I make a version of these cinnamon buns nearly every year for Christmas. The first time I made them was in 2010, inspired by the version in Lotta Jansdotter's book. They're beauties. I thought I'd do a bit of an update to that initial post today, where I list off some of the tweaks I've made over the years, in addition to some insights I've had. The base recipe is for a version of Lotta's beautiful, homemade, hot from the oven, loaded with sugar and spice, golden, buttery, classic cinnamon buns.
One of the great things about them, is that you can prepare them ahead of time, and freeze the pre-baked rolls. The night before you're ready to bake them, leave them to thaw, covered, on your counter, and bake them in the morning. I've done versions with whole grain flours, different spice blends, and boozed-up icings - which I'll note in the recipe and headnotes. There are some great insights in the comments as well.
Cinnamon Bun Basics
To make cinnamon buns you start by making a buttery yeast dough. I know some of you shy away from all recipes yeasty, but these really are fun to make. They take some time, because you need to let the dough rest and rise at various points, but most of that time isn't active. Once you get the hang of things, you can play around with all sorts of different fillings in future batches. If you want to explore something beyond cinnamon sugar, the filling can be anything from jam, a sweet compound butter, a flavored cream cheese filling...you get the idea.
How to Make Cinnamon Buns: The Process
So, in short, making cinnamon buns goes like this: Mix the dough. Let it rise. Roll it out. Put down the filling. Roll. Slice. (Freeze here, if you're going that route). Another rise. Bake. Lotta sprinkles her cinnamon buns with pearl sugar before baking, which gives them a nice crunchy top, but I know a lot of people like a thick slathering of icing - to the horror of some Swedes, I might add ;)... I served these w/ raw sugar on top and icing on the side, and used the icing from these hermit cookies. Might I suggest a splash of bourbon as well? You can actually flavor the icing any number of ways...
Happiest holidays and Merry Christmas to all of you. xo -h!
Favorite Cinnamon Buns
I imagine these would be extra special if you used this Moroccan Baharat-Cinnamon Rose Blend in place of the cinnamon. And a bit of lemon zest grated onto the filling just before rolling (or sprinkled into the bottom of the baking dish) might be nice. If you plan on freezing any of the pre-baked cinnamon rolls, here's what you want to do. Freeze them for an hour on a baking sheet or until they'll hold their shape, then drop them into a freezer bag, squeeze out any air and seal well. The night before you want rolls for brunch, thaw them overnight on your counter top, covered with a clean dish towel, and bake per the instructions below any time the following morning. *I've done delicious versions using equal parts all-purpose flour and rye flour, or one third part whole-wheat flour to two-thirds all-purpose flour.
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm whole milk (105F to 115F / 40C to 46C)
- 3/4 cup / 100g muscovado or brown sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup / 125g unsalted butter, barely melted
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 4 cups / 600g all-purpose flour*
- 1/2 cup / 60g muscovado or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1/2 cup / 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
- large grain raw sugar or pearl sugar for sprinkling OR you can make an icing to spread on the rolls after baking (recipe below, not pictured)*
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk in a large bowl. Add a pinch of the sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for a few minutes or until foamy.
Add the remaining sugar, the egg, melted butter, and cardamom. Stir until smooth. Stir the salt into the flour, then gradually add the flour to the bowl, a bit at a time, incorporating the flour after each addition. Transfer the dough to a floured counter top and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn it to coat with oil, and cover with a kitchen towel or equivalent. Let the dough rise in a sunny or warm place until doubled, about an hour.
Cut the dough in half on a floured counter top and form each piece into a ball. One at a time, roll each piece into a rectangle 12 inches/30cm and 1/2 inch/12mm thick. See the photos up above if this is confusing.
Start by combining the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Spread half of the butter evenly over one rectangle of the dough. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture evenly across the butter. Roll the dough up tightly lengthwise, then turn it so that the seam side is down. Cut the roll into 12 equal slices, a serrated knife works best. You can bake these, cut-side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet, in cupcake liners, or in a buttered baking dish. I used a well-buttered standard pie dish. Unless you are using individual cupcake liners, you want to arrange the slices about 1/2-inch from each other on the baking sheet or in the baking dish. They rise and expand, and end up nice and snuggly in/on the pan. Repeat with the remaining rectangle of dough and filling. You can freeze any slices you aren't going to bake at this point.
Cover the rolls you are going to bake with a dry towel and let rise in a sunny or warm spot until doubled, about an hour. The timing is pretty flexible here - you can go a few hours depending on what is convenient.
Heat the oven to 400F/ 205C with a rack in the top third. Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if you like. Bake the buns until golden brown, roughly 15-18 minutes. Don't over bake, the buns will dry out = not as good. Remove from the oven and serve warm if possible, plain or with a slather of icing* on top of each bun.
As I mention up above, this is the icing I also use for these hermit cookies. I like to spread a bit on each individual roll before serving or serving the icing on the side with a palette knife for individual spreading. Whisk 1 cup / 3.25 oz / 100g sifted powdered sugar, 4-5 tablespoons heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons bourbon or brandy together in a small bowl. Let sit for a few minutes, then adjust with more sifted powdered sugar if you want a stiffer icing. I'm going to do a creme fraiche version of the icing on Christmas - trading out the heavy cream for creme fraiche.
Adapted from the Cinnamon Bun recipe in Lotta Jansdotter's Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandinavian Style by Lotta Jansdotter.