When I was six I experienced peak cinnamon bun. In the middle of a farmers’ market in Toronto I was handed a parcel wrapped in brown paper. Inside was a glistening golden sticky buttery cinnamon swirl - a full face experience, and well worth it. Ever since then I’ve been looking for one to mirror its spiced perfection, but my quest continues to this day. To the untrained/inexperienced/non-cinnamon obsessed palate a cinnamon bun is just a cinnamon bun. Wrong.
My gluttonous many-year quest has allowed me to sample the many different types: there is the American gloopy, slightly under baked, doughy, cream cheese-coated type. This can be found in a ubiquitous American chain (at particular low points during my degree I used to linger outside the Cambridge branch just to catch the cinnamon perfumed scent).
At the opposite end of the scale there’s the more refined flaky and French variety which is unsatisfyingly mild in terms of cinnamon flavour if you’re an obsessive like me.
Somewhere in between the two is the Nordic variety, cardamom and cinnamon infused, with a delicate dough (my trip to Norway this summer will be dedicated to experiencing as many of these as possible).
My own recipe falls somewhere in the middle of the 3 varieties. The brioche dough is soft and light on the inside and crisp on the outside, the browning of the butter in the filling adds a nutty richness, and the muscovado sugar makes the bun moister and adds greater depth of flavour than plain caster sugar. As the buns cook, the sugar cinnamon filling caramelises slightly at the base adding a moreish stickiness.
Although the brioche dough requires starting the evening before, don’t let it stop you from making these. They are, in fact, incredibly easy and quick to make. It’s also rather lovely going to bed knowing that a cinnamon bun awaits you the next day…
1 ½ tsp active dried yeast
3 tbsp lukewarm water
285g strong white bread flour
¾ tsp salt
40g caster sugar
3 medium sized eggs + 1 to paint the buns
115g cold unsalted butter
160g light brown muscovado sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 round 9 inch tin, greased and dusted with flour
- In large bowl stir together yeast and water until the yeast has dissolved. Leave in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is activated and the mixture begins to go slightly frothy.
- Add in the flour, salt, sugar and eggs and mix until thoroughly combined and the dough is smooth and sticky. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, as I do, fit it with the paddle and mix.
- Stirring continuously (or with the machine on a medium-high speed) add in the butter bit by bit, waiting until it is fully combined before adding more. Once the butter is fully combined, keep mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
- Placed dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film, and place in fridge overnight or for minimum 8 hours.
- The next day make the cinnamon filling by placing the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Once it has melted, leave it on the heat for another minute until it goes golden in colour and has a rich, nutty aroma. Mix the sugar, salt and cinnamon with the butter to form a paste and set aside to cool.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and, on a board dusted with flour, roll it out to a rectangle of roughly 30cm by 38cm and to a 3/4cm thickness. Spread the cinnamon filling evenly over the rectangle.
- With long side of the rectangle closest to you (i.e. landscape as opposed to portrait), roll the dough from the long side to the other long side tightly, like a scroll. With the seam side down, slice the roll into 12 even slices. Arrange the slices spiral side up in the prepared tin, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise for an hour in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C. To give the buns a beautiful golden shine, beat the egg and brush a thin layer over them.
- Place the tin in the oven and allow to bake for about 20-30 minutes until the surface is a golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. If it looks a little too dark early on in the bake, cover with tin foil. Once cooked, place on a wire rack to cool (or eat immediately).