Just a simple, super-tender sweet bread dough, swirled with Christmas-scented cinnamon and baked into a perfectly airy and rich cinnamon bun. No sticky goo. No coffee/maple/Nutella/chocolate chips. Just a damn good, no-nonsense, never-need-another-recipe cinnamon bun. Click here to go straight to the recipe!
Cinnamon buns are second only to donuts in the Sarah Coates hierarchy of sugary carbs. They sing a siren song to me, that I find impossible to resist. Anytime there is a cinnamon bun within cooee of me, you’ll find me reaching out a hand and calling over my shoulder for ‘a cup of black coffee, stat!’. Cinnamon, buttery bread and coffee is a combination of things that I cannot imagine living without. I can’t imagine anyone with a pulse not loving the mix! But I know there are those who can’t stand cinnamon, don’t like coffee, and stay away from bread like it’s the devil.
Here’s the thing though. I love a plain and simple cinnamon bun WAY better than I like a sticky bun. That’s not to say I don’t like a sticky bun. Buttery caramel-soaked coils of dough studded with nuts are just fine by me. But sticky buns are seriously a sometimes treat. The sugar-buzz from one of those guys is enough to keep me up for about four days, and you know me – I can handle sugar. Cinnamon buns on the other hand, are a more puritanical, more austere bake. Coming from Scandinavia they show classic the classic Nordic restraint, and they come from a time when the cinnamon in the mix would have been pretty damn extravagant.
My unashamed love of da buns does mean that I’m constantly getting suckered into buying those $1 IKEA cinnamon buns. And you know what? They’re not the worst. I’ve definitely had worse cinnamon buns, and sometimes from legit bakeries. Shame on those bakeries, for their dry, mealy cinnamon rolls. The thing with the IKEA bad boys is that they wisely serve them slightly warm, which does detract from the odd chewiness and tastelessness of the dough. This recipe, then, is what IKEA cinnamon buns ought to be.
When I say the dough for these is buttery, I mean it. It’s a rich dough, with eggs and butter, similar to a brioche. But instead of using a solid half-pound of butter, these get their tenderness from the Tang Zhong method – a quickly cooked mixture of flour and water, which gets stirred into the dough – which makes these buns incredibly tender, and it’s so easy. The method has revolutionized my sweet bread baking. The filling is a simple sweet mix, of cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, and two optional extra ingredients; a hint of cardamom (love it or leave it) and a pinch of cocoa, which I love for the colour, and for the elusive, haunting depth of richness that it brings.
Either way, you will find me with these, and a pot of coffee, sitting in the corner of my yard that gets the most sun, for the rest of the winter. Tell me, what is your favourite cold weather bake? And are you an IKEA fan, or do you think it’s the 9th circle of hell?
- 90ml (6tbsp) water
- 20g (2 tbsp) plain flour
- 2½ cups (375g) plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup (50g) caster sugar
- 1½ tsp dried yeast
- ½ cup (125ml) milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ stick (55g) butter, softened (or grated)
- ½ stick (55g) butter, softened
- ½ cup (110g) brown sugar
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ½ tsp cocoa powder (darker the better)
- First, make the tang zhong. Place the water and flour into a small saucepan or frying pan and whisk together. Place over a medium heat, and cool just until the mixture thickens to a gel. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- For the dough, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook.
- Whisk the milk into the tang zhong, and add that to the dry ingredients, along with the eggs, and then turn on the mixer and work until the dough comes together - it will seem a little dry.
- With the mixer on low, add the butter a little at a time, and knead until it's completely incorporated - about 5-10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic, and set aside to rise until doubled in size OR place in the fridge overnight. I reccomend the overnight method, as chilled dough is easier to work with.
- Meanwhile, beat together all the ingredients for the filling into a soft paste.
- Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 9 inches (23cm) wide, and 15 inches (40cm) long. Spread the filling evenly over the dough (it's a thin layer), and then roll the dough up, starting from the short edge, like a swiss roll.
- Cut the dough into 16 rolls and place onto a lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set aside to proof for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C. When the buns have proved, bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown, and springing back when touched. Cool on the trays for few minutes and then eat! Be careful, they're super hot.