Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daring Bakers Go GaGa over Buns

Gentle readers, let me apologize yet again...

That sweet and cinnamoney smell whafting across the blogosphere this morning making you want to run out for a pan of ooey and gooey cinnamon or sticky buns and throw all caution along with pointless carb counting out the window is our fault.

Because we're back...

We're bad...

And we are covered in sugar, cinnamon, spice and everything oh so nice...

We are the Daring Bakers!

and we are taking no prisoners this month with (be still my fluttering heart) Peter Reinhart's Cinnamon and Sticky Buns from his incredible tome, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

This book has become one of the bibles for anyone who dreams of making world class bread. For this month's delightfully yummy challenge we were hosted by Pip in the City's mistress of food in Buenos Aires, Marce.

I own The Bread Baker's Apprentice and bake from it often but had never made these rolls because I have to admit, I didn't think I would find them all that challenging because I have made hundreds of cinnamon rolls over the years; enough so that I have perfected my own recipe for them that starts with my sweet sourdough starter as well as one that doesn't use a liquid starter. But, when I put on the Daring Baker secret decoder ring and ninja costume, I took an oath on Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours to complete all challenges even if you have made something a million times. A good creed because you know what, even if you have made something a bizillion times and your results are considered award winning, you can always learn something from trying another recipe.

And what did Breadchick learn from this recipe? I learned that I like a little dash of lemon and lemon zest in my cinnamon roll. It really heightens the taste of the cinnamon and takes this roll from being kid sweet to adult sweet.

As usual, we all had to make the same recipe but had the choice to make either the cinnamon rolls or the sticky buns or both! I chose to make only the cinnamon rolls because I'm just not all that big of a fan of sticky buns. I find them just too over the top in regards to sweetness; you know that tooth-aching sweetness. Besides, after last month's fabulous tart, I needed a break from caramel and burnt fingers!!!

The recipe we all used was quite easy to put together and didn't require any unusual skill for anyone who has worked with yeast before. One of the things that came out during the challenge was how many people have a fear of yeast. I won't go into details here but will address yeast fear in an upcoming "Ask Breadchick" post. Let's just say, today's yeast isn't your grandmother's yeast and if you are using your grandmother's throw it out. It is dead, dead, dead...unless you are using her sourdough starter in which case email me because I want some of your starter! But, I digress and I can see you drumming your fingers because by golly you want to hear about rolls and not my pedantic meanderings about yeast, grandmothers, and you do have over 90 other Daring Baker posts to read...

Anyways, the recipe came together really easily. I used the buttermilk option since I knew it would mimic the zing that my sourdough starter normally imparts in my buns. There wasn't any problem with any step of the recipe; a first I think for me during a Daring Baker Challenge. It was either this recipe is really well written and understandable, the fact that I have made so many cinnamon rolls or maybe cause I had good helpers in the kitchen for this challenge, in the form of the Traveling Eggs!

I found the dough was a quick riser both the fermentation step and the bun rising step (other DBers reported it was a slow riser, so be careful, your results will vary here). In fact, this recipe was such a prolific riser for me that I got almost double the number of rolls the recipe calls for with a whopping 28 rolls!

and I had to improvise to find a container for the last lonely roll.

Which was OK because I was planning on giving all the rolls away and that gave me one solitary roll for me to enjoy and not devour an entire pan of these goodies.

So, now that I have you squirming and trying to figure out how fast you can make it to the mall for one of those better smelling than tasting cinnamondoughblobbythingamabobs, how did they turn out?

Well, my co-workers snarfed the whole pan down by 9:30am and the neighbor across the street called me and asked me if I took orders because she wanted to order two dozen for next weekend.

As for me, I liked them a lot. They have a more bread like texture than is normally to my liking but I will probably make these again because they are good and much quicker than my sourdough cinnamon rolls. And who knows, this recipe may even make me give sticky buns another chance!

To see how all the rest of my fellow brother and sisters liked these buns, both types, go get yourself a gallon of milk, lots of napkins and click on over to the Daring Baker Blogroll and check it out for yourself!

And if you want to try this challenge for yourself, here is the recipe as we received from Marce!

Cinnamon and Sticky Buns
(from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice)

Daring Bakers Challenge #10: September 2007
Host: Marce, Pip in the City

Allowed Modifications:

  • You can mix up the spices to your liking. Meaning you don´t have to use cinnamon if you don´t like it. I´m thinking you could use ginger, allspice, cardamom, etc. (Personally, I´m going to leave the sticky buns as they are and mix up spices in the cinnamon buns)

  • You can do both cinnamon and sticky buns or choose one.

  • You don´t have to use nuts for the sticky buns if you are allergic or you don´t like nuts.

  • You don´t have to use raisins for the sticky buns, and you can substitute the raisins for any other dried fruit you like and think would work with the other flavors.

  • Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region

Days to Make: One (1)
Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 1/2 hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20 - 40 minutes to bake
Recipe Quantity: Eight(1) - twelve (12) large rolls or twelve (12) - sixteen (16) small rolls

Making the Dough


  • 6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine

  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten

  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast*

  • 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)

  • White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)

  • Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)

  • Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

Step 1 - Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).

Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast.

Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Step 2 - Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Step 3 - Form the Buns: Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.

Step 4 - Prepare the Buns for Proofing:

  • For cinnamon buns: line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.

  • For sticky buns: coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.

Step 5 - Proof the Buns: Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

Step 6 - Bake the Buns:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.

  • Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

Step 8 - Cool the buns:

  • For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.

  • For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

Toppings for the Buns:

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns

Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.
NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.

2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.