Sometimes in order to attain comfort you must move outside your comfort zone. I shy away from finicky recipes. Complicated steps and unfamiliar ingredients scare me a little bit. But I do push myself to try new techniques or try to see something in a whole new way. The rewards of putting yourself out there are always a bit risky, but the rewards are great.
These cinnamon buns are an example of a great reward. I’ve never made cinnamon buns before because they seemed a bit too fussy for my liking. But I really wanted to make the tightly swirled buns found at the market in my neighbourhood. You see, the Union Market makes 2 kinds of cinnamon buns – the large, blown-out style covered in icing, which I always pass on because they’re just too sweet and give off a bad attitude. But the other cinnamon bun is a shiny golden-hued bun laced with cinnamon and raisins. It sits meekly next to its brassier neighbour and I like this bun best, the one that doesn’t shout. It’s sweet but not overly so and with your morning coffee there’s nothing better.
I didn’t know if I could replicate them, but I wanted to give it a shot. While I’ve gotten over my aversion to using yeast, I still shy away from recipes that need rising time. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of girl and I just hate the waiting, but I went at it anyway. In the morning I mixed together butter and flour and yeast and pushed myself to wait it out and watched that lump of dough grow and rise and arch its body over my largest mixing bowl. In the evening, I rolled it flat and slathered on the butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and dried cranberries before rolling it up tight – but not too tight. I arranged the dough in pans and put it in the fridge until morning. I got up extra early to let the buns rise again, my patience once again tested. But when the buns got fat and chummy with their neighbours, into the oven they went. And the scent filling your kitchen smells as good as any bakery.
Oh, trust me, it’s worth it. The fussiness, the wait, the reward. And maybe you’ll love them so much that you’ll make them again and notice that the things that bothered you in the past have now become routine. Your nerves (what nerves?) are relaxed and you don’t need to go over your recipe with a fine-toothed comb. The sense of pride in knowing that “it’s no big thing” is a wonderful place to get to. It’s a badge of honour – you’ve climbed that mountain – you’ve made it!
I loved these buns. My husband really, really loved these buns. But I should mention that they aren’t the same as the buns I wanted to replicate. I’m okay with that. I certainly could rise to the challenge and work and try again and fiddle with the proportions and add an egg wash. But I also could walk the six blocks and pick up 2 cinnamon buns with raisins from the friendly owners and walk back the six blocks to enjoy them with our morning coffee.
cinnamon buns with dried cranberries & lemon zest
(adapted from Gourmet)
1/2 c warm water
5 t yeast (2 packets)
1/2 c sugar
5 c flour (+ additional for dusting)
1 1/2 t salt
1 c lukewarm milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 c soft butter
1 c brown sugar
2 t cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 c very soft butter
2/3 c dried cranberries or raisins
zest of 1 lemon
Dissolve yeast in warm water along with a pinch of sugar in a small bowl and set stand 10 minutes until foamy.
Add flour, salt and remaining sugar into your electric mixer and let mix with the dough hook at very low speed. Combine the milk and eggs together and then add it to the flour, along with the yeast. Beat at med-low speed until a dough begins to form. Add butter and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes until the dough becomes smooth, soft and elastic – it will be quite sticky at this point.
Rinse a large bowl in hot water and add the dough to the wet bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a warm damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a rectangle shape. Use an offset spatula to spread the butter over the surface. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over top and do the same with the dried cranberries and lemon zest.
Roll up the dough firmly, but not too tight. Slice the dough into 2″ sections and arrange, cut side up, in buttered cake pans – making sure to leave about a 1″ space around each slice. At this point, you can cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge until morning. Or put them in the freezer to eat another day.
Ready to eat? Preheat oven to 350F. Cover the buns with plastic wrap or a warm towel and let the buns rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. Bake until golden and puffed, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then dig in. Add a glaze if you wish, or not. I always choose not. Now pat yourself on the back for a job well done.