pans from the oven and preheat it to 350F, baking the buns as above.