This is one of those weeks that feels like it’s going right.
My apartment is clean, the weather has been perfect (it only takes a few days of sun to forget all about the ever-present Vancouver rain, and we’ve been having a month-long heatwave with no end in sight), the book I’m reading is entertaining, my need for constant external validation is being fulfilled, and I’m getting along well with my parents (luckily I pretty much always get along with my parents these days – ever since I stopped being a teenager).
Hoping the trend would continue, and inspired by my recent success with chiboust (another thing that has gone right this week), I decided to (once again) tackle cinnamon buns.
I’ve been on a mission to create the perfect cinnamon bun for about nine years – ever since I started baking things other than the same chocolate chip cookie recipe over and over again. In my head, there is a perfect cinnamon bun, with warm, doughy bread that pulls into layers as you tear off a piece; that comforting caramelized cinnamon smell; a light golden top that isn’t tough to chew through, but still crispy enough to balance the gooeyness of the dark brown syrup soaked centre; syrup that is enough to fully line all the layers, but doesn’t drip out and all over your hands; sweetness balanced with a thin cream cheese icing… I could go on and on. Unfortunately, I have yet to create this cinnamon bun myself. In fact, I’m not even sure if anyone else has created it either – I certainly haven’t found one that lives up to my imagination in the past five years (yes, I have tried Cinnabon; no, I was not that impressed).
I started with Thomas Keller’s recipe for Sticky Buns, and adapted both the brioche and the filling to see how close I could get to what I’m looking for. I realize a lot of people (North Americans) don’t like to use a kitchen scale, but the precision appeals to my engineering side; I now much prefer recipes that provide weights rather than volumes. There are also less dishes to wash afterwards, which I think everyone can agree is a bonus.
These came pretty close. They were very buttery, which gave the top the crispness I was looking for. I overbaked them slightly, so they weren’t as doughy as I would have liked, but the recipe may be a winner. And they smell like love.
I have a full fridge and a full heart.
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller
265 grams bread flour
One packet instant yeast (7 grams)
30 grams sugar
6 grams salt
2 extra large eggs
45 grams whole milk
120 grams butter, unsalted, at room temperature
130 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
195 grams dark brown sugar
25 grams honey (use a mild flavour, like clover or raspberry)
7 grams cinnamon
5 grams whiskey (optional)
2 grams vanilla
Cinnamon stick, for grating (optional)
Sift flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer). Whisk in the yeast to distribute evenly. Add the sugar, salt, eggs and milk and mix on low speed (or stir) for about five minutes. Add the butter in three parts, making sure it’s well incorporated between additions. Run a spatula along the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the flour makes it into the dough. Continue to mix for another ten minutes (or knead until your hands almost fall off).
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter, and knead a few more times. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a lightly greased large bowl (place any seams in the dough face down). Cover and let rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.
In the meantime, cream the filling butter in a separate bowl, until it’s about the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the sugar, and whip until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients (except the cinnamon stick) and stir until combined.
Roll out the dough into a square, about 16×16 inches. Spread the filling evenly over the dough.
Roll the dough as tightly as possible. With the seam down, cut into six equal sized buns (I cut the uneven edges off mine first and made two smaller buns on a cookie sheet). Set each bun in the cup of a jumbo muffin pan. Gently press the top of each bun so it meets the edges of the cup. Grate the cinnamon stick over each bun to lightly dust with cinnamon, if desired. Cover with a plastic tub or cardboard box, and let sit for one to two hours, or until the buns have risen about half an inch above the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out without any dough attached (I would guess about 25 minutes – I baked mine for 30 and they were slightly overdone). Invert immediately onto a sheet of parchment paper.
If you’re into adding cream cheese icing, I like this recipe. Let the buns cool for about five minutes and spread the icing on top.