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twisty cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are perfect — they don’t need disruption, nobody needs a fresh new take on them, and they don’t need refining. I suspect that for most of us, our only grievance is that nobody makes them often enough. Have you ever woken up to the smell of fresh cinnamon buns baking in the oven? Yeah, me neither, but boy does my family have good things to say about it.

So what is this? Well, these are cinnamon rolls with a little update, exactly what I said nobody needs, but it turns out… I do. This is the exact recipe, down to the last teaspoon, I use to make cinnamon buns at home, which I’ve tweaked and tweaked over the last few years until it was exactly the way I wanted it: no separated eggs, easy-to-remember measurements, a plush, rich dough wound with the perfect cinnamon bite. But — maybe this has been written about somewhere else, not sure — but we’ve been home a lot over the last year and when I’m home a lot, I start tinkering. I applied the kind of twisting we use for a krantz cake-style babka and stuffed four of these twists in a pan and let them expand and bronze in semi-chaotic ribbons in the oven and I found three things that these do even better than cinnamon buns.

what you'll need

what you'll needlet the dough hook do the workyes the dough is this softchilled, doubledroll big and widecover with cinnamon sugardivide rope in halfsplit both logsdivide the twists to make fourready to bake

  • As the layers fan open a bit while baking, the spiced brown sugar filling caramelizes and crisps creating an amount of texture classic cinnamon buns could never.
  • Every bite has an equal amount of cinnamon ribboning. You don’t need to hurry to the center — do not pretend you don’t — to get the very best bite.
  • You cut it into any size, depending on what you need or want. I am not going to pretend that 14 people showing up to a brunch when I made only 12 cinnamon buns is the great hosting crisis of our time, but it’s definitely happened and it’s always awkward, realizing maybe I’m not the kind of host who volunteers to go without so everyone gets enough. With these, you can cut any size or shape and still get the full, heavenly cinnamon bun experience.
  • This is also a frost-your-own-adventure bun. I absolutely believe in frosting icing rolls, especially with cream cheese, but these are too pretty and textured to cover. Instead, I make a big bowl on the side and you can slather exactly the amount you want on your own piece. I’d start with this:

    twisty cinnamon buns

    twisty cinnamon buns

    I think you know exactly what needs to be done this weekend. I can smell the deliciousness from here.


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    twisty cinnamon buns

    twisty cinnamon buns
    twisty cinnamon buns

    Twisty Cinnamon Bun Bake

    A few notes: 1. This is a very soft and sticky dough. There is a 100% chance that when you mix it, you’ll say “no way, Deb, this is a mistake.” It is not a mistake. In the fridge, the butter will firm and the dough will stiffen, making it easier to roll out when cold on a very well-floured counter. 2. Get as many twists as you can in the ropes for the most dramatic shapes, but know that even if you only get one or two, it’s going to be a stunner. You can’t mess this up. 3. Yes, it’s okay to mix salt and dry yeast. 4. No, instant yeast doesn’t technically require a warmed liquid or milk to proof, but I find it moves along faster with it. 5. Yes, you can use active dry yeast instead of instant, the same amount. It *might* double faster, see keep an eye on it. 6. Unsponsored plug: I started using this cinnamon here and it is so robust and so complex, I cannot go back to any other.
    • 1 cup (235 ml) milk, any kind, lightly warmed
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet or 7 grams) instant yeast
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I’m using Diamond; use 1.5t of other brands)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, diced
    • 3 1/2 cups (455 grams) cups all-purpose flour
    • Filling
    • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter, salted or unsalted, melted
    • Pinch or two of salt (if butter is unsalted)
    • 1 cup (190 grams) dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    • Icing
    • 1 8-ounce (225-grams) block cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 2/3 cup (80 grams) powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
    • 1 to 2 (15 to 30 ml) tablespoons milk or cream
    Make dough: Whisk milk, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk in eggs. Add diced butter, yes, still cold is fine. Add flour and attach the dough hook. Turn your mixer to the second speed and let the dough hook bring it together into a mass, about 1 minute. Reduce to the lowest speed and knead for 5 minutes — in this time, the butter will soften into the dough. The dough will be smooth and seem very, very wet, too wet. Scrape into an oiled bowl (a 8-cup should easily hold it when doubled), cover tightly with plastic, and from here there are two possible schedules:

    Method 1: Let the dough rise at room temperature until it just shy of doubles, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I find that it looks like it’s not rising at all for the first hour and then boom, it takes off, doubling around 1 1/2 hours. Transfer dough to the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. It is impossible to work with this dough when still at room temperature; don’t even try.

    Method 2: Let the dough rise in the fridge a minimum of 8 hours, and up to 2 days. It will be just about doubled when it comes out.

    Fill and shape dough: Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter and add a pinch or two of salt if the butter is unsalted. Set aside. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or nonstick spray. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Roll chilled dough out a very, very well-floured counter, covered with more flour, until it’s a very wide slab — about 30 inches wide and as deep as you can comfortably roll it, about 10 to 12 inches. You’ll want to lift the dough and re-flour underneath as you roll. Brush evenly with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar-cinnamon mixture and pat it down. Begin rolling, using a scraper as needed where the dough is stuck, from the long end, rolling the dough into a as-tight-as-possible coil. Once in a coil, I stretch it gently until it’s 34 to 36 inches. Transfer it to the parchment-lined baking sheet, bending it into a horseshoe, and freeze it for 15 minutes. This will firm the log and make it much, much easier to work with.

    Remove from the freezer and cut the horseshoe-shaped log crosswise into two equal lengths. Using a serrated knife in a gentle sawing motion, carefully cut the first log in half lengthwise, exposing the layered center. Place halves next to each other, cut side up. Lift one side over the next, forming as many twists as you can down the log (stretching it a little as you twist is fine), and try to keep the cut sides up. Cut this long twist into two equal lengths and arrange across the short side of the baking dish in two rows. Repeat with the second log, splitting, twisting, and dividing, forming two more rows in the baking dish. If you discover, like I often do, that you didn’t use all of the melted butter in the filling, brush the rest over the twists now. Let dough rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before baking.

    Bake: For 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden all over and have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F.

    Make icing: In a medium bowl, beat or whisk cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon milk or cream and beat to combine. If you’d like a thinner frosting, add the second tablespoon. Place in bowl with spoon for serving.

    Serve: When buns come out of oven, Let them cool 5 minutes, if you can bear it, before cutting in. Serve in squares of any size (although if you cut the pan into 12, it will be closest to a standard cinnamon bun size) with the frosting on the side.

    Do ahead: The buns ostensibly keep at room temperature for a few days, just not around here; cover tightly with foil or plastic. Leftover icing goes in the fridge and will last a week.

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