There’s a bakery about 20 minutes from my house that makes “the best” heavenly cinnamon buns. They are fluffy and sticky and gooey and delicious. They’re so fresh that when they wrap them they’re still warm. And if you’re not there to pick some up before 11 am then fuh-get-about-it! I’ve been trying to copy their recipe for years.
I have a really hard time when someone says that something is the best. Is it really the best? How do you know it’s the best? Maybe it’s the best you’ve ever tried but there are others out there. Maybe it’s the best in your opinion. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the best that is being offered at the moment. Do you see the slippery slope I’m sliding down?
But this recipe is pretty darn close to perfection. It may not be the best that’s out there but it’s the best recipe that I’ve been able to come up with so far. These cinnamon buns are fluffy and sticky and gooey and delicious and they are the best to me!
The amounts listed for the butter and brown sugar are approximate but don't be afraid of the butter and brown sugar because those two ingredients are what gives these cinnamon buns their stickiness! You're going to get dirty on this one.
3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 large eggs
7 - 7-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1-1/2 cups butter, divided, softened
2 cups dark brown sugar, divided
3 - 6 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Turn your oven on and let the oven begin to heat up for 3 or 4 minutes then turn the heat off and leave the door closed. Warming the oven this way will give your dough excellent conditions for rising.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the warm water and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of sugar and the yeast. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes your yeast mixture should have grown and become frothy. If it has not grown then your yeast is dead and you must start over with either a new batch of yeast or perhaps your water temperature was too hot and it accidentally killed the yeast. Either way, try again.
To the yeast mixture add 4 cups of flour, the remaining sugar, salt, oil, and eggs. Turn the mixer on low and mix until incorporated. Add 2 more cups of flour; mix again. Add 1 more cup of flour; mix again. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is well combined. Continue mixing for several minutes. Your dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky and does not pull away from the sides, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour at a time until it begins to pull away. The dough should still be slightly sticky and not completely dry. (You can do these steps by hand like they used to before the invention of stand mixers but I'm lazy so I use the mixer.)
Transfer the dough to a well floured surface. Knead the dough with your hands for 50 to 75 turns. Be careful that you don't add too much flour to the dough. Just sprinkle the dough with flour as needed so that it doesn't stick to your hands.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, large bowl that will leave plenty of room for the dough to grow. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a tea towel and place it in the warmed oven. Do not turn the oven back on. Insert a wooden spoon or similar object in the oven door to prevent it from closing all the way. This will allow a small amount of the heat to escape. You don’t want to cook the dough but you want to ensure that it is just warm it enough for the dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Once it has risen, punch it down, cover it again, and place it back in the oven to repeat the process. You do not need to "reheat" the oven.
Once the dough has risen a second time, remove the dough from the oven and set it aside while you prepare your baking dishes. Smear a generous amount (about 4 tablespoons per pan) of butter on the bottom and sides of three 8"x8" or 9"x9" glass baking dishes. You can also use 9"x13" baking dishes if that's what you have. Sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar on the bottom of each pan. Set the pans aside.
Divide the dough into three equal portions. This makes it easier to roll and will give you uniform sized buns. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion into a rectangular shape measuring approximately 8" x 12". Spread 2 - 3 tablespoons of soft butter all over the dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 - 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. Beginning on the long side, roll the dough towards the opposite side. Once you reach the other side, pinch the end of the dough to the roll to form a seal. Use a sharp knife to cut straight down in the center of the roll. Cut each half in half again to form 4 equal sized rolls. Transfer the rolls to the pan, cover with a tea towel and set aside. Repeat on the remaining two portions of dough. Let the buns rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F while the buns are resting. Bake each pan for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown. Once done, remove the buns from the oven and flip the pan over onto a parchment sheet. Let the gooey caramel from the bottom of the dish drip back onto the buns. Let cool.
For a subtly different flavor substitute a fruit based yogurt, like raspberry, for the plain yogurt.
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. With the mixer on low add the hot water then the Greek yogurt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined.
Put the granulated sugar into a small bowl and set it aside. Gently roll the dough into 1" size balls and roll each ball in the granulated sugar to coat. To make more uniform sized cookies, I like to use a small 1 oz ice cream style scoop. Place sugar-coated balls on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool. Freezes well.